December 18, 2010
Welcome to the Devil Ball 100, our ranking of the 100 most important people in the history of golf. Over the next couple weeks, we'll be rolling them out, 10 at a time. Our list includes everyone from golfers to politicians to actors, and each one had a dramatic impact on the game as we know it today. Some names you'll recognize, some you won't. Some positions you'll agree with, and some will have you wondering if we've gone insane. Enjoy the rollout, and see where your favorites made the list!
60. Hootie Johnson: William "Hootie" Johnson is one of those Augusta natives that just couldn't get away from their prized jewel. The chairman of Augusta National from 1998-2006, Johnson was a big game changer with the Masters, allowing 18-hole television coverage for the first time (as my dad used to say, "Most of us didn't know a thing about the first nine holes of Augusta"). Maybe the most famous moment of Hootie's reign with Augusta came in '02, when the name Martha Burk started being tossed around golf circles. Burk set up pickets at the Masters because the club wouldn't allow women members, something that still stands to this day. Sponsors pulled out, but the Masters kept on chugging, and Hootie remained in charge.
59. Johnny Miller: Most younger sports fans know Miller as the lead voice for NBC's golf coverage, but Miller was an incredible golfer back in his day, carding two major championships and 25 total PGA Tour wins, meaning he's exempt for life on the PGA Tour as a player. Miller's most famous moment (and now most joked about because of his propensity to bring it up in telecasts) came in 1973, when a final round 63 at Oakmont won Miller his only U.S. Open by a shot over John Schlee. That 63 is still regarded as one of the best final rounds in the history of golf.
58. Phil Mickelson: A name we modern day fans know well, Mickelson is one of that talents on the golf course that come around every few decades. Phil burst on the scene as a college kid at ASU, winning the NCAAs three times in his four years as a Sun Devil, including a U.S. Amateur trophy. Along with that, "Lefty," as he's called in the golf circle, won his first PGA Tour victory in 1991 as an amateur. He quickly turned pro, and now has 38 wins on the PGA Tour, and 46 worldwide. For years, Phil was saddled with "Best Player to Never Have Won a Major" until 2004, when Mickelson birdied five of his last seven holes on Sunday at Augusta National, including an 18-footer on the 72nd hole that slipped in the side of the cup, forcing Phil to leap in the air, making it one of the most exciting finishes in Masters history. Phil has since won two other Masters and a PGA Championship, despite his continued struggles at the U.S. Open, where Mickelson has finished in second place a record five times.
57. David Fay: Now the executive director for the USGA, Fay has been working for the United States Golf Association since 1979, and has been both influential and controversial with course setup throughout the years. Fay is an everyday guy that is known to answer his own phone at the office, but when it comes to golf, he's known as "golf's chief bureaucrat."
56. Joe Gibbs: Don't get confused by the name, this Joe Gibbs is the one that did one simple thing for golf; bring us "The Golf Channel." Gibbs, along with Arnold Palmer, pushed TGC live in 1995, but Gibbs had been thinking up the idea since 1991. Along with Arnie, Gibbs raised $80 million to start the network, and his idea that a lot thought was crazy at the time has blossomed into a regular network for sports fans and golfers alike.
55. Wally Uihlein: The chairman and CEO of the Acushnet Company, Uihlein oversees golf companies like Titleist, FootJoy, Cobra, and Scotty Cameron. Uihlein has been with the company since 1973, and made a lot of his brands the pinnacle in the golfing world.
54. Jimmy Demaret: One of the most accomplished golfers during his time as a professional, Demaret won 31 PGA Tour tournaments including three Masters, becoming the first to accomplish that. While he never won any other majors besides at Augusta, Jimmy finished runner-up to Ben Hogan at the 1948 U.S. Open and finished third at the PGA Championship four times. Demaret, born in Houston, died of a heart attack in 1983 at the age of 73 as he was, of course, getting ready for a round of golf.
53. Harry Cooper: Cooper, a winner of 31 PGA Tour events, might be best known as the most talented golfer to not win a major championship. Cooper, born in England but raised in the United States, finished in the top-10 at majors an astonishing 20 times, but said he could never picture himself in the winner's circle.
52. Nick Faldo: Arguably the best golfer to ever come out of England, Faldo won six major championships over his decorated career, and is fifth all-time on the European Tour wins list with 30. Faldo was ranked number one in the world for a total of 98 weeks, and is now a broadcaster for CBS. A guy that always seemed to struggle with the media, Faldo has softened over the years, highlighted when he wore a "I Love New York" baseball cap during the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, following the September 11 attacks the year prior. Faldo was knighted in 2009 for his services to golf.
51. Kathy Whitworth: Whitworth, born in 1939, is the benchmark for golf, winning 88 LPGA events over her career, the highest number of wins for any golf tour in the world, eclipsing Sam Snead's PGA Tour record by six wins. Whitworth turned pro in 1958, winning her first event as a pro, and added six major championships to her resume.