English amateur Harold Hilton, whose career of winning major championships spanned the years 1892-1913, holds several significant distinctions.
Hilton is the only British player to ever win the U.S. Amateur, one of three amateurs to win the British Open (along with John Ball and Bobby Jones), and one of four to take the U.S. and British Amateurs in the same year (along with Jones, Lawson Little, and Bob Dickson).
Hilton's earliest triumphs came in the British Open. At age 23, he won the 1892 Open at Muirfield, the first time the tournament was played at 72 holes.
Five years later, Hilton captured the Open at his home course, Royal Liverpool. Trailing James Braid by three strokes after 54 holes, Hilton posted a closing 75 for a total of 314 and retreated to the clubhouse to play billiards while Braid tried to beat his score. Hilton emerged to watch Braid make a 4 at the last hole when he needed a 3 to tie.
Late in his career, Hilton nearly added a third Open title. Also, he was one stroke out of a playoff in 1911, a year in which he would meet success elsewhere.
Hilton was developing a reputation as better at stroke play than match play, having lost in the final of the British Amateur in 1891, 1892, and 1896. But he went on to win by an 8 and 7 margin in the 1900 final over James Robb and reclaimed the title in 1901. After a dry spell, he took his third and fourth British Amateurs in 1911 and 1913.
In 1911, at age 42, Hilton decided to make the overseas trip to America to try to win the U.S. Amateur. His appearance attracted much attention in the American press, and Hilton rolled to the final against Fred Herreshoff. The Englishman lost a 6-up lead before winning with a par on the 37th hole.
Hilton stood just 5'6''. He took such a fast and furious swing that he often came up on his toes at impact and lost his hat at the finish. Nevertheless, he was a very accurate player.
For more information about golf, see:
- The Best Golfers of all Time
- How Golf Clubs Work