Harper, 1950 PGA Champion, dies aged 90
Chandler Harper, who won the 1950 PGA Championship and was a major figure in Virginia golf for the better part of 70 years, died Monday. He was 90.
Harper won 10 other PGA Tour events, finished second seven times and was a member of the 1955 Ryder Cup team. He was elected to the PGA of America Hall of Fame in 1968 and was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1973.
Harper played in a career-high 19 tournaments in 1955, earning enough points that season to qualify for the Ryder Cup. He had three top-10 finishes in the Masters.
Despite a limited schedule, Harper made a name for himself for his role in some of golf's most historic events. In winning the 1950 Tucson Open, he set what was then a PGA Tour record by needing just 20 putts to shoot a 63 during the third round.
In 1953, Harper, nicknamed "Old Bones" for his long, angular frame, was part of one of the most bizarre finishes in sports history. He held a one-shot lead over fellow Virginian Lew Worsham in the $75,000 World Championship of Golf from Chicago, the first tournament ever shown on television.
The only camera the network used caught Worsham, the last man playing, as he hit a wedge shot from the 18th fairway into the cup 104 yards away for an eagle and one-stroke victory over Harper.
At the 1954 Texas Open in San Antonio, Harper followed an opening-round 70 with three consecutive rounds of 63. His final 54-hole score of 189 remains tied for the PGA Tour's all-time record.
A highlight of his career was his victory in the 1950 PGA Championship, one of golf's four major tournaments, in Columbus, Ohio. Because Harper generally played in so few Tour events, the PGA of America considered Harper the last living "club" pro to win its prestigious tournament.
In 1969, Harper took over as mentor for 14-year-old Curtis Strange when Strange's father died of cancer. Out of that teacher-pupil relationship developed a lasting friendship.
"He's certainly been a big part of my career, especially starting out," said Strange, the winner of 19 pro tournaments, including back-to-back U.S. Opens. "You need guidance as a youngster and you need encouragement, which Chandler always gave me plenty of. I trusted him and his advice because he had been there and done that."
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