Golf

US Open countdown: 30-1 long shot Tony Manero pulls off major upset at 1936 Open

40th U.S. Open | June 4-6, 1936

Baltusrol Golf Club Upper Course, Springfield, New Jersey

Leaderboard

Tony Manero, United States 73 - 69 - 73 - 67 282
Harry Cooper, England 71 - 70 - 70 - 73 284
Clarence Clark, United States 69 - 75 - 71 - 72 287
Macdonald Smith, Scotland 73 - 73 - 72 - 70 288
Wiffy Cox, United States 74 - 74 - 69 - 72 289
Ky Laffoon, United States 71 - 74 - 70 - 74 289
Henry Picard, United States 70 - 71 - 74 - 74 289

Tony Manero was down on good fortune.

The ultra-shy Italian-American was winning small tournaments, but he wasn’t creating a big name for himself. In fact, a few days before the start of this U.S. Open, the North Carolina club professional had been dropped from the payroll of a major sporting goods company because its president felt Manero was not a profitable enough celebrity.

So heading into tournament week, Manero saw a Broadway commissioner who was taking U.S. Open winner bets. He bet $10 on himself at 30-1 odds.

Not only did he pull off one of the stunning final-round performance in tournament history, but he also did it in record-breaking fashion.

Grouped with good friend Gene Sarazen, with whom he grew up as a caddie at a course in Elmsford, New York, Manero set the course record with a final-round 67, overtaking Harry Cooper, who held a four-stroke lead.

Manero tied Cooper with a par at the 14th hole, then took the lead for good with a birdie at No. 16. He finished with two pars to earn a two-shot victory.

Manero’s 6-under 282 total shattered the previous tournament scoring mark of 2-under 286, set by Chick Evans in 1916. That record lasted one year — Ralph Guldahl won the national open in 1937 at Oakland Hills at 7-under 281.

Manero’s victory did not come without controversy. After the tournament ended, an unnamed professional filed a protest with the USGA, alleging that Sarazen was giving his playing partner advice throughout the final round, which violated the rules.

The USGA investigated, holding an hour-long meeting with both golfers. With no overriding evidence, Manero was still declared the champion.

A few years later, Manero stopped playing full time. He opened a family-owned steakhouse in Greenwich, Connecticut, that became a popular hangout for professionals over the years. He died in 1989 because of heart failure.

As far as U.S. Open swan songs, this was the final time Walter Hagen played all four rounds in the national open. He tied for 33rd.

A record field of 1,278 golfers entered the qualifying for the ’36U.S. Open — including Manero, who only got into the field after making a chip-in on the final hole of qualifying.

todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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