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This article is about John McDermott, the golfer. For the English footballer, see John McDermott (English footballer).
John McDermott, Jr.
Personal information
Full name John J. McDermott, Jr.
Born August 8, 1891(1891-08-08)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died August 2, 1971 (aged 79)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Nationality  United States
Turned professional 1908
Retired 1914
Professional wins 7
Best results in Major Championships
(Wins: 2)
The Masters NYF
U.S. Open Won: 1911, 1912
Open Championship T5: 1913
PGA Championship NYF

John J. McDermott Jr. (August 8, 1891 – August 2, 1971) was the first U.S.-born golfer to win the U.S. Open, which he captured in 1911 and 1912, and he remains the youngest-ever champion of that event, at age 19. He was the first player to break par over 72 holes in a significant event, which he did at the 1912 U.S. Open. He was one of the world's top players between 1910 and 1914.


Early life

McDermott was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of a mailman. He was a good student at West Philadelphia High School, but dropped out before graduation to become a professional golfer.[1] He was an alumnus of the Philadelpia caddie sheds.

Turns professional

McDermott's first professional job was at the Merchantville Field Club (now the Merchantville Country Club) in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He moved to the Atlantic City Country Club, where his practice became legendary. He made his debut in the U.S. Open in 1909, scoring 322 for 49th place.[1]

Hits peak form

The first sixteen Opens had all been won by British golfers who had learned the game in England or Scotland, and visited the United States to play in tournaments, or in most cases, lived in the U.S. and worked as club professionals. By 1910 the U.S. was starting to produce its own professionals in quantity.

McDermott improved his game dramatically in one year, and lost out in an 18-hole playoff to Alex Smith in the 1910 U.S. Open, held at the Philadelphia Cricket Club (St. Martin's course); Macdonald Smith, the younger brother of Alex, was also in the playoff. The three players had tied at 298 over 72 holes. Early in 1911, McDermott challenged Philadelphia-area professionals to matches at $1,000 each, after he won three straight, the competition vanished.[1]

Defending champion McDermott with the U.S. Open trophy in 1913

The following year he won the U.S. Open by three shots at the Chicago Golf Club, following another three-way playoff, where he won over George Simpson and Mike Brady; the three players had tied at 307 for 72 holes. McDermott remains the youngest U.S. Open Champion of all time at 19 years, 10 months and 12 days, and he was the first American-born champion. In 1912 he retained his title at the Country Club of Buffalo in New York State. He shot 294 for four rounds on a par 74 course, a score of two under par, making him the first man to break par for 72 holes in a high-standard event. Following his second straight national championship, McDermott's finances blossomed, with golf clubs being marketed under his name, endorsements for golf balls, and demand for his high-standard golf with lucrative exhibition matches. McDermott made his first attempt at the British Open in 1912, but failed to qualify for the championship proper. But he returned to Britain the next year, and tied for fifth place in the Open at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club. This was the best finish by an American player to that stage.[1]

In 1913, McDermott won the Western Open, then the second most prestigious professional tournament in the United States. He also won the Philadelphia Open Championship three times: 1910, 1911, and 1913.

Also in 1913, McDermott won the Open tournament at Shawnee-on-Delaware, Pennsylvania, finishing ahead of top Englishmen Harry Vardon and Ted Ray.[2]

Serious setbacks

After the 1912 British Open, McDermott lost heavily on investments. Then, following his 1913 win at Shawnee over Vardon and Ray, he boasted excessively, was criticized by his fellow players and the crowd for this, and had to apologize; it seems there were no lasting hard feelings. As the defending champion, he finished four strokes behind the leaders at the 1913 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Boston, in a tie for 8th place.[3] He tied for 9th place in the 1914 U.S. Open, as Walter Hagen won over the Midlothian Club near Chicago.

In 1914, McDermott visited the United Kingdom again to compete in the British Open, but because of travel difficulties, he arrived too late to play. On his way home his ship, the Kaiser Wilhelm II, collided with another vessel, the grain carrier Incemore, in misty conditions in the English Channel. The Kaiser Wilhelm sank, McDermott was evacuated to a lifeboat, and then was picked up a few hours later and returned to England. This dangerous incident apparently had a serious effect upon him. Shortly afterwards, upon his return home, he blacked out when entering the clubhouse at the Atlantic City Country Club, where he was the club professional. He was only 23 years old. He spent the rest of his life in mental hospitals and rest homes, or living with his family in Philadelphia, suffering from mental illness. He never played golf again, retiring from competition in 1914, but he did occasionally spectate at important golf events near his home.[3]


Although McDermott was the first American U.S. Open champion, it is Francis Ouimet's 1913 U.S. Open victory which is most often cited as the key event which sparked widespread interest in golf in the United States. Ouimet won a three-man playoff against Vardon and Ray (widely regarded as the best golfers in the world at the time), and this led to a dramatic rise in Americans' interest in golf. McDermott, along with Ouimet and Walter Hagen, all three of whom were born between 1891 and 1893, represented the new wave of American-born golf talent. Those three showed they could compete on even terms with the best players in the world, and American dominance of golf would be established by the early 1920s, assisted by stars like Gene Sarazen and Bobby Jones.

Golf historian Robert Sommers wrote that, if not for his illness, McDermott could have been the greatest of them all.[4]

Tournament wins

Major championships


Wins (2)

Year Championship 54 Holes Winning Score Margin Runner(s)-up
1911 U.S. Open 3 shot deficit +3 (81-72-75-79=307) Playoff1 United States Mike Brady, George Simpson
1912 U.S. Open (2) 3 shot deficit -2 (74-75-74-71=294) 2 strokes United States Tom McNamara

1Defeated Mike Brady and George Simpson in a 18 hole playoff (McDermott 80, Brady 82 & Simpson 85).

Results timetable

McDermott played in only U.S. Open and the British Open.

Tournament 1909 1910 1911 1912 1913 1914
U.S. Open T49 2 1 1 8 T9

DNP = Did not play
"T" indicates a tie for a place
Green background for wins. Yellow background for top-10


  1. ^ a b c d Sommers, Robert (1996). The U.S. Open: Golf's Ultimate Challenge (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 27-28. ISBN 0195100492.  
  2. ^ Sommers, Robert (1996). The U.S. Open: Golf's Ultimate Challenge (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 31. ISBN 0195100492.  
  3. ^ a b Sommers, Robert (1996). The U.S. Open: Golf's Ultimate Challenge (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 31-32. ISBN 0195100492.  
  4. ^ Sommers, Robert (1996). The U.S. Open: Golf's Ultimate Challenge (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 32. ISBN 0195100492.  

External links


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