Henry Cotton

Henry Cotton
Henry Cotton, 3-time British Open winner, tees off a match in 1937. E. Dean/Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Henry Cotton was the best British golfer of his era. Many of his biggest wins came in the 1930s, and he won three Open Championship titles.

Born: Jan. 26, 1907 in Chesire, England
Died: Dec. 22, 1987
Nickname: Maestro

Tour Victories:

• PGA Tour: 3 (all British Open titles)

Cotton rarely played in the United States, and today's European Tour didn't exist in his time. But on the British and European pro golf circuits that did exist in his day, Cotton won 31 professional titles.

Major Championships:

• British Open: 1934, 1937, 1948

Awards and Honors:

• Member, World Golf Hall of Fame
• Member, British Ryder Cup team, 1929, 1937, 1947
• Captain, Great Britain Ryder Cup team, 1947 and 1953

Quote, Unquote:

• Henry Cotton: "The best is always good enough for me."

• Henry Cotton: "To be a champion, you must act like one."


There was a long period in golf during which the Dunlop 65 was one of the best-known golf balls. That ball was named in honor of a round of 65 that Cotton fired in the second round of his first Open Championship win in 1934. At the time, Cotton's 65 set a new British Open scoring record.

Henry Cotton Biography:

Henry Cotton was the greatest English golfer from the long period between the careers of Harry Vardon and Nick Faldo. He was equal parts flamboyant showman and disciplined shotmaker; as one person commented during his playing career, Cotton was "equal parts Hagen and Hogan."

Cotton was primarily a cricket player in his youth, but switched to golf at age 12. Five short years later, at age 17 in 1924, he turned pro.

While he rarely played in America during his career, he became known to golf fans round the world with his 1934 British Open victory.

He anchored three British Ryder Cup teams, and in 1937 - with the entire U.S. Ryder Cup team playing - he won his second British Open.

That season was his best, as he also won several other national championships across Europe.

Cotton played in only one U.S. Open during his best years in the 1930s, and was denied more opportunities by World War II. During WWII, Cotton served in the Royal Air Force. He organized exhibition matches with other professionals to raise money for the Red Cross, and the following the war was presented with the M.B.E.

At war's end, he returned to golf, winning the Open Championship again in 1948. Along the way, he had also won the British PGA three times. He had played his first British Open in 1927, and his last came 50 years later in 1977.

Cotton was known for working extremely hard at his game, sometimes practicing until his hands bled, but also for his high living. He was a lover of champagne, caviar and tailored clothes; he lived for a while in a suite at a 5-star hotel, and later bought an estate complete with butler and full staff, traveling everywhere in a Rolls-Royce.

In his later years, Cotton designed golf courses and wrote 10 books. He also founded the Golf Foundation, which helped thousands of young boys and girls get started in golf.

He was knighted, becoming Sir Henry Cotton, in 1987 shortly before his death.

Henry Cotton was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1980.