No player in the history of the pro tour has gotten off to a faster start in his career than Horton Smith.
The lanky Missourian came on the scene in 1928 and won a startling eight events during the 1928-29 winter tour when he was just 20 years old. He couldn't continue at that pace -- indeed, no one ever has -- but Smith went on to have a very good career, finishing with 31 victories and winning two of the first three Masters.
Smith was one of the best putters of his time, and he had a smooth swing -- though some wondered why he always seemed to be experimenting with it. Perhaps he was trying to recapture the magic of 1928-29.
His first two wins came late in 1928, and he scored a tour-high eight wins in 1929 (six early in the year and two late). Four more victories followed in 1930 before Smith hit a bit of a drought, winning just once in each of the next three years.
In 1934, Smith captured the inaugural Masters, getting a birdie on the 71st hole and finishing one stroke ahead of Craig Wood. He won the tournament in similar fashion in 1936, taking the lead on the next-to-last hole and beating Harry Cooper by one.
Smith never captured the U.S. Open, finishing third in 1930 and 1940 after taking at least a share of the lead into the 36-hole final day each time. He also was third in the 1930 British Open.
Smith won two or three events each year from 1934-37, but he managed only two more wins after turning 30, both of them in 1941. He played the PGA Tour very little after World War II.
Smith had become involved in tournament administration early in his career, becoming a member of the tournament committee as early as 1933. He served as president of the PGA from 1952-54.
Smith is perhaps the first player to have used a club specifically designed for hitting the ball out of the sand, but the concave-face model he used was later banned.
For more information about golf, see:
- The Best Golfers of All Time
- How Golf Clubs Work