Golf

U.S. Open countdown: First post-Jones tournament in 1931 long in duration, little in tension-filled drama

35th U.S. Open | July 2-6, 1931

Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio

Leaderboard

x-Billy Burke, United States73-72-74-73292
George Von Elm, United States75-69-73-75292
Leo Diegel, United States75-73-74-72294
Wiffy Cox, United States75-74-74-72295
Bill Mehlhorn, United States77-73-75-71296
Gene Sarazen, United States74-78-74-70296
x — won playoff         

The five-day marathon ended on the 18th green – or 144th hole – where Von Elm missed a long birdie putt (on a hole he had birdied four previous times) to tie. Burke converted a 4-foot putt for par to clinch his lone major title.

For the first 36 playoff holes, the two golfers tied at 149 (Burke at 73-76; Von Elm at 75-74). For the final 36, Burke edged Von Elm, 148-149 (Burke at 77-71; Von Elm at 76-73).

Yet, galleries were substantially smaller than they had been in previous years. The obvious reason was because Jones had retired, and came to Inverness as a spectator, not a golfer.

Others blamed the scorching temperatures, with stayed near 90 degrees all week. And the USGA increased daily admission tickets to $3, which gallery members did not take kindly to. For the first playoff, gallery passes were reduced to $2 – then to $1 for the final 18 holes, which turned out to be well-attended.

Starting in 1932, the USGA reduced all playoffs to 18 holes.

As for Burke, a Connecticut native, the 1931 season was easily his finest. He won four tournaments, went undefeated in two Ryder Cup matches and reached the semifinals of the PGA Championship after capturing the U.S. Open title.

Von Elm, a Utah product who won the 1921 Pacific Northwest Amateur title, had his amateur status suspended by the USGA for one season for accepting travel expenses. He went on to defeat Jones in the 1926 U.S. Amateur.

Von Elm also lost the longest playoff in U.S. Amateur history four years later when he went 10 extra holes against Maurice McCarthy Jr. Later that year, he turned professional.

todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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