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The Cancer Golfer

The CANCER Golf Legend: Gene Littler

  • Inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1990.
  • Major Championship Victories: 2
  • U.S. Amateur: 1953
  • U.S. Open: 1961
  • PGA TOUR victories: 29

Nicknamed “Gene the Machine” for his remarkably consistent ball striking, Gene Littler possessed one of golf’s truly great swings. Had he been more passionate about golf he may have won many more than the 29 PGA TOUR events he captured. Content to spend time at home in Rancho Santa Fe, California among his vintage car collection, Littler was often criticized for not taking more advantage of his talent. What allowed him to get by was one of the finest natural swings the game has ever seen.

Gene LittlerBorn on July 21, 1930 in San Diego, California, Gene Littler first attracted national attention at the age of 23 when he won the U.S. Amateur. Four months later, he won the San Diego Open as an amateur and two days later, he turned pro. The following year he captured four titles but a tendency to fiddle with his swing got him into a slump in 1957 and 1958. Under the tutelage of Paul Runyan he quickly regained his old form and in 1961 he won his only professional major, the U.S. Open at Oakland Hills.

Littlers sustained excellence is what made his career so noteworthy. Only once from 1954 to 1979 did he finish out of the top 60 on the money list and that was because he was sidelined by surgery to remove a cancerous lymph node. Coming back to win three tournaments after that scare and finishing fifth on the money list in 1975 at the age of 45 is one of the true great stories in golf.

 

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In 1980 at the age of 50, Littler became eligible for the SENIOR TOUR and proceeded to win three of his first five tournaments and, in 1981 won the Vintage International by an amazing nine strokes.

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