Paul Runyan -- who stood at just 5'7'' and weighed in around 125 pounds -- was known as "Little Poison" because of his deadly game on and around the greens. His short-game skills earned him a pair of PGA Championships and a total of 29 victories, most of them in the 1930s.
The son of an Arkansas farmer, Runyan did not consider himself a natural as a player, but through hard work he reached the point where he was ready to try the pro tour in 1930 at the age of 21.
Runyan won twice that year and scored at least one victory in every year of the 1930s except for 1937. He was the best player in the game for a two-year stretch, winning nine tournaments in 1933 and seven in 1934 and leading the money list both years.
Both of Runyan's PGA Championship victories came in final matches against long hitters. In 1934, he beat Craig Wood in a tense 38-hole match by getting up and down on the last three holes. At the 36th hole, both players made 12-foot par putts.
Wood reached the par-5 37th hole in two, but Runyan was able to chip close for a tying birdie. Finally, Runyan claimed the match on the 38th hole by pitching over a bunker to eight feet and sinking the winning par putt.
Runyan's 1938 win over Sam Snead was an 8 and 7 romp, the biggest margin of victory in a final in the 39 years the PGA Championship was held at match play. Snead outdrove him by 50 yards on nearly every hole, but Runyan was deadly accurate and played the 29 holes of the final in 6-under.
Though Runyan was only 30 when he beat Snead, he added only two more victories, the last in 1941, and virtually retired from competition after World War II.
Runyan went on to become a respected teacher and a good senior player in the days before there was a Senior Tour, finishing second in the PGA Seniors Championship in 1959 and 1960 and winning it in 1961 and 1962.
For more information about golf, see:
- The Best Golfers of all Time
- How Golf Clubs Work