Harry the Great

Harry the Great 1I’m reading The Greatest Game Ever Played, the book about Francis Ouimet’s upset of Harry Vardon and Ted Ray at the 1913 U.S. Open at Brookline, Massachusetts.

Author Mark Frost includes English golf great John Henry Taylor’s assessment of Harry Vardon. It really caught my attention.

Taylor lived until 1963. Having personally watched and evaluated every major player to come on the scene for over seven decades, including Hogan and Nicklaus, he never wavered in his admiration of Harry Vardon.

“Little did I guess when playing him at Ganton,” Taylor later wrote in his excellent autobiography, “that I was playing a man who would develop into — in my solemn and considered judgement — the finest and most finished golfer the game has ever produced.”

Granted, the equipment, courses and playing conditions were incredibly different. Still, I couldn’t help but be impressed.

Think about it. Besides playing alongside Vardon, Taylor also saw Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus (at least early in his career). After witnessing all their games, Vardon was still his man.

For the record, Harry Vardon won 62 tournaments, including six British Opens, which is still a record.

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Neil Sagebiel

5 thoughts on “Harry the Great”

  1. What I’m most impressed with is he favored Harry Vardon over Bobby Jones. Each of the other players had either minor weaknesses in their game they overcame, or there was a major missing off their resume. I’m completely throwing Nicklaus off this list, because Taylor never saw the 18 major championships and 19 2nd place major finishes.

    Jones seemed to have the complete package also, unless Mr. Taylor is considering Jones’ temper early in his career.

    One thing to remember about this, though, is the fact that British golfers from Vardon’s era were considered the best in the world and those that won The Open Championship were the best of the best. Since John Henry Taylor was an Englishman, I’m not really surprised he’d favor a fellow countryman over the rest of those “upstart” Americans in the list.

  2. I agree with you about Nicklaus. Taylor didn’t see much of his career, although Jack did have a strong amateur career and by 1963 had won his first U.S. Open (over Palmer at Oakmont).

    Good observations about the supposed English bias. It makes sense.

    However you look at it, you can’t escape the fact that Vardon was an all-time great, which is easy to overlook since Harry is so far removed from modern professional golf.

  3. I agree with you, Harry Vardon is definitely a legend and a legitimate choice for one of the best all-time. He’ll never be forgotten since the Vardon Grip and Vardon Trophy are named after him–70 years after his death.

    I’ll be lucky if someone outside my family remembers me 5 years after my death…unless I fall into a pond while watching one of the majors from the gallery. 🙂

  4. It is indeed a great tribute coming from a man who himself won five Open Championships next only to Harry Vardon who has won six open championship. It is interesting to note that in as many as three of his seven major wins, John Henry Taylor had finished runner up. On one of the occasions he went on to beat Taylor in a playoff to win his only U.S. Open a feat that was never achieved by Taylor. Taylor and Vardon along with James Braid were considered three of the greatest British players of their time.Often it is easier to admire your contemporary and appreciate their greatness when you have had to find it out for yourself the hard way. Therefore I am not surprised that Taylor believes that Vardon was the greatest player he had ever seen.

    Andy Brown


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