Gene Littler (1 US Open, 7 Ryder Cup's.)
Gene Alec Littler (born July 21, 1930) is an American professional golfer and a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Known for a solid temperament and nicknamed "Gene the Machine" for his smooth rhythmical swing, he once said that, "Golf is not a game of great shots. It's a game of the best misses. The people who win make the smallest mistakes."
Littler was born in San Diego, California. He played on the 1953 United States Walker Cup team, and won the U.S. Amateur and the California State Amateur that same year. In 1954, he won a PGA Tour event as an amateur, a rare achievement which was not to be repeated until Doug Sanders won the Canadian Open in 1956.
In 1955, he won four times on the tour, but fell into a slump in the late 1950s after tinkering with his swing. After taking advice from Paul Runyan and adjusting his grip, he recovered in 1959 to have his best year with five PGA Tour victories. He finished second on the money list that year, which was to remain his career best. Only once from 1954 to 1979 did Littler finish out of the top 60 on the final money list. He was stricken with melanoma cancer found in a lymph node under his left arm in 1972, but came back to win five more times on the PGA Tour. He ended his career with 29 PGA Tour wins, and also won two tournaments in Japan and one in Australia.
One of Littler's 29 PGA Tour wins was unique. When he won the 1975 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, it marked the first and (so far) only time that a player won that event as a professional after having previously won the pro-amateur portion, which Littler did as a 23-year-old amateur in 1954.
Littler won one major championship – the 1961 U.S. Open. He shot a 68 in the final round to overtake Doug Sanders. He accumulated 17 top-10 finishes in the three U.S.-based majors: seven at the Masters Tournament, five at the PGA Championship, and five at the U.S. Open. In addition to his U.S. Open victory, he had one second-place finish in each of the three U.S. majors, losing playoffs to Billy Casper at the 1970 Masters and to Lanny Wadkins at the 1977 PGA Championship. The latter was the first ever sudden-death playoff in a major. He was a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup teams of 1961, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1971 and 1975, and had a 14-5-8 win/loss/tie record including five wins and three ties in 10 singles matches.
Littler received the Ben Hogan Award in 1973 for a courageous comeback from injury or illness, after returning to the tour following treatment for malignant melanoma. Also in 1973, he was given the Bob Jones Award, the highest honor given by the United States Golf Association in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf. In the 1980s and 1990s Littler played on the Senior PGA Tour, winning eight times. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1990.