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1961


Gene Littler

Gene A. Littler, 30, of San Diego, California, the only player to break par twice, won the championship by a single stroke with rounds of 73-68-72-68-281 at the par-70 Oakland Hills Country Club near Detroit. With this victory Littler became the eighth player in history to win both the Open and Amateur Championships. Doug Sanders, the 54-hole leader, and Bob Goalby were tied for second place at 282.

Amateur Jack Nicklaus, runner-up in 1960, and Mike Souchak finished in a tie for fourth with 284s. The first round was led by Bobby Brue with a 69. Sanders and Bob Rosburg shared the lead at 36 holes with 139. Thirteen contenders had scores ranging from 210 through 214 entering the final round. Sanders' 210 led with Littler three shots behind. When all other contenders finished at 282 or higher, it settled down to a Littler-Sanders duel.

After Littler took a one-over-par 5 on the final hole for 68, Sanders came to the 72nd hole needing a birdie for a 71 to tie. His third shot from off the front edge of the green barely missed the cup. Oakland Hills was a somewhat less stringent test than in 1951 when Ben Hogan won with 287. Only two rounds were played under par in 1951 while 18 were recorded in 1961.

Defending Champion Arnold Palmer just made the cut at 149 but scored two 70s the final day for a 289 total. Ben Hogan, also at 289, failed to finish in the first ten for the first time since 1940 (except when sickness prevented him from starting in 1949 and 1957). Four former Open Champions, Cary Middlecoff, Julius Boros, Lew Worsham, and Ed Furgol, failed to make the 36-hole cut.

A record gallery estimated at 47,975 saw the Championship, 4,097 more than the previous record of 43,878 set in 1960 in Denver. The last two days' attendance set records. There were 20,439 on the final day (3,912 more than the record of 16,527 in 1957) and 15,225 the second day (474 more than the record of 14,751 in 1960). The entry was 2,449. A record prize fund of $68,300 was awarded.

In addition to the Championship prize money of $60,500 for professionals, a total of $7,800 was awarded in the Sectional Qualifying Championships. Fifty-eight districts held Local Qualifying rounds and there were 13 Sectional Qualifying Championships.

OPEN RECORDS


Starts - 25

Best Finish - Winner 1961

Rds - 90

Cuts Made - 20

Top 3 - 2

Top 5 - 3

Top 10 - 5

Top 25 - 12

Avg. - 73.71

Scores In 60s - 8

Rds Under Par - 11

Earnings - $43,246.55