A man who would win 3 major golf titles was a patient at Valley Forge General Hospital!

A man who would win 3 major golf titles was a patient at Valley Forge General Hospital!

Dr. Emmet Cary Middlecoff was born in Halls, Tennessee in 1921 and was raised in Memphis. His father, a dentist and club champion, introduced Cary to golf at age 7.  At 17 he won the Memphis city championship. He then proceeded to win the Tennessee state amateur championship four straight years. Middlecoff played on the golf team at the University of Mississippi and then earned a degree in dentistry from the University of Tennessee. He was soon commissioned into the United States Army as a dentist where he filled 12,093 teeth. While filling a tooth in 1945 a fragment brook off and flew into his eye. Middlecoff was sent to Valley Forge Military Hospital near Phoenixville, which specialized in eye injuries.

Once he began to recover from his eye injury he started playing golf again at the public Meadowbrook Golf Club, which was not far from the hospital. The nine-hole golf course that had been built at the hospital for wounded veterans returning from World War II lacked the distance and challenge for someone of Middlecoff’s ability. It was feared that Middlecoff’s career as an elite golfer might to be over but in October 1945, while still a patient at VFMH, he decided to enter the James “Sonny” Fraser Invitational golf tournament at the Atlantic City Country Club. At that time Sonny Fraser, who was a brother of future PGA president Leo Fraser, was the owner of Atlantic City CC. Playing his first competitive golf in three years, Middlecoff won the tournament.

One month later in November Middlecoff won the North and South Open in Pinehurst, North Carolina by five strokes, becoming the one of the few amateurs to win a PGA Tour tournament. He was discharged from the Army in 1946. His father hung a dentist’s shingle for his son next to his at his office, but Cary had seen enough bad teeth. He began playing golf every day and turned pro in 1947.

He went on to win 40 times on the PGA Tour, which included two victories in the U.S. Open (1949, 1956), the 1955 Masters Tournament and the 1949 Reading Open. He was a member of three Ryder Cup Teams, all victorious. Middlecoff’s father kept his son’s shingle next to his for ten years but Cary never filled another tooth. His father tried to get Bobby Jones to talk Cary into returning to the practicing dentistry, but when he won the 1955 Masters Tournament, Jones told the father “I think your son did a very nice job of filling 72 cavities this week”. In 1986 Cary Middlecoff was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

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