Gene Sarazen (1902 - 1999)
Born Eugene Saraceni, New York, USA of Italian stock, Sarazen is remembered as one of the most accomplished golfers of the pre-war period. He won 7 Major titles including the Open and US Open in the same year (1932).
Sarazen came from very a humble background with his family existing just above the poverty line. To supplement his father's income from carpentry, the young Sarazen picked fruit, sold newspapers and did whatever casual labour available. While apprenticed to his father at the age of 15, he took ill and was advised by a doctor that the dusty environment of a workshop would prove detrimental to his health. He therefore decided on an outdoor job and became assistant professional at a nearby golf club. Sarazen's association with golf dates back to his 9th birthday when he was given a present of a hickory shafted club. In 1920, he turned professional.
Initially, Sarazen's life as a pro was a desperately hard one. However by the age of 21, three years after turning pro, he had won 3 major titles. During the 1930s, he seemed to be more interested in making money rather than winning prestigious tournaments. He played exhibition matches all over the globe and indeed, became the highest paid sportsman in the world.
Sarazen was a member of the American Ryder Cup team on six occasions. He regretted that he never captained the team; the authorities preferring Walter Hagen instead. As the twilight fell on his career in later years, he became a radio commentator. However he continued to play golf all his life and recorded very good scores into his 70s.
While Sarazen is remembered for his many victories including winning the Open and US Open in the same year, we should pay tribute to him for having the courage and determination to overcome his background to become so successful.