Horton Smith: 1st Masters Champion, Hall of Famer

Golfer Horton Smith swings the club
Golf Hall of Famer and 2-time Masters champ Horton Smith, photographed in 1936. Bettmann/Getty Images

Horton Smith was known in his time as a great putter, and is remembered today as the winner of the first Masters Tournament. He is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Date of birth: May 22, 1908
Place of birth: Springfield, Missouri
Date of death: October 15, 1963
Nickname: The Missouri Rover

PGA Tour Victories

30 (wins are listed after Smith's bio below)

Major Championships:

2

  • 1934 Masters
  • 1936 Masters

    Awards and Honors for Horton Smith

    • Member, World Golf Hall of Fame
    • Member, Michigan Golf Hall of Fame
    • Member, U.S. Ryder Cup team, 1929, 1931, 1933, 1935, 1937
    • PGA Tour leading money winner, 1929, 1936

    Horton Smith Trivia

    • Horton Smith was the last golfer to defeat Bobby Jones in match play before Jones' retirement in 1930.
    • Smith holds the PGA Tour record for most wins before age 21, with six.
    • In 2013, the Green Jacket presented to Smith by Augusta National Golf Club sold at auction for nearly $700,000.

    Biography of Horton Smith

    Horton Smith was born in Springfield, Mo., and, as he grew up and improved at golf, later worked as an assistant pro at Springfield Country Club. Today, a municipal golf course in Springfield is named in Smith's honor.

    Smith is best known today as the answer to a trivia question: Who won the first Masters Tournament? Smith did that in 1934, before it was even called "The Masters" (it was named the "Augusta National Invitation Tournament" at that time).

    He won again in 1936, becoming the first man to win two Masters championships.

    Another interesting bit of trivia about Smith is featured in our "Trivia" section above. Smith beat Bobby Jones at the Savannah Open in 1930.

    And here's more Horton Smith trivia: According to the World Golf Hall of Fame, Smith is believed to be the first professional to use a sand wedge in competition.

    He used it in 1930, and even passed one on to Jones, which Jones used in winning the British Open that year. (Smith's sand wedge had a concave face and was soon banned by the USGA; Gene Sarazen later invented the "modern" sand wedge.)

    Smith turned professional in 1926, at age 18, and in 1928 won his first pro title, the Oklahoma Open. He won six tournaments that today are credited as PGA Tour wins before turning 21, which remains the tour record. Smith's real coming out happened in 1929, when he won eight times and finished second another six times on the PGA Tour. His last PGA Tour victory was in 1941.

    Following his retirement from competition, Smith became chairman of the PGA Tour's competition committee, then served as president of the PGA of America from 1952-54.

    Horton Smith is considered one of the best putters in golf history. The World Golf Hall of Fame website explains: "Byron Nelson rated Smith the finest putter and chipper of his era, and long after he won his final tournament in 1941, Smith was much sought after by other players for putting advice."

    In 1961, Smith co-authored a book on putting, The Secret of Holing Putts (buy it on Amazon).

    The Horton Smith Award is given annually by the PGA of America to a PGA professional who has made "outstanding and continuing contributions to PGA education."

    Smith was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1990.

    List of Smith's PGA Tour Wins

    1928

    • Oklahoma City Open
    • Catalina Island Open

    1929

    • Berkeley Open Championship
    • Pensacola Open Invitational
    • Florida Open
    • La Gorce Open
    • Fort Myers Open
    • North and South Open
    • Oregon Open
    • Pasadena Open

    1930

    • Central Florida Open
    • Savannah Open
    • Berkeley Open
    • Bay District Open

    1931

    • St. Paul Open

    1932

    • National Capital City Open

    1933

    • Miami International Four-Ball (team tournament, partnered Paul Runyan)

    1934

    • Masters Tournament
    • Grand Slam Open
    • California Open

    1935

    • Palm Springs Invitational
    • Miami Biltmore Open
    • Pasadena Open

    1936

    • Masters Tournament
    • Victoria Open

    1937

    • North and South Open
    • Inverness Invitational Four-Ball (team tournament, partnered Harry Cooper)
    • Oklahoma Four-Ball (team tournament, partnered Harry Cooper)

    1941

    • Florida West Coast Open
    • St. Paul Open