1941 PGA Championship: Ghezzi Denies Nelson in Extra Holes

10th fairway at Cherry Hills Country Club
Cherry Hills Country Club was the site of the 1941 PGA Championship. Harry How/Getty Images

Vic Ghezzi won his only major title at the 1941 PGA Championship, denying his finals opponent what might be remembered as one of the all-time great match play performances.

Quick Bits

  • Championship match: Vic Ghezzi over Byron Nelson
  • Dates: July 7-13, 1941
  • Golf course: Cherry Hills Country Club in Colorado
  • Tournament number: This was the 24th time the PGA Championship was played.

Notes on the 1941 PGA Championship

The quarterfinals of the 1941 PGA Championship were loaded - seven of the eight players were or would become major champions, and six of the eight won the PGA Championship at some point in their careers.

The one who won the 1941 PGA Championship, however, was Vic Ghezzi, who beat Byron Nelson in the championship match, 1-up, in 38 holes. The other quarterfinalists who were (or would become) PGA winners were Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen and Denny Shute. And another, Lloyd Mangrum, would win a U.S. Open. Only Jimmy Hines among the quarterfinalists never won a major.

One of those quarterfinal matches pitted Nelson and Hogan, who years earlier, as teens, played each other for the caddie championship at Fort Worth's Glen Garden Country Club. Nelson won that match, and he won this match, too, 2 and 1. Hogan led, 1-up, through 33 holes, but Nelson squared it on the 34th. On the next, Hogan found water and went 1-down, then Nelson sealed it with a final-hole birdie.

This was the third consecutive year Nelson was in the championship match at the PGA. In 1939 he lost to Henry Picard. In 1940, Nelson beat Snead to win.

And had Nelson won this tournament, it might be remembered among the great match-play performances of all time. Why? Because in the third round, quaterfinals and semifinals, Nelson beat, in order, Ralph Guldahl, Hogan and then Sarazen.

And Nelson appeared in control of the championship match, leading Ghezzi 3-up after 27 holes.

But Ghezzi started the final nine winning three consecutive holes to square the match. It was still all square on the 36th green when Nelson missed a 15-foot putt. That left Ghezzi with a 4-footer to win the Wanamaker Trophy ... but he missed.

The golfers continued into extra holes, and on the first extra hole Ghezzi again missed a putt, this time a 10-footer, that would have won the match.

Finally, on the 38th hole - after Nelson missed a 3-foot putt - Ghezzi knocked in his own 3-footer to win the tournament. It was Ghezzi's only win in a major, but he won 11 PGA Tour titles includes the Los Angeles Open, North and South Open and Greater Greensboro Open.

To reach the finals, Ghezzi defeated Joe Pezzullo, August Nordone, Jack Grout, Hines and Mangrum. (Grout went on to much greater fame as the golf instructor to Jack Nicklaus.)

This was the second major championship played at Cherry Hills Country Club, after the 1938 U.S. Open (won by Guldahl), and the first time the PGA Championship was played at that Denver-area golf course.

1941 PGA Championship Scores

Results from later matches at the 1941 PGA Championship golf tournament played at Cherry Hills Country Club in Cherry Hills Village, Colorado (all listed matches scheduled for 36 holes):

Round of 16

  • Byron Nelson def. Ralph Guldahl, 4 and 3
  • Ben Hogan def. Horton Smith, 3 and 2
  • Denny Shute def. Leonard Orr, 5 and 3
  • Gene Sarazen def. Bruce Coltart, 9 and 7
  • Sam Snead def. Mike Turnesa, 1-up
  • Lloyd Mangrum def. Mark Fry, 1-up
  • Vic Ghezzi def. Jack Grout, 1-up
  • Jimmy Hines def. Jug McSpaden, 6 and 4

Quarterfinals

  • Vic Ghezzi def. Jimmy Hines, 8 and 7
  • Lloyd Mangrum def. Sam Snead, 6 and 4
  • Byron Nelson def. Ben Hogan, 2 and 1
  • Gene Sarazen def. Denny Shute, 7 and 6

Semifinals

  • Vic Ghezzi def. Lloyd Mangrum, 1-up
  • Byron Nelson def. Gene Sarazen, 2-up

Championship Match

  • Vic Ghezzi def. Byron Nelson, 1-up (38 holes)

1940 PGA Championship | 1942 PGA Championship

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