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BIRTHDATE: May 9, 1870
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Unlike other great golfers of his era, Vardon did not grow up in a golfing environment. As a youngster, he played a game similar to today's pitch and putt where handmade clubs fashioned from oak were used to hit a marble ball (a taw) around a course measuring just 50 yards; not exactly growing up in the shadow of St Andrews.
Vardon's first job was gardener to a gentleman who enjoyed golf. Vardon would sometimes caddy for him and be given the opportunity to use proper equipment to play a few strokes. His brother, Tom, travelled to England to become a professional. So obviously, the seed was planted in Vardon's mind.
Curious as to his abilities, he played a minor tournament in England and won. He then contested a tournament in Scotland and came second. With the confidence of his success, Vardon turned professional. He worked at Ripon, Bury and Ganton before settling at South Hertfordshire GC near London where he stayed for 34 years.
Vardon's rise to the top was progressive rather than instant. In 1896, he beat JH Taylor and later that year won his first Open. Not only was he the first Englishman to win the event, he would go on to record an unbeaten six victories. He also beat Taylor to win the US Open in 1900.
At that time, the real money in golf was in America and Vardon played a series of exhibition matches there. His fame followed him from Britain; he was therefore golf's first international celebrity. He did not invent the overlapping grip which bears his name but certainly popularised it. J Laidley used it before Vardon to win the Amateur Championship.
Vardon's strength was in the power and accuracy of his swing. However a bout of tuberculosis in 1903 permanently affected his health. His illness manifested itself on the course when the club head would shake in an erratic manner whilst putting. Despite this, he did go on to win the Open again and indeed was second in the 1920 US Open.
Besides his great victories, Vardon's story is one of the success that hard work and confidence can bring. Six times winner of the Open, his achievements continue to set the stand by which the golfing greats are measured.
Awards and Honors
• Scoring leaders on both the U.S. and European PGA Tours are awarded the Harry Vardon Trophy.
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