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Sarazen soars on double eagle

One of Augusta National's most legendary shots vaults "The Squire' toward victory.

By BRUCE LOWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 9, 1999


It wasn't the Masters then, just the Augusta National Golf Club Invitational tournament. It was the event's second year and the club needed publicity if it was going to make it a profitable enterprise.

Gene Sarazen, the former champion of the American and British opens, had missed the inaugural tournament; he had been on an exhibition tour. He was there for the second one, but on April7, 1935, with four holes remaining, it appeared Sarazen would have to settle for second-best.

He trailed Craig Wood, "the belting blond" as the Associated Press called him, by three strokes. Wood, who had birdied the par-5 No. 15, was already off the course and accepting congratulations.

Then Sarazen, "the Squire," made what would becoming known as golf's "shot heard 'round the world."

It was set up with a drive on the 485-yard No. 15 that he said left him with a bad lie, the ball sitting down (low in the grass on the fairway) on the edge of a divot.

His caddie suggested Sarazen use a 3-wood to reach the green.

Sarazen chose a 4-wood, which would help him get down to the ball.

Walter Hagen, who had lost the 1923 PGA Championship to Sarazen in a playoff, was standing across the fairway, wondering why he was taking so long to take the second shot. "Hurry up, will ya!" Hagen shouted. "I've got a date tonight."

Sarazen swung. The ball soared to the edge of the green, bounced twice and rolled into the cup for a "double-eagle," a two on the par-5 hole.

Sarazen said years later that only about 15 people, including Hagen and fellow golfing legend Bobby Jones, were at the 15th green when he made his remarkable shot.

But Alan Gould, Associated Press sports editor, was among the witnesses. He wrote that the 220-yard shot, "this gift from the goddess of fortune," had "electrified a gallery of 2,000."

Either way, it pulled Sarazen into a tie with Wood. Sarazen parred the final three holes, forcing an extra 36 holes the following day.

In what Gould described as "a frost-bitten, cold-blooded playoff," Sarazen shot 71-73 to Wood's 75-74, winning the $1,500 first prize by five strokes.

"That double-eagle wouldn't have meant a thing if I hadn't won the playoff the next day," Sarazen said. "The aspect I cherish most is that both Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones witnessed the shot ... "

With that shot, Sarazen helped transform the Masters into one of the world's most famous golf tournaments. And the victory made him the first to win what would later become known as the modern Grand Slam.

"It was a spectacular shot, the one everybody talks about, but I take my greatest pride in having won the U.S. and British Opens in the same year, 1932," Sarazen once said. "Wherever I go, people say, "That's the man who got the double eagle.'

"Actually, it was just a piece of luck.' "


-- Information from Golfweek was used in this report.

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