In 1934, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month became the first winner of what is now considered among the most prestigious of all golf tournament championships.
Horton Smith made his professional golf debut in 1926, in 1929 he won eight tournaments and in 1930 finished third in the U.S. Open and tied for fourth at the British Open. However, he entered the first-ever Masters (then known as the Augusta National Invitational) in 1934 without having previously won any of the tournaments that would eventually be considered the “majors”.
Playing on the new golf course created in Augusta, Georgia by Bobby Jones, Smith was immediately comfortable and finished the tournament four strokes under par to defeat Craig Wood by a single stroke.
During the first Masters, the course layout was different with what in 1935 (and still today) became holes 10 to 18 serving as the first nine and the present day first nine holes serving as the second nine.
When Smith won his second Masters title in 1936, he played the course in the configuration that is still used today. During that tournament, Smith trailed by three strokes entering the final round, but recovered to defeat Harry Cooper by a single stroke.
The PGA (Professional Golf Association) was formed in 1934 and in 1936 Smith used his Masters victory as the catalyst to winning the money title.
During his career, Smith won 32 PGA Tour events and 36 overall tournaments. He was a member of five Ryder Cup teams and had a 3-0-1 record in Ryder Cup matches.
Like many others, Smith served in the military during World War II and obtained the rank of Captain.
Perhaps the greatest blemish on Smith’s record occurred during his reign as president of the PGA of America from 1952-1954 when he was among the leaders who prevented African Americans from entering professional golf.
He died in 1963 of Hodgkin’s Disease. He was inducted in to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1990.