The difficulty of compiling a "best of" list is omitting a deserving candidate either due to oversight or space limitations.
Both were the case in our first installment of The Top Amateur Golfers Who Never Turned Pro
, so we turned to our readers to let us know who we might have overlooked.
The response was great, and so we dug a little deeper to tell the stories of players like Arnold Blum, O. Gordon Brewer, Downing Gray, Chuck Kocsis, Barbara McIntire and Marlene Stewart Streit, to name a few.
Feeling inspired to do a little more research, we went back to work to uncover even more lifelong amateurs who left an indelible mark on the game. You can read their stories below.
We would like to thank our readers for chiming in with their thoughts and recommendations. We'll hit until you're happy, so we look forward to more feedback.
• • • • •
More of the Top Male Amateurs Who Never Turned Pro
A lifelong amateur, Blum won the Southeastern Amateur three times, the Georgia Amateur five times, and the Southern Amateur twice. Blum was a member of the victorious 1957 U.S. Walker Cup Team. He played in the Masters Tournament five times, finishing in the top 24 in 1952. He qualified for the U.S. Amateur 16 times and reached the quarterfinals twice. From 1960-61, Blum served as president of the Georgia State Golf Association. He also served as a board member of the GSGA and the Southern Golf Association and is a member of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and the Southern Golf Association Hall of Fame. He passed away on April 5, 2017.
O. Gordon Brewer Jr.
A legend in the Philadelphia area, O. Gordon Brewer Jr. has made 42 appearances in USGA events, despite not making his national championship debut until the U.S. Amateur in 1968 at the age of 31. Brewer has played in 17 U.S. Amateurs, 10 U.S. Senior Amateurs, 9 U.S. Mid-Amateurs and 6 U.S. Senior Opens. He won the 1994 U.S. Senior Amateur at The Champions G.C. in Nicholasville, Ky. and added a second title two years later at Taconic G.C., Williamstown, Mass. A longtime playing force in the Golf Association of Philadelphia, Brewer has won the GAP Amateur twice and is a five-time Crump Cup champion. He was the recipient of the 2009 Bob Jones Award, the USGA’s highest honor.
A 1961 graduate of Florida State, Gray made 19 appearances in the U.S. Amateur and finished runner-up in 1962, third in 1966 and ’67 and reached the quarterfinals in 1973. He played on three U.S. Walker Cup teams (1963, ’65 and ’67) and made seven appearances in the Masters (1963-68; ’74), taking low amateur honors in 1965 and ’67. He was also a member of the U.S. Americas Cup Team in 1965 and 1967 and of the U.S. World Cup Team in 1966. In 1995 and 1997, Downing served as Captain of the U.S. Walker Cup Team in 1995 and ’97. A lifelong resident of Pensacola, Fla. Gray was inducted into the Florida State University Sports Hall of Fame and the Southern Golf Association Hall of Fame in 1996.
Born in Glenside, Pennsylvania on Christmas Day in 1915, Hyndman played on five Walker Cup teams (1957, 1959, 1961, 1969, 1971) and on the Eisenhower Trophy twice (1958, 1960). He played in nine Masters Tournaments, reached three British Amateur finals and won two U.S. Senior Amateur Championship titles in 1973 and again in 1983. In addition, Hyndman was a four-time winner of the Crump Cup at Pine Valley, won two Sunnehanna Amateurs, a Philadelphia Senior Amateur, a North and South Amateur Championship, and a Trans-Mississippi Amateur Championship crown.
A two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion (1994; 2001), Jackson was a member of the 1995 and ’99 U.S. Walker Cup teams and he also participated in the 1995 and 2002 Masters. Jackson also won the North and South Amateur in 1998 and the 1995 Simon Bolivar World Cup in Caracas, Venezuela. A native of Memphis, Tenn., Jackson has captured 13 Tennessee State Championships, won the Tennessee State Amateur in 1994, 1998, 2001, and 2005 and Tennessee State Mid-Amateur in 1989, 1994, 1995, 2001, 2005, and 2010. He also won the 2002 Tennessee State Open, the 2005 Tennessee State Match Play, and 2011 Tennessee Senior State Open. He also holds seven City of Memphis Championships and was named Tennessee Player of the Year nine times. Jackson has been inducted into 4 Halls of Fame, is the immediate past president of the Tennessee Golf Association and current board member of the Tennessee Golf Foundation.
Regarded as the greatest amateur golfer ever to come out of Michigan, Kocis won his first of six Michigan Amateur championships in 1930 at the age of 17. He also won six Michigan Medal Play titles and won the GAM Championship twice. He defeated amateur legend Francis Ouimet in the first round of the 1930 U.S. Amateur held at Merion, where Bobby Jones closed out his Grand Slam. Kocsis also won three Michigan Open Championships playing against the professionals, and his first was in 1931 at age 18 when he beat Michigan resident Tommy Armour, the reigning British Open champion, in a playoff. He attended the University of Michigan where he was team captain and part of four Big Ten championship teams and two NCAA championship teams. He won the individual Big Ten medalist twice, was the top individual in the NCAA Championship in 1936 and played on three Walker Cup teams. He also played in 11 Masters Tournaments and was low amateur in 1952. He qualified 13 times for the U.S. Open and was low amateur in 1934 and 1937; qualified 15 times for the U.S. Amateur and was runner-up in 1956, was runner-up in the 1948 Mexican Amateur, won three U.S. National Open Seniors championships and four International Senior Championships, including 1970 at Gleneagles in Scotland by an unprecedented 21 shots. He won highly regarded championships in seven decades.
Born in Seacliff, two miles east of North Berwick, East Lothian in 1860, Laidlay is best known for winning a pair of British Amateur championships in 1889 and 1891 and he also was runner-up three more times, in 1888, 1890, and 1893, during a six-year stretch from 1888 to 1893. He was also runner-up in the 1893 Open Championship at Prestwick, where he finished just two strokes behind Willie Auchterlonie. A winner of over 130 medals during his amateur career, Laidlay was also the first golfer to employ the overlapping grip some years before it was adopted by Harry Vardon. He passed away on July 15, 1940 in Sunningdale, England.
Billy Joe Patton
One of the finest players ever to come out of the state of North Carolina, Patton played on five U.S. Walker Cup Teams (1955, 1957, 1959, 1963 and 1965) and he captained the USA squad in the 1969 Match. He also represented the USA on two World Amateur Teams (1958 and 1962). He won three North and South Amateurs and two Southern Amateurs on Pinehurst No. 2 and was a two-time champion of the Carolinas Open. Patton nearly won the 1954 Masters but finished one stroke out of a playoff with eventual champion Sam Snead and Ben Hogan by a single stroke after his second shot on the par-5 13th hole came up short and splashed into Rae’s Creek. He went on to play in the next dozen Masters tournaments. In 1982, he received the Bob Jones Award for his distinguished sportsmanship in golf. Born in Morganton, North Carolina in 1922, Patton graduated from Wake Forest in 1943. He passed away on Jan. 1, 2011 at the age of 88.
Fred Ridley enjoyed a distinguished career in amateur golf, including winning the 1975 United States Amateur Championship at the Country Club of Virginia. He holds the distinction of being the last U.S. Amateur golf champion never to have turned professional. He was a playing member of the 1976 U.S. World Amateur team and the 1977 U.S. Walker Cup team. Additionally, he was the non-playing captain of the 1987 and 1989 U.S. Walker Cup teams and the 2010 U.S. World Amateur team. A member of the University of Florida golf team from 1970-1974, Ridley has held several leadership positions in the sport, including serving as president of the United States Golf Association. In 2006, he was the recipient of the PGA of America’s Distinguished Service Award. Presently he is Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, of which he played in as an amateur three times (1976-78). During his press conference at the 2018 Masters, Ridley announced the creation of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, which has grown into one of the most prestigious amateur events in the world. He is a business lawyer and a partner in the international law firm of Foley & Lardner LLP.
Born on July 25, 1911, Sweeny competed in all four men's major golf championships and in 1937, he won the British Amateur Championship at Royal St. George's in Kent, England. He made his debut in the Amateur Championship in 1929 a month before his 18th birthday but it wasn't until his fourth appearance in 1935 that he was able to make a deep run. He advanced through six rounds before losing in the semi-finals, 3&2, to eventual champion W. Lawson Little after having been 2 up after 12 holes. In 1934 captured his national win in Britain, taking the H.R.H. Prince of Wales’ Cup. He also reached the semi-finals again in the French Amateur, this time at the Chiberta G.C. in Anglet, France. Sweeny played in 10 Masters with his best finish coming in 1954 when he tied for 34th. He also played 10 Open Championships, recording his best finish in 1939 at St. Andrews when he tied for 33rd. His last appearance in the Open Championship came 28 years later at St. Andrews in 1970. Known as golf's last "Great Gatsby," Sweeny lived a privileged life. He eventually settled in Palm Beach, Fla. and joined the esteemed Seminole Golf Club, where he became friends and was a regular playing partner of Claude Harmon, the club's pro from 1945-57, and Ben Hogan, who regularly played at the club in preparation for the Masters. He won numerous club championships, including the 1948 Seminole Four-Ball with his partner, the Duke of Windsor. He passed away on Oct. 21, 1983 at the age of 72.
Updegraff, a urologist from Boone, Iowa, moved to Tucson in 1951 and became what many consider the greatest amateur golfer in Arizona history. He won a record 12 Tucson City Amateur golf championships and played in six Masters tournaments. Updegraff won 27 consecutive club championships at Tucson Country Club and finished fourth in the PGA Tour’s Tucson Open in 1962 and 1969. Among his many championships included wins at the Western Amateur (1957, ’59), Sunnehanna Amateur (1962), Pacific Coast Amateur (1967) and U.S. Senior Amateur (1981). He also reached the semifinals of the 1963 British Amateur. Updegraff played on three winning Walker Cup teams (1963, ’65 and ’69) and served as captain of the 1975 team. In 1999, Updegraff received the Bobby Jones Award by the USGA, considered the most prestigious off-course honor in American golf. He passed away in December of 2022 at the age of 100.
Born in Tarbolton, Scotland in 1869, Whigham won back-to-back U.S. Amateur Championships in 1896 and 1897. He also finished fifth in the 1896 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. Whigham was also the son-in-law of renowned architect C.B. Macdonald, marrying his daughter, Frances. A scholarly man, Whigham served as an English instructor at Lake Forest College and also as a lecturer at other universities in the Midwest. He later went on to become a drama critic for the Chicago Tribune, until leaving to work as a war correspondent. He served as editor-in-chief of Town & Country magazine from 1910-35 and was the author of How to Play Golf
, a self-help book designed to teach the reader the basic rules of the game.
• • • • •
More of the Top Female Amateurs Who Never Turned Pro
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1883, Campbell grew up playing on the famed North Berwick course and was the first woman to win the American, British and Canadian Women's Amateurs. She first came into the public eye in 1905 at the age of 22 when she played on the British team that trounced an American squad led by sisters Harriot and Margaret Curtis in a match called “America versus England,” which was a predecessor of the Curtis Cup Match. That same year, Campbell won her first Scottish Ladies Championship, a title she claimed on two other occasions (1906 and ’08). Her first of three U.S. Women’s Amateur championships came at Merion Golf Club in 1909, when she defeated Nona Barlow to become the first foreign-born player to win the championship and the first to hold the British and American titles at the same time. Campbell moved to Canada in 1910 and won the first of three straight Women’s Canadian Open Amateur championships. Three years later, moved to the United States and successfully defended her U.S. Women’s Amateur championship at Homewood Country Club in Flossmoor, Ill. In 1924 at the age of 41, she won her third and final U.S. Women’s Amateur Championships at Rhode Island Country Club. She continued to play throughout the 1930s and won the 1938 U.S. Senior Women’s Championship at the age of 55. She died tragically in a railway accident on March 20, 1945 in Yemassee, S.C. when she fell off a platform and into the path of an oncoming train. In 1978, Dorothy Campbell was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Virginia Van Wie
Van Wie, who competed from 1925 through 1934, was Chicago’s greatest female golfer and is best known for winning three consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateur titles from 1932-34. She first gained notoriety in the summer of 1925 when she won the Western Michigan and Western Junior Championships and a year later, she stunned the golf world by beating the reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, Glenna Collett, for the East Coast Florida championship. She beat Collett again to win her first of three consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateur Championships in 1932 at Salem Country Club in Peabody, Mass. After winning her third straight U.S. Women’s Amateur title in 1934, she was named the Associated Press’ Female Athlete of the Year and was proclaimed as the “world’s greatest female golfer.” She played on two Curtis Cup teams and was one of the six charter inductees to the Women’s Golf Hall of Fame in 1950, established by the Ladies Professional Golf Association. In 1951, she was elected to the Helms Golf Hall of Fame and in 1993, was inducted into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame. She retired from competitive golf in 1934 when she simply walked away from the game seemingly in her prime without any formal announcement. She became a teaching professional in 1955, giving lessons at an indoor facility on the South Side of Chicago. She passed away on February 18, 1997 in Big Rapids, Mich.
Born in Toledo, Ohio in 1935, won a total of nineteen major women’s amateur titles, including two U.S. Women’s Amateurs, played on six Curtis Cup teams and captained a seventh. McIntire first made a splash on the national scene at the age of 15 at the 1950 U.S. Women’s Amateur when she eliminated six-time champion Glenna Collett Vare in the opening round. In 1956 as a student at Rollins College, McIntire came close to becoming the first amateur to win the U.S. Women's Open when she was tied with professional Kathy Cornelius at the end of regulation play but lost in the ensuing playoff. In 1957, she won the first of her six North and South Women's Amateurs and her first of two U.S. Women’s Amateur titles in 1959 at steamy Congressional Country Club outside of Washington D.C. She would win the U.S. Women’s Amateur again in 1964, defeating JoAnne Gunderson, 3 and 2 in the final at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan. She also captained two USA Curtis Cup Teams, was chairman of the USGA Women’s Committee and in 2000, won the Bob Jones Award, the USGA’s highest honor for a lifetime of distinguished sportsmanship.
Marlene Stewart Streit
Canada’s most successful amateur golfer, Marlene Stewart Streit remains the only golfer in history to have won the Australian, British, Canadian and U.S. Women's Amateurs. Her numerous tournament victories include 11 Canadian Ladies Open Amateur Championships, nine Canadian Ladies Close Amateur Championships, four Canadian Ladies Senior Amateur Championships and three U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur titles, her last coming in 2003. She also holds a USGA record for the longest final match in the 1966 U.S. Women’s Amateur when lost to JoAnne Gunderson Carner on the 41st hole at Sewickley Heights (Pa.) Golf Club. Over her long career, she won 30 national or international amateur championships, with at least one championship in six different decades from 1951 – 2003 on three different continents: North America (Canada – 24; United States – 4; Great Britain – 1; Australia – 1). She was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004.