Harry Vardon

In 1896, the legendary Harry Vardon was appointed professional at Ganton Golf Club. In the same year he won his first Open title, at Muirfield, and went on to win two more Open titles whilst at the Club.

Harry Vardon was born in 1870 in Grouville, Jersey. In early years school holidays were spent caddying at the local course and he himself soon became adept at the game.
 
On leaving school Harry followed his father to work as a gardener. However, it was not long before one of his brothers, Tom, already a successful golf professional, suggested he moved to England. 

In 1890 he was appointed professional / greenkeeper at Studley Royal, Ripon, North Yorkshire, moved to Bury, Lancashire for a short time and was appointed to Ganton in 1896.

After the County Match between Hampshire and Yorkshire played at Ganton in 1896, members put up money for a challenge match between Vardon and JH Taylor. Taylor was the 1894 and 1895 Open Champion.

Vardon won this match handsomely and went on a month later to win the Open at Muirfield, after a play off against Taylor. His reputation was made, and he went on to win 2 more Opens whilst at Ganton - Prestwick (1898), Sandwich (1899). The next 3 years he was runner-up in the Open.

In 1900 at the height of his powers he toured the United States. His sponsors, AG Spalding, had just introduced a new ball, "The Vardon Flyer", and they wanted their man to promote it. His tour that took nearly a year covered 20,000 miles. He played many matches and exhibitions and it is said only 2 matches were lost. The tour ended in triumph with him winning the US Open at Wheaton, Illinois, from his old rival Taylor.

He left Ganton in 1903, the year he was seriously ill, and joined Totteridge (South Herts) Golf Club. It was during 1903, although unwell, that he won the Open at Prestwick from his brother Tom. He said this was his finest win.

Tuberculosis was the problem in years to come and he spent various periods in a sanatorium. Although he was never fully fit he did challenge for the Open each year up to the First World War and won twice again in 1911 and 1914. In 1913 he lost the US Open in a 3 way play off with Ted Ray and the eventual winner American amateur Francis Ouimet.

 
 

Vardon's swing was much more upright than was the vogue at the time, and he played with a slightly bent left arm and a flying right elbow, when the fashion was for a rigid left arm. He was rare among great players in not taking a divot with any of his shots.

 

So precise was he with all his clubs that he could always sweep the ball off the turf cleanly, hardly disturbing the surface at all. He showed that rhythm and timing were more valuable than strength.

 

Nevertheless, Vardon had the reputation of being a long hitter, though the clubs he used were lightweight and never more than 10 in number. He popularised the overlapping grip, which became known as the Vardon Grip, although he did not in fact invent it. This grip is still the most used amongst golfers.

 

Vardon was an excellent all round sportsman playing cricket in his youth and whilst at Ganton first played centre forward and later in goal for the village football team. He was succeeded at Ganton (1903 - 1912) by his fellow Channel Islander, friend and rival Ted Ray, who became also Open Champion and US Champion.

 

Vardon was a kindly and considerate man of great courage. His name will live in golf annals. Not only was he the supreme player of his time but he was a catalyst to the development of golf in America and his methods are a link between the style of the early players and the modern approach.

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