By Rand Jerris, Director, USGA Museum
An Intriguing Mystery: A Gene Sarazen Club Comes to Far Hills
Dec 08, 2008
The possibility is tantalizing – could this be one of the most famous clubs in the history of the game?
On April 7, 1935, Gene Sarazen struck “the shot heard ‘round the world.” Trailing Craig Wood by three strokes with four holes left to play in the final round of the Masters, Sarazen ripped a 4-wood from 235 yards on the par-5 15th hole. The ball cleared the pond fronting the green, hopped straight for the hole and fell in for an improbable double-eagle. This single shot pulled Sarazen even with Wood, and he would go on to claim victory in a playoff the following day, becoming the first golfer to win all four major championships that comprise the modern Grand Slam.
Fast forward four years to the summer of 1939. Sarazen, then 37, is playing in the St. Paul Open in Minnesota. He falls from contention as his approach shot on the final hole lands short and right of the green on the 462-yard, par-5 closing hole at Keller Golf Course. Sarazen slams the club into his bag in disgust. He later gives the offending club to his caddie, 18-year-old Thor Nordwall, and reveals to a local newspaperman that the club was “the famous wood with which he holed his great double eagle in the Masters.”
But it turns out the story is not so simple. One decade later, at the request of Bob Jones, Sarazen presented to Augusta National a club that he identified as the club with which he struck the famous shot. When asked later in his life what became of the club, Sarazen on several occasions related that he gave the club away in 1937 on a tour of Japan. Three seemingly legitimate stories surrounding one club create more than a small amount of confusion.
For nearly 70 years, Nordwall hung on to the treasured gift from Sarazen, before turning over the club to USGA Museum officials last week in Minneapolis. The club is now in the hands of the Museum’s curatorial staff in Far Hills, N.J., in hopes that we might at last establish its authenticity.
At the very least, we know this: that Gene Sarazen played with this club during his competitive career, and that this club matches all contemporary descriptions of the club used to make the famous double eagle (a Wilson 4-wood with a Turfrider sole). But it will likely be several months before we can make any further statement about its authenticity.
For now, we are still in the discovery process. We have reached out to our friends at Augusta National, as well as to Sarazen’s family and the record keepers at Wilson Sporting Goods. We are gathering every contemporary account of the shot and the club that we can find.
In the end, though, it may come to pass that we’ll never be able to prove or disprove the fate of the legendary double-eagle club. For now, we can only question and wonder: could this be THE club?