Struck by lightning at the Philadelphia Open, Ed Dudley should have been the winner!

Struck by lightning at the Philadelphia Open, Ed Dudley should have been the winner!

The 1931 Philadelphia Open, sponsored by the Golf Association of Philadelphia, was hosted by the Manufacturers Golf & Country Club in the second week of August. The tournament was scheduled for 72 holes over two days and attracted professionals from New York and the Middle Atlantic states.

On Monday morning more than 100 plus professionals and amateurs teed off in the first round and played in perfect sunny weather, but no one was able to even equal the par of 71. Concord Country Club professional Ed Dudley posted a 72 to lead the field by one stroke.

During the second round of the tournament that afternoon, severe storms swept across the course. Those players with decent scores from the morning round continued on, while many headed for the clubhouse. Some of the greens were so flooded the golfers had to use lofted irons to hole out. No one from the tournament’s committee appeared on the course to stop play.

At about 6:30 p.m. Dudley, paired with Clarence Hackney and Felix Serafin, was approaching the 18th green, which was near the clubhouse high above most of the course. With his umbrella over his head and putter under his arm, lighting struck nearby. Electricity reflected off Dudley’s steel shafted umbrella and putter temporarily paralyzing his right arm and leg. After a few minutes rest he putted out, finishing with an 81. Just after he putted out another bolt of lightning struck nearby. Dudley threw his putter into some bushes. 43 players turned in a score for the second round.

Dudley, Ed TTT

Dudley was examined at a hospital where he was found to have some red marks on his leg and his right arm and leg were stiff. He seemed to be alright other than that and was sent home. Due to Dudley being a member of the 1929 Ryder Cup team and having won the Western Open only a few weeks earlier, the incident made newspapers all over the country. Most of the articles mentioned that he would not be able to finish the tournament.  

The competitors assumed that the first round would count and the second round would be wiped out due to the course conditions, but the tournament committee canceled out both rounds and made it a 36-hole tournament. The committee sited a USGA rule.

Rule No.2 section 2 “If the committee considers that the course is not in playable condition or that insufficient light makes the proper playing of the game impossible, it shall at any time have the power to declare the days’s play null and void.

On Tuesday Dudley was back for his assigned time and played all 36 holes. Playing in what the newspapers described “an all day downpour” he posted a pair of 75s but it only earned him a four-way tie for second. Hackney, who benefited from the Monday cancellation after a first round 80, won with a (72-75) 147 total and picked up a check for $350.

If only Monday’s second round, when the golf course was unplayable for most of the time, had been washed out, Dudley would have won with ease.

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