“DID YOU KNOW’
Johnny McDermott won two straight US Opens and is not in the World Golf Hall of Fame!
Johnny McDermott was the first American born golfer to win the United States Open. Born in west Philadelphia on August 11, 1891, he learned golf as a caddy at the Aronimink Golf Club, which was in west Philadelphia at that time. McDermott tied for first in the 1910 US Open at the Philadelphia Cricket Club with Alex Smith and his brother Macdonald Smith, only to lose an 18-hole playoff the next day to Alex.
One year later in 1911, McDermott again ended up in a three-way tie for first in the US Open at the Chicago Golf Club. This time he prevailed, becoming the first American born to win his country’s open championship. The first 16 US Opens had all been won by golf professionals born in Great Britain. He was the youngest winner, and in the year 2021 he still is. Only Young Tom Morris won a major golf tournament, the British Open, at a younger age.
At the 1912 US Open hosted by the Country Club of Buffalo, McDermott won again. He also finished the tournament under par, making him the first to accomplish that in any major golf tournament. Now he had come within one stroke of winning three straight US Opens. In the 121 years that the tournament has been played, McDermott is only one of seven who won the tournament in back to back years.
Along with his success in the US Open he won other important tournaments, like the 1914 Western Open, which he won by seven strokes. At that time the Western was the second most prestigious tournament in the United States. When it came to golf tournaments the description of “major” was not yet in use, but the Western was a major golf tournament until the late 1930s.
With many of the world’s greatest players in the field, McDermott won the 1913 Shawnee Open. After trailing by five strokes at the end of 36 holes he won by eight. Most of the golfers there were entered in the US Open a month later. Two-time US Open champion Alex Smith finished second and Vardon ended up fifth.
McDermott won the Philadelphia Open three times, 1910, 1911 and 1913. On last hole of the 1912 Philadelphia Open McDermott holed out a pitch shot for a birdie on the last hole to tie, only to later lose an 18-hole playoff to Wilmington CC professional Gil Nicholls, twice a runner-up in the US Open. There were great players in those tournaments. In 1910 McDermott edged out Philadelphia Cricket Club’s professional Willie Anderson, who had won the US Open four times, by one stroke.
For a period of five years (1910 to 1914) McDermott and Harry Vardon were probably the two best golfers in the world. His golf career was short but brilliant. In late 1914 mental problems brought it to an end.
Even with all those successes McDermott is not in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Hollywood celebrities are in that hall of fame but not John J. “Johnny” McDermott.
Bill Orr and his company Telra created a video on the career of Johnny McDermott using information from Trenham Golf History. As a favor to Bill Orr, Jack Whitaker supplied the voiceover of the narrative. The video is on our website—trenhamgolfhistory.org
Below is a link to the McDermott video.