Golf

US Open countdown: Stomach problem no problem for winner Olin Dutra

38th U.S. Open | June 7-9, 1934

Merion Golf Club East Course, Ardmore, Pa.

Leaderboard

Olin Dutra, United States 76 - 74 - 71 - 72 293
Gene Sarazen, United States 73 - 72 - 73 - 76 294
Harry Cooper, England 76 - 74 - 74 - 71 295
Wiffy Cox, United States 71 - 75 - 74 - 75 295
Bobby Cruickshank, Scotland 71 - 71 - 77 - 76 295

For much of the spring, Olin Dutra was leaning toward not playing in the national open because of a nagging stomach ailment.

Good thing for him his fellow PGA Tour-playing brother, Mortimer, did not take “no” for an answer.

Fighting an infection that laid him up in the hotel for practice rounds, and required constant medication during tournament play, Dutra emerged from a dramatic five-way championship chase with a marvelous back nine to win his first U.S. Open by one stroke.

As Gene Sarazen, Wiffy Cox and Bobby Cruickshank melted down during key stretches of the final round, Dutra — the 1932 PGA Championship winner — went 2-under in the first six holes of the back nine to pass them all.

All Dutra needed were a pair of three-putt bogeys on the 17th and 18th holes to finish off the comeback.

Dutra, whose parents are Spanish, grew up on the Monterey Peninsula in California. His introduction to golf came in 1910, when he and his brother were invited to caddie at Del Monte Country Club by longtime Scottish professional MacDonald Smith.

In his early 20s, Dutra told his father he was leaving the family business at the hardware store to pursue professional golf. He joined the PGA Tour in 1924, and won 10 tournaments during his career.

But that spring of 1934, Dutra had been suffering from amoebic dysentery for weeks. He had lost considerable weight and considered taking off an extended period from golf.

Mortimer persuaded Dutra to drive across the country and pick him up in Detroit. The two drove the rest of the way to Philadelphia.

During much of the three days of golf, Dutra could be seen every hour taking white pills out of his pocket and washing them down with a swig of liquid medicine to fight the illness. After the tournament, he admitted he lost another 15 pounds during the week.

He trailed Cruickshank by eight shots after 36 holes before making his move to become the first U.S. Open winner born on the West Coast.

Tom Creavy shot a final-round 66 to set the course record at Merion East — the first time during a U.S. Open at this site that somebody broke 70.

This was also a significant tournament for another reason: A pair of high-profile Texans, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson, made their U.S. Open debuts at Merion East. Both missed the cut.

todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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