Gene Sarazen

Sarazen playing the links
Gene Sarazen (Saraceni), the first Italian American world golf champion and other Italian American notables.

The sport of golf has had many phenomenal players who have risen to historic heights: Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Walter Hagen, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, to name only a few. Ranking right alongside of them was Gene Sarazen (Saraceni) born in Harrison, New York in 1902 of immigrant parents. At eight years of age he began to caddy and quickly learned the complexities and etiquette of the game, becoming fully absorbed in it even to the extent of Anglicizing his name in order to gain acceptance at a time when there were virtually no Italian American players. He did not have to wait long before he was making golf history. In 1922, at age 20, he won the U. S. Open - the youngest ever to win that event. He was one of only four players to win all four of professional golf's major championships: the U.S. National Open in 1922 and 1923, the Professional Golf Championship in 1922, 1923, and 1933, the British Open in 1932, and the Masters in 1935. His double-eagle on the 15th hole of the Masters was a truly remarkable feat that golf fans spoke about for decades to come. He was a member of six Ryder Cup teams and he won the Professional Golf Seniors Championship twice. His fame was such that in 1927 he was invited to Italy to play golf. His foresight led to the inauguration of the Sarazen World Open Championship in 1994. Sarazen is also credited with the invention of the sand wedge.

Other Italian golf notables included championship winners Johnny Revolta, Vic Ghezzi, Tony Manero, and Ken Venturi. One of the more interesting highlights of Italian Americans in golf is that of seven Turnesa brothers. All are professional golfers and two of them, Jim and Joe, have won major golf championships. Conscious of their popularity, the Italian American press highlighted the contributions of Italian Americans during World War II by citing the fact that four Turnesa brothers served in armed services. Notable contemporary Italian American golfers include Mark Calcavecchia, Chris DiMarco, and Rocco Mediate who are ranked among the top and have competed with the world's finest golfers.

Mark Calcavecchia

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