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October 28, 2017

1934 Horton Smith - First Masters Golf Champion - Professional Career Started at Sedalia Country Club

Horton Smith (May 22, 1908 – October 15, 1963) was an American professional golfer, best known as the winner of the first and third Masters Tournaments.

Horton Smith was born on May 22, 1908, in Springfield, Missouri. Horton's parents, Perry and Ann, had a farm seven miles from town. Horton was the second of two boys. While Horton and his older brother, Renshaw, were growing up, they helped on the family farm by milking cows, and working with the pigs, steer, and turkeys. The Smiths' would eventually move to a farm closer to Springfield, giving Horton the opportunity to be introduced to the game of golf, with Springfield Country Club only a half-mile from the family farm. To make extra money, Horton, beginning at the age of 11, would caddie for the members of Springfield Country Club. Horton would be paid 25 cents for carrying a members' bag for nine holes. After a year of caddying part-time, Horton began to caddie regularly and played as often as possible. Every day after school, Horton would throw his clubs on his bike and head to the course. 
The Smith family would eventually join the Springfield Country Club, which gave Horton the ability to play every morning before school and caddie in the afternoon. Recognizing Horton's skill and potential, head pro Neil Crose put Horton under his wing. When Horton was thirteen years old, he finished second to older brother Ren in the Junior Club Championship. The following year, at the age of 14, Horton would finally win the Junior Championship at the club. In 1923, Horton would get the opportunity of a lifetime for a young golfer. At the age of 15, Horton and his brother, Ren, caddied for Walter Hagen and Joe Kirkwood in an exhibition match in Joplin. At the end of the match, Hagen gave Smith some balls and "ready tees." This was the first time Horton had seen wooden tees, as players at the time would typically use wet sand tee up their ball. Horton would maintain a relationship with Walter for many years. The same year, Horton won both the Springfield Country Club and Springfield City Championship at the young age of 15. Also in 1923, Horton set the Club's course record at 58, by shooting a 26 on the front nine holes that carried a par of 31, and shooting a 32 on the back nine with a par of 35. After high school, Horton spent some time in college at the State Teachers' College in Springfield. While in college, Horton could not deny his dream of becoming a golf professional, and, against his father's wishes, Horton dropped out of college and began working as an assistant professional at Springfield County Club, w he would quickly work to become the caddie master and assistant to Neil Crose. 
In 1927, Horton was offered and accepted the position of club pro in Sedalia, Missouri. In the same year, he was invited to also become the head pro at both the Golf Club in California, Missouri, and the Jefferson City Country Club in Jefferson City, Missouri. Each week, Horton would spend a few days at each course. On Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, he worked in Sedalia. On Wednesday, he would be in California, and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Horton would be at the Jefferson City Country Club. During this time in golf history, it was common to be the head professional at more than one club. Also that year, Horton qualified for the U.S. Open at Oakmont, in Pittsburgh, and finished in 44th place. During the winter of 1927, Horton competed in golf tournaments across the country, learning about the professional tour. 
In 1928, at the age of 20, Horton moved to Joplin, Missouri, to be the head professional at Oak Hill Country Club, which is now known as Twin Hills Country Club. During the same year, Horton would break out for his first professional win at the Oklahoma City Open, he took home $1,000 for first place. One month later, Horton struck again at the Catalina Open. 

June 14, 1927 The Sedalia Democrat

OAKMONT, Pa., June 14.—Finding varieties of trouble after a flashy get away, Bobby Jones, the defending title holder wound up with a 76, four over par, for the first 18 holes of the 72 hole American open golf championship hunt today. National open golf championship scores for 18 holes. Include. Tom Stevens, Culver City, Calif. 84. Horton Smith, Sedalia, Mo. 83.

June 21, 1929
The Sedalia Democrat

HORTON SMITH TO RESIDE IN DETROIT By The Associated Press. DETROIT. June 21.—Horton Smith, 21 year old holder of the French open golf championship, has joined his playing partner, Walter Hagen, as a business associate here. The young professional golf star is a resident of Joplin, Mo., but in the future will reside in Detroit as a result of his new business connections.
The professional career of Horton Smith began in Sedalia when he was professional for the Sedalia Country ClubSedalia was the first pro job Horton Smith ever held. 

Horton Smith (right) shakes the hand of Bobby Jones, co-founder of The Masters

While we all eagerly anticipate the playing of the Masters when the first time it was played (as the Augusta National Invitation Tournament) it took place in the third week of March. Specifically, March 22-25. 
The winner that year was Horton Smith, who would eventually win 32 tournaments on the PGA TOUR, including a second Masters title on 1936.
Video Link - Horton Smith Golf Swing

Horton, who would go on to serve as the President of the PGA of America from 1952-1954, won the 1934 Masters by a single stroke over Craig Wood. The winning score was 284 (-4). For the victory Smith claimed $1,500 of the $5,000 purse.

Not only was Smith the first Masters winner, he was also the first winner to pass away. He did so in 1963, succumbing to lung cancer. Smith was named as a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1990.

Of note, the tradition of the Green Jacket being presented to winners of the The Masters did not start until 1949 when Sam Snead won the first of his three titles. That same year Smith was given a jacket, a 43 long.
In 2013 it was auctioned off (it had been in the possession of his brother for decades) for an incredible (USD) $682,000.I

Image result for "horton smith"
If the inaugural Augusta National Invitational Tournament was to be a success Bobby Jones would have to feature as a player. He didn’t especially want to but the club’s co-founder Clifford Roberts was well aware of Jones’ draw – the US Open receipts from 1930, the year he captured the Grand Slam, were $23,382; the following year they dropped to $12,700.

Jones was also in charge of invitations and, as such, all the great and good of the golfing world, Craig Wood, Gene Sarazen, Walter Hagen and Horton Smith, assembled in Georgia in March 1934.

It wasn’t a Major and there was no Green Jacket but there was plenty of interest thanks to Jones’ playing return having retired four years earlier. He was still installed as a 6-1 joint favorite with Paul Runyan, a New York professional who was the in-form player. Smith and Wood were rated 10-1 chances.

In the preliminary tune-up of a Scotch foursome partnered with Ross Somerville, the pair shot a best-ball 76. Jones missed no fewer than nine short putts.

On Thursday March 22 at 10.02 Johnny Kinder struck the first shot in the tournament that would soon be known as the Masters. It came from the 10th tee – the following year the nines would be switched. At 10.36 Jones, the president of the club, got his comeback going alongside Runyan.

Thousands were there to follow him including Horton Smith who wasn’t off until 1.41pm. The Missouirian was the last man to defeat Jones in a tournament, four years earlier at the Savannah Open, and he would watch the great man struggle further on the greens.

Smith meanwhile shot a 70 for a share of a three-way lead, then led on his own by a shot on Friday and Saturday. None of which registered much with the press who focused solely on Jones. Smith’s efforts got not much more than a brief mention in the papers.
Horton Smith played second fiddle to Bobby Jones when he won the first Augusta National Invitation Tournament in 1934. Two years later, when he won for the second time, he validated it on his way to a Hall of Fame career.

Smith was the last man to beat Jones before his Grand Slam campaign of 1930, winning a tournament in Savannah, Ga. Four years later, Jones took the spotlight as he opened his new course for a new event.

Smith held at least a share of the lead each day. On the final day, Smith came to the final three holes tied with Craig Wood. He birdied the 71st hole to edge Wood by a stroke.

Smith was a fan of the course and tournament from the start.

"There is nothing monotonous about that course, and it is one of the most beautiful I ever played," Smith said. "Each one of the holes presents something new."

Two years later, Smith won for the second time at Augusta National when he nipped Harry Cooper by one shot. Smith sank a long chip for birdie at the 14th hole in the final round en route to his victory.

As one of the leading players of the 1930s, Smith won 32 times in his career. But he will forever be known as the first Masters champion.
Horton Smith, 1934 Masters Champion
Horton Smith, 1936 Master's Champion

First winner never lost lead

Horton Smith was clutch on greens on closing holes
April 13, 2009 - By John Boyette | 
No one should have been surprised that Horton Smith won the first Augusta National Invitation Tournament.
After all, the pro was the last man to beat Bobby Jones before his Grand Slam campaign of 1930. It happened in Savannah, Ga., early that year, but Jones got revenge a few weeks later when he won the Southeastern Open in Augusta by 13 shots. He wouldn't lose again as he swept the U.S. and British opens and amateurs.

Jones received most of the attention at the first Masters in 1934, but he really wasn't much of a factor in the first tournament at Augusta National Golf Club.

Smith, instead, held at least a share of the lead each day. He opened with 70 and was tied with Emmett French and Jimmy Hines. A 72 in the second round put him in the clear, and another 72 in the third round left him two shots ahead of the field.

On the final day -- remember, the nines were reversed at Augusta National for the first Masters -- Smith was in a nip-and-tuck battle with Craig Wood. A 3-putt on the 15th resulted in a bogey, and Smith came to the final three holes all tied with Wood.

After a par on the 16th, Smith came to the par-5 17th (now the eighth) looking for a birdie.

Bobby Jones Tees off at the first Masters
O.B. Keeler, the premier golf writer of the day, wrote the following account in The Augusta Chronicle's March 26, 1934, edition:
"Horton laced out a great drive and played sensibly to the right of the green, and short of it, to try for a pitch that might be close. It was a fine pitch, but the ball was three yards, or a bit more, past the flag. The tall boy put the putt right in the middle. It had not a chance to stay out."

Smith came to the final hole with the lead.

"And while he left himself a five-footer after his first putt at the home green, and while that putt was down the slope, he canned that one, too, as a champion should, and he was a stroke in front. It was enough," Keeler wrote.

The victory was worth $1,500 to Smith.

Two years later, Smith won for the second time at Augusta National when he nipped Harry Cooper by one shot. Smith sank a long chip for birdie at the 14th en route to his victory in 1936.

Smith's win in the inaugural event produced the following headlines in The Chronicle :
"Horton Smith Wins Tournament" was the banner, and a smaller headline read: "Chicago Pro Produces Par 72 To Pace Wood By Lone Stroke; Jones Finishes in 13th Place."

Alan Gould, the sports editor of The Associated Press, led his front-page story as follows:

"Picking up where he left off in Georgia four years ago as the last man to whip Bob Jones in open golf competition, lanky Horton Smith of Chicago paced the professionals to a smashing triumph over the former world champion yesterday in the final round of the $5,000 Masters Invitation tournament."

The Masters, and its first star, had been launched.

1935 Photograph of four superstars from the United States and British Ryder Cup teams posed on the course including Horton Smith, Paul Runyan (United States), Biffy Cox and Edward Jarman of the British Team.

The photo above shows Horton Smith, Byron Nelson, Gene Sarazen, Henry Picard, and Ralph Guldahl, all wearing their green jackets in 1939. Below, you’ll see a photo of Bobby Jones putting on the 8th green while Horton Smith watches in front of a gallery of patrons during the 1934 Tournament.
Bobby Jones putting on the 8th green while Horton Smith watches in front of a gallery of patrons during the 1934 Tournament.

Smith married Barbara Bourne, the daughter of Augusta National charter member Alfred Bourne, in 1938. Marrying Barbara changed Smith’s life since the Bournes inherited significant wealth from her grandfather’s position as head of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, although their marriage appears to have been an unhappy one. Smith enlisted in the Army in 1942 and served as a Lieutenant until 1945, in primarily administrative positions, and as a golf companion for generals. Horton and Barbara had one child, Alfred, born in 1943, although they separated two years later

Gene Sarazen, Babe Zaharias, Horton Smith all carrying golf clubs. 

June 1937: From left to right, Densmore Shute, Byron Nelson, Horton Smith and Edward Dudley, members of the American golf team at the 1937 Ryder Cup

Bobby Jones and Horton Smith
Walter Hagen and Horton Smith
Horton Smith, 1934 & 1936 winner; Byron Nelson, 1937 & 1942; Henry Picard,
1938; Jimmy Demaret, 1940; Craig Wood, 1941; Gene Sarazen, 1935 and 
Herman Keiser

In the year of 1903, the State Fair Board gave certain Sedalia residents the right to build a golf course on the Missouri State Fair Grounds. Nearly two years later, June 3, 1905, the Sedalia Country Club was formed. There were 67 regular members admitted into the Club.
The next year, the Club purchased a block of ground adjoining the Missouri State Fair Grounds on the east and facing Limit Avenue. On March 22, 1906, the Sedalia Country Club became a corporation. A club house was built costing $4,200, which was completed and opened in June 1906. By then, the regular membership grew to 88.

In 1907, sixty acres were purchased and a nine hole golf course was laid out.
While the Club upheld its high standards as a golf club, it was the scene for many social functions, outstanding parties for the members and entertaining honored guests, such as the formal reception and dinner given in honor of President Taft in 1911.
Since 1909, the old club was remodeled and redecorated several times, adding locker and shower rooms, golf shop, and the building of a swimming pool.
Horton Smith, Capt. US Army Air Corps. 

Smith died in 1963 at age 55 of Hodgkin's disease in Detroit. He had lost a lung to cancer six years earlier, and is buried in his hometown of Springfield, Missouri. He was the first of the former Masters champions to pass away, followed by Craig Wood in 1968 and Jimmy Demaret in 1983.
Awards and honors
Smith was inducted into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame in 1984.
Smith was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1990.
In 1960, awarded the Ben Hogan Award by the golf writers for overcoming a physical handicap and continued active participation in golf.
In 1962, he was voted the Bob Jones Award, the highest honor given by the United States Golf Association in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf.
The PGA of America annually grants the Horton Smith Award to a PGA professional who has made "outstanding and continuing contributions to PGA education."
A municipal golf course in his hometown of Springfield, Missouri, is named for him.
A golf tournament at the Detroit Golf Club is named for him.
He is attributed with being the first professional golfer to study putting as a means to beat his opponents.
In September 2013, Horton's green jacket, awarded in 1949 for his Masters wins in 1934 and 1936, sold at auction for over $682,000; the highest price ever paid for a piece of golf memorabilia. It had been in the possession of his brother Ren's stepsons for decades.

Professional wins
PGA Tour wins
1928 (2) Oklahoma City Open, Catalina Island Open
1929 (8) Berkeley Open Championship, Pensacola Open Invitational, Florida Open, La Gorce Open, Fort Myers Open, North and South Open, Oregon Open, Pasadena Open (December)
1930 (4) Central Florida Open, Savannah Open, Berkeley Open, Bay District Open
1931 (1) St. Paul Open
1932 (1) National Capital City Open
1933 (1) Miami International Four-Ball (with Paul Runyan)
1934 (3) Masters Tournament, Grand Slam Open, California Open
1935 (3) Palm Springs Invitational, Miami Biltmore Open, Pasadena Open
1936 (2) Masters Tournament, Victoria Open
1937 (3) North and South Open, Inverness Invitational Four-Ball (with Harry Cooper), Oklahoma Four-Ball (with Harry Cooper)
1941 (2) Florida West Coast Open, St. Paul Open

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