Gene Littler, Golfer With a Gorgeous Swing, Dies on 88

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Gene Alec Littler was born on July 21, 1930 in San Diego and grew up to love golf while playing at field courses. He graduated from San Diego State University and then went into the Navy. He won the American Amateur and played in the Walker Cup amateur competition between the United States and a British-Irish team in 1953.

The prominent golf writer Herbert Warren Wind was impressed by the fluidity of the young player of so & # 39; n young player swing

"Gene took the club back with a very, very slow, easy, relaxed rhythm, then paused a lazy second at the top before he slowly pushed the ball, making his accelerated strike action postponed to exactly the same time last minute when the head of the club was just two feet away from the ball, "wrote Wind in 1955 in Sports Illustrated.

Although he is still an amateur, Littler won the San Diego Open in January 1954 and he became pro soon after. He almost won the United States Open in June 1954, lost to Ed Furgol with one strike and then won four tournaments in 1955. He captured the Champions in Las Vegas three consecutive times, from 1955 to 1957. Littler lost to Billy Casper , a friend since their childhood in San Diego, in an 18-hole playoff at the 1970 Masters.

Two years later, Littler was found to have lymphoma, which requires surgery. A large part of the muscle structure on his left side was removed. But due to heavy rehabilitation he could regain the use of his left arm and participate again in the tour. He won the St. Louis Children's Hospital Classic in July 1973 and received the Ben Hogan Award as a comeback player of the year and the Bob Jones Award for distinctive sportsmanship in golf.

Littler went to a play-off at the P.G.A. Championship on Pebble Beach, losing to Lanny Wadkins on the third hole of the sudden death after leading by five punches with nine holes to play.

He withdrew from the PGA Tour after that season and joined the young Senior PGA Tour in 1981. Three years later he fell off a ladder while he was on one of his antique cars & # 39; s worked and broke his left arm, which had already been weakened by cancer surgery. But he then won six times on the Senior Tour.

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