“Did You Know”
Lew Worsham won the 1947 US Open with two putters in his bag!
Lew Worsham won the 1947 US Open in an 18-hole playoff with Sam Snead. Worsham and Snead came to the par four 18th hole still even. Both were near the hole, putting for pars. Deciding to finish out, Snead addressed his putt, but Worsham said he thought he was farther away. A measurement determined that Snead was away. Snead putted and missed. Worsham then holed his putt to win the US Open, using one of the two putters he had in his golf bag, a Ted Smith hickory shaft mallet head. Usually someone playing with two putters had a putting problem, but not Worsham.
Who was Ted Smith?
Ted Smith was born in Philadelphia in 1906 to Hungarian immigrants who had Americanized their name to Smith. Later they moved to Chicago. At age 12 Smith asked for golf clubs for Christmas because he had seen a picture of John D. Rockefeller playing golf. Smith began playing golf, caddying and working for the golf professionals at a public golf course. He asked so many questions of the golf professionals, they called him “Questionnaire”.
At age 18 he went to work at Seaview Golf Club near Atlantic City, NJ as an apprentice club maker. After stints as a club maker in California and Illinois he became a salesman for the MacGregor Golf Company out of Dayton, Ohio. Smith covered the states east of the Mississippi and Toney Penna covered everything west of the Mississippi.
Smith and Penna told the MacGregor Company management that they could make better clubs than they were being given to sell. With that Smith began designing the irons and Penna designed the wood clubs. MacGregor became the most successful golf club company in the US. Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and Tommy Armour, represented MacGregor playing the clubs on tour.
When World War II broke out the MacGregor factory was taken over by the US government for the defense of the country. Smith made dummies used in testing experimental ejection seats for fighter planes. The government became aware of Smith’s talents and sent him to Camden, NJ to work on the Navy supply ships. Smith helped create a new type of propeller for the ships that made them more efficient, thus transporting the supplies to Europe more quickly.
After the war Smith decided to stay in the Philadelphia area and opened the Ted Smith Putter Company in Upper Darby, PA. He worked out of the basement of his home making the putters.
When Smith opened his business in 1946 there was a pent-up demand for domestic goods like automobiles, which used steel. The big golf companies were buying all of the steel shaves that were available so Smith put hickory shaves in his putters. As it turned out the hickory shafted putters were very popular, though more expensive due to the time needed to make them. He turned out about 2,000 putters a year. Eventually he had 30 different models for sale, which he designed himself.
In one of those ironies of life, the Japanese, who Ted had helped defeat in World War II, became his biggest and best customers. With the World Amateur Team Championship being played at Merion Golf Club in 1960, Smith put 50 of his hickory-shafted putters in Merion professional Fred Austin’s golf shop on consignment. Each member of the Japanese team bought one of his putters. One member of the Japanese team was affiliated with an import/export firm in Japan. He began importing Smith’s putters. By 1971 sixty percent of Smith’s putter sales were in Japan, and he could have sold his total output there. With each order came a letter of credit and three days after the putters were shipped, Smith was paid by a local bank.
Due to his success in Japan Smith only sold putters in the US to keep the Ted Smith Putter name alive, and as a precaution in case the market in Japan ever dried up.