Harry Vardon (9th May 1870 – 20th March 1937) was a Jersey professional golfer and member of the fabled Great Triumvirate of the sport in his day, along with John Henry Taylor and James Braid. He won The Open Championship a record six times and also won the U.S. Open.
Vardon was born in Grouville, Jersey, Channel Islands. As a child growing up on the island of Jersey, he did not play much golf. Inspired by his older brother, Tom, he eventually took up the game in his teens and by age 20 he was so good that he turned professional. He was the first professional golfer to play in Knickerbockers – the “proper” Englishman dressed in an uncomfortable shirt and tie with a buttoned jacket. Nonetheless, within a few years he became golf’s first superstar.
In 1896, Vardon won the first of his record six Open Championships (a record that still stands today). In 1900, he became golf’s first international celebrity when he toured the United States playing in more than 80 matches and capping it off with a victory in the U.S. Open. He was the runner-up of the 1913 U.S. Open, an event portrayed in the film The Greatest Game Ever Played. At the age of 50, Vardon was the runner-up at the 1920 U.S. Open.
During his career, Vardon won 62 golf tournaments, including one run of 14 in a row, still a record to this day. He won the German Open in 1911 and the British PGA Matchplay Championship in 1912. He popularized the grip that bears his name, one still used by over 90 percent of golfers. In his later years, he became a golf course architect, designing several courses in Britain. Following a bout with tuberculosis, he struggled with health problems for years but turned to coaching and writing golf instruction and inspirational books.
During his peak years, Vardon was known for his exceptional accuracy and control with all clubs, the greatest ever seen to that stage. However, after his comeback to the game following a prelonged absence during which he suffered from tuberculosis, he suffered serious problems with his short-range putting, and several commentators claim that he could have added to his list of majors had this disability not afflicted him.
Vardon died in 1937 in Totteridge, Hertfordshire, England. After his death, the PGA of America created the Vardon Trophy. It is awarded annually to the player on the PGA Tour with the year’s lowest adjusted scoring average.
In 1974, Vardon was chosen as one of the initial group of inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame. His most prestigious medals, including those from his six British Open Championships, are on display in a tribute to him at the Jersey Museum. In the annals of golf, he is considered one of the greats of the game. In 2000, Vardon was ranked as the 13th best golfer of all time by Golf Digest magazine.