Golfers have come to be known as some of the highest-paid athletes in the world. Names like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Rory McIlroy spring to mind as just a few who have made an absolute killing playing the game. With all of the four major championships for men (The Masters, US Open, The Open Championship, PGA Championship) offering over $1 million to the winners for the past few years, it would seem that winning a major championship isn’t just great for the trophy case, but for the bank as well.
This is great news for the young guys in the PGA world rankings who need that extra cash for the spare Range Rover or Porsche Cayenne. This seemingly endless stream of cash however, has not always been flowing for young major winners. What follows is a list of the top ten youngest golfers in history to win a major championship and what they took home.
10. Walter Hagen, 21 years and 8 months ($300)
The first name on this top ten is fairly recognizable.Walter Hagen’s first major championship victory was at the 1914 US Open and he walked away with $300 for his efforts. Hagen still sits at third on the all-time major winners list as he won ten more after this first victory. The only one he could not win was the Masters, where his highest finish came in 1936 in the later stages of his career, when he finished tied for eleventh.
5 T8. Tiger Woods , 21 years and 4 months ($486,000)
Next on the list, at the same age as Bobby Jones, comes the only man who can even plausibly chase down Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championship victories. Although it has not happened since 2008, it seems to be only a matter of time before Tiger Woods strikes gold again in major competitions. Tiger won his first major, which was literally his first major appearance, in record style. He blew the rest of the field away at the 1997 Masters and won with a score of -18, good for a 12 stroke lead over second place. This remains the largest margin of victory in Masters history. 21-year-old Tiger took home just under half a million dollars for his victory which, compared to the rest of the names on this list, is a staggering sum. He has since won 13 more major championships and is part of the elite circle of golfers to have one every major at least once - and Tiger has won them all at least three times. After his meltdown just a few years ago, it seemed like Tiger’s career could have been over as he watched his name slide down the world rankings. In 2013 however, although he was majorless, he won 5 tournaments on the PGA tour and was voted Player of the Year for the eleventh time. Is 2014 the year that Tiger reclaims his Major glory?
4 T8. Bobby Jones Jr., 21 Years and 4 months ($0)
This is another name we might recognize. The great Bobby Jones Jr. makes his way onto our list at spot number 8. He won his first major championship at the 1923 US Open. Jones would have received $500 in prize money but he was playing as an amateur. He went on to win 4 US Opens, 3 Open Championships, 5 US Amateur Championships, and one British Amateur Championship. He is still widely considered one of the greatest golfers in history and has been portrayed by many actors in Hollywood movies including the 2004 film “Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius” which utilized the skills of Jim Caviezel to play Jones.
3 7. Horace Rawlins, 21 years and 2 months ($150)
Here’s a name we have all heard often... Horace Rawlins won the 1895 US Open just a few months younger than Tiger Woods and Bobby Jones Jr. when they won their first majors. The future must have seemed bright for this young golfer who was lucky enough to take home $150 for his victory, but it ended up being his only career win. Hope he didn't spend it all at once.
6. William Auchterlonie, 21 years and 24 days ($55)
The story does not change with the guy who holds spot number six as Auchterlonie is hardly a household name. His first major championship victory came at the 1893 Open Championship when the winnings still didn’t really require the oversized novelty cheques. He took home 30 pounds for his victory, around $55.
2 Tom Creavy, 20 years and 6 months ($1,000)
Looking at the list at the half way point, so many of the big names seem to be missing, and so does the big money. Tiger and Bobby are pretty far down the list for well-known names. Where are all the young guys these days who should be winning majors? Where’s Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, and G-Mac? Webb Simpson was pretty young too, right? Does the Golden Bear even crack the top ten for youngest golfers ever to win a major? Does anyone in the top ten make over a million for their first win?
Things aren't much different in this spot. The fifth spot on this list is taken by the youngest person to win over $1000 for his major victory. Another no-name, Creavy won the 1931 PGA Championship and took home the prize money of – you guessed it – $1000 exactly.
4. Gene Sarazen, 20 years and 5 months ($500)
The prize money dwindles further still for the number four spot. Sarazen won the 1922 US Open which he took home a whopping $500 for. If that wasn’t enough though, he went on to win the PGA Championship later that year to cushion his bank account a little more.
3. Francis Ouimet, 20 years and 3 months ($0)
Third on our list is perhaps best known through Shia LaBoeuf’s portrayal of him in the 2005 movie “The Greatest Game Ever Played” which shows the amateur Francis Ouimet take on Harry Vardon and win the 1913 US Open. This achievement would have won him the same as the number 2 slot at $300, but as he was playing as an amateur, he went home with nothing but the glory of his victory.
2. John J. McDermott, 19 years and 10 months ($300)
McDermott (that widely-known golfer) won his first major championship at the 1911 US Open when he was just a wee teenager. He and the next entry on the list are still the only two teenagers to taste major glory. The glory for McDermott came with a nice ring to it as he won a staggering $300 USD which was more than the average allowance back then.
1 Tom Morris Junior, 17 years old ($12)
The youngest golfer to win any major did so at the incredible age of 17. Tom Morris Jr, the son of the great course designer responsible for many great courses including St. Andrews’ famous ‘Old Course’, won the Open Championship in 1868. He went on to follow this amazing feat by winning the Open Championship for three more years in a row. Four Open Championships in a row has never been equalled, and to have such a record in the bag at the age of 21 must have been great for the savings account right? Well, Tom only took home 6 pounds sterling for his first win in 1868, about 12 US dollars at a generous exchange rate. He probably kept his day job.
One name which probably should have made it on to this list is Rory McIlroy. His first major win came when he had just turned 22 at the 2011 US Open where his prize money was just about $1 million dollars more than what Tiger took home for his first major victory – Rory pocketed $1.44 million bucks! Had he not had his famous collapse the year before at the 2010 Masters when he shot an 80 on Sunday, his name would have been comfortably in the top ten.
The money is certainly there for the taking for these young guys on the PGA tour, but the average age of first time Major winners has definitely been going up. This might have something to do in recent years with Tiger’s dominance over the field, but young guys like Jordan Spieth at just 20 years old might have something to say about getting their names on this list if this upcoming season goes well.