Quiet Willie Wins Three Opens in a Row


Not much is known about Willie Anderson except that he is the only golfer to have won three U.S. Opens in succession, from 1903 to 1905, and that he was an extremely quiet fellow.
He was born in North Berwick, Scotland, a Scot as so many of the pros were around the turn of the 20th century. He was the son of a greenskeeper, emigrating to the U.S. in the mid-1890s at the tender age of 14. He then went on to hold 10 club pro jobs until his death at the age of 29.
Of course, it wasnt as a club pro that Anderson was to leave his imprint upon the game. It was as a player who won the U.S. Open four out of five years, beginning in 1901. Anderson very nearly won the Open in 1897 while still a 17-year-old, finishing second to Joe Lloyd. In 1901, however, he finally broke through, winning in a playoff over Alex Smith.
In 1903, he set a record by shooting a 73 in the first round. Anderson owned a six-shot lead but faded in the final round, allowing David Brown with 76 to catch him. Anderson, however, prevailed in the playoff when Brown shot an 84 and Anderson an 82.
That was at Baltusrol, and the next year as defending champion at Glen View Club in Illinois, he repeated his championship, winning over Gil Nichols, 303-308. And in 1905, at the Myopia Hunt Club in Hamilton, Mass., he did the highly improbable, winning for the third time in a row in a tight match against Alex Smith, 314-316.
Starting in 1897, Anderson played in 14 consecutive Opens, winning four, finishing second once, third once, fourth twice and fifth twice. He was also the only player to win the U.S. Open with both a gutta percha and a rubber-cored ball.
By 1910, one of the brightest young players in American history was dead, complications of alcoholism costing him his life.
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