1944 PGA Championship: Hamilton Tops Nelson in Final

Bob Hamilton and Sam Snead, members of the 1949 US Ryder Cup team
1944 PGA Championship winner Bob Hamilton is on the left, with Sam Snead, in this photo taken in 1949. Keystone/Getty Images

A field thinned out by World War II gathered for the 1944 PGA Championship, giving lesser-known golfers better opportunities to win. And one of them did.

Quick Bits

  • Championship match: Bob Hamilton over Byron Nelson (match scores below)
  • Dates: Aug. 14-20, 1944
  • Golf course: Manito Golf and Country Club in Washington state
  • Tournament number: This was the 26th time the PGA Championship was played.

Notes on the 1944 PGA Championship

The 1944 PGA Championship was the only one of the professional majors played during the year, with World War II still raging.

Given that the tournament was not played in 1943, that made 1942 winner Sam Snead the defending champion. But Snead was unable to play, laid up with a bad back and still in the Navy.

Ben Hogan also missed this tournament, as did many others who had military obligations. That explains why so many of the golfers' names in the match results listed below are little-known today. It also explains why the PGA of America reduced the match play bracket from 64 golfers in the first round (as was the case in recent previous years and in most match play years after 1944) to just 32 golfers.

Bob Hamilton was one of those golfers with military obligations - he was the head pro of the military golf course at Fort Lewis in Washington state. But the 1944 PGA Championship was played in Spokane, Wash., which gave Hamilton a chance to participate.

And Hamilton made the most of that chance, winning the title by beating Byron Nelson in the championship match, 1-up.

En route to the finals, Hamilton defeated Gene Kunes, Harry Bassler, Jug McSpaden and George Schneiter. Nelson dispatched Mike DeMassey, Mark Fry, Willie Goggin and Charles Congdon.

Hamilton and Nelson were all square after the morning 18 of the championship match. Hamilton went to 2-up after 29, but Nelson squared the match again on the 33rd hole.

Hamilton went 1-up by winning the 34th, then held on for the victory.

Between 1939 and 1945, Nelson reached the championship match in five of the six years the PGA was played. He won two of those and lost three of them.

This was Hamilton's second win of 1944, and he won three more times during the 1940s. He was also a member of the USA's 1949 Ryder Cup team.

While Hamilton is not well-remembered today, he long held a oddball record in golf: In 1975, Hamilton, then 59 years old, recorded a score of 59. That made him the youngest golfer ever to shoot his age.

1944 PGA Championship Scores

Results from the 1944 PGA Championship golf tournament played at Manito Golf and Country Club in Spokane, Washington (all matches scheduled for 36 holes):

First Round

  • Byron Nelson def. Mike DeMassey, 5 and 4
  • Mark Fry def. Neil Christian, 2 and 1
  • Willie Goggin def. Purvis Ferree, 8 and 7
  • Tony Manero def. Clayton Aleridge, 1-up
  • Sam Byrd def. W.A. Stackhouse, 4 and 3
  • Charles Congdon def. Henry Williams Jr., 7 and 6
  • Ed Dudley def. Steve Savel, 7 and 6
  • Jimmy Hines def. Thurman Edwards, 7 and 6
  • Jug McSpaden def. Bruce Coltart, 7 and 5
  • Fred Annon def. Harry Nettlebladt, 5 and 4
  • Bob Hamilton def. Gene Kunes, 6 and 5
  • Harry Bassler def. Joe Mazel, 6 and 5
  • Arthur Bell def. Joe Zarhardt, 1-up (37 holes)
  • Craig Wood def. Jimmy D'Angelo, 5 and 4
  • Toney Penna def. Morrie Gravatt, 3 and 2
  • George Schneiter def. Ted Longworth, 7 and 6

Second Round

  • Byron Nelson def. Mark Fry, 7 and 6
  • Willie Goggin def. Tony Manero, 4 and 3
  • Charles Congdon def. Sam Byrd, 2 and 1
  • Ed Dudley def. Jimmy Hines, 1-up (37 holes)
  • Jug McSpaden def. Fred Annon, 8 and 7
  • Bob Hamilton def. Harry Bassler, 6 and 5
  • Arthur Bell def. Craig Wood, 3 and 2
  • George Schneiter def. Toney Penna, 4 and 3

Quarterfinals

  • Byron Nelson def. Willie Goggin, 4 and 3
  • Charles Congdon def. Ed Dudley, 6 and 5
  • Bob Hamilton def. Jug McSpaden, 2 and 1
  • George Schneiter def. Art Bell, 2 and 1

Semifinals

  • Byron Nelson def. Charles Congdon, 8 and 7
  • Bob Hamilton def. George Schneiter, 1-up

Championship Match

  • Bob Hamilton def. Byron Nelson, 1-up

    1942 PGA Championship | 1945 PGA Championship

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