1961: Jerry Barber wins the PGA Championship over Don January at Olympia Fields

Jerry Barber

Jerry Barber wins Monday playoff over January

On this day, In 1961, 45 year-old Jerry Barber won his sole major championship at the PGA Championship held at Olympia Fields.  He bested Jerry Barber in the Monday playoff by a single stroke.  This was the third major held at Olympia Fields with the prior two both being held in the 1920’s.

Rain washed out the second round on Friday afternoon with only about one-third of the field completing their rounds. The scores were scrapped and the second round was replayed on Saturday, with 36 holes on Sunday. Barber led at the midway point with a 136 (−4), two shots ahead of January and Doug Sanders.  A top putter of the era, Barber sank 120 feet of putts on the last three holes of the final round to erase a four-stroke deficit to January and force a Monday playoff. At the 72nd hole, January had a two-stroke lead, but put his tee shot into the sand. With Barber on the green but an improbable 60 feet away, January played conservatively for the bogey. Barber drained his third lengthy putt in as many holes (eagle-par-birdie) to even it up at the end of regulation.

In the playoff, the two were tied at three-under after 16 holes, following January’s birdie. Both had pars at the 17th, which effectively turned the 18th hole into sudden-death. Both tee shots found fairway bunkers, and Barber hit a 3-iron onto the green, 18 ft from the cup. January found another bunker short of the green and could not save par from 15 ft.

At age 45, Barber became the oldest winner of the PGA Championship, whose previous champions were all under age 40, with several at age 39. At the time, the only older major winner was Old Tom Morris at age 46 in 1867. Barber was surpassed in 1968 by Julius Boros at age 48.

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