Leo Diegel Played 90 holes in Two days to Win the 1924 Shawnee Open!

“DID YOU KNOW”
Leo Diegel played 90 holes in two days to win the 1924 Shawnee Open!

Between 1912 and 1937 the Shawnee Open was played 20 times at the Shawnee Inn, Shawnee-on-Delaware, Pennsylvania. The tournament was won by the biggest names in golf like Walter Hagen, Johnny McDermott and Jim Barnes. The Shawnee Inn was owned by Charles C. Worthington, whose family had made its money in steam pumps. A few years after purchasing the inn in the Poconos, Worthington hired A.W. Tillinghast to layout a golf course for the facility. It was Tillinghast’s first course design. Many years the Shawnee Open offered the largest purse of any privately funded tournament east of the Mississippi River. 

The 1924 Shawnee Open was played in mid July, just three days after the Metropolitan Open ended in New York. Hagen, having won the British Open in late June, was still in Europe playing exhibitions, but another strong field on hand, with players like Gene Sarazen, Tommy Armour and Johnny Farrell. The tournament was scheduled for 72 holes in two days. Trick shot artist Joe Kirkwood led the first day at 143 with Leo Diegel at 144. Par was 74. The next day Diegel put together rounds of 72 and 71 for 287 that left him in a tie for the top prize with Willie Macfarland who was also in at 287 with the help of a third round 69. Kirkwood fell one stroke short at 288.

The tournament committee decreed an 18-hole playoff that same day was in order. In those days most important tournament ties were settled with 18-hole playoffs and on occasion they were 36 holes. The 1931 U.S. Open took two 36-hole playoffs to determine a winner. Nowadays anything more than 18 in one day is considered quite a challenge. The players caught a break as the high temperatures in the Poconos, for the two days, was in the low 70s.

Diegel, a superb ball striker who struggled with his putting, but when he was on form he was practicably unbeatable. Diegel known to be a great twilight golfer. With the sun just above the mountain tops, the two professionals set out for another 18. Form held as Diegel equaled the low round of the tournament with a 69 against a 75 for Macfarlane. First money was $500 from a prize pool of $1,300. Six professionals picked up checks. The prize money at the U.S. Open earlier that year had been $960.

A year later Macfarlane won the U.S. Open and Shawnee. Diegel went on to win the 1928 and 1929 PGA Championships. From 1934 to 1945 Diegel was the professional at the Philmont Country Club.   

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