Happy Birthday Jimmy Demaret
By: Claudia Mazzucco – On this day, May 24, 1910, Jimmy Newton Demaret was born in Houston, Texas, the fifth of nine children born to a house painter-carpenter. He started caddying in 1920 (at age ten), and won his first competitive tournament in 1923. He played barefoot until he was 15.
He was the first man to won The Masters tournament three times (1940, 1947 & 1950). It was asserted that he was the reason Bing Crosby invented the pro-am. A member of the Professional Golfers Association and World Golf Halls of Fame, Demaret got his first job as a club pro in 1932 in Galveston, Texas. He earned $25 in his first tournament victory at the Texan PGA Championship in Dallas.
He spent the rest of the Great Depression touring in minor tournaments in Texas and California, before joining the regular tour in 1938. His first major win on the Tour came that year, when he beat Sam Snead for the National match-play title in San Francisco. Two years later, he won nine tournaments on tour, including the Masters. He won six more and the Masters again in 1947, his best year, when he won the Vardon Trophy and was the leading money winner on the PGA Tour with $27,936.
The next year, he broke the U.S. Open scoring record with a 278 at the Riviera Country Club, but was defeated by two strokes by Ben Hogan. He never won the U.S. Open. He played on three Ryder Cup teams (1947, 1949 &1951). His record was a perfect six wins and no losses. When he won his third Masters Tournament in 1950, he grabbed the microphone at the presentation and began singing, “Do You Know How Lucky You Are.”
He was one of Hogan’s best and closest friends and, in 1954, he published My Partner, Ben Hogan, a book that chronicled the life and career of Hogan in the aftermath of his life-threatening car accident. Ben said that Demaret was the best player he had ever seen in windy conditions.
Demaret founded Houston’s Champions Club with fellow Hall of Fame member Jack Burke, Jr. in 1957. He was also an “actor,” known for Golfing with Demaret (1954), All American Swing Stars (1948) and Kings of the Fairway (1945).
Between 1938 and 1957, Demaret won 31 events in the PGA Tour. After his retirement as an active player, in 1963, he worked as a television commentator – along with Gene Sarazen, was the host of the Wonderful World of Golf television series during the 1960’s – and as a consultant to a golf club manufacturer. When he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, in 1983, he wore a bright apricot sweater with white knickers, argyle socks and orange and black golf shoes.
Ranked by Golf Digest as the 20th greatest golfer of all time (2000), Jimmy was never afraid to show off his amazing talents as a golfer, especially to the members of Champions who enjoyed watching him after his Tour days had all but ended. He was a very strong man with huge hands and robust forearms: a hands and feel player. Grantland Rice called him the “singing Texan.” He could sing and tell jokes but he could outplay just about everybody in an era that included the American Triumvirate of Hogan, Snead and Nelson. Jackie Burke Jr. once said that Demaret “was a jet-setter before there were jets.”
He often chose bright clothes during a period when everyone wore whites. His clothes were made to order. He wore electric blue, bottle green, canary yellow, orange, red and aqua slacks, emerald, maroon, plaid, checked, striped and polka-dot sport coats. His hats were considered outlandish. Herbert Warren Wind referred to him as “The Wardrobe.” He gave shoe factories a swatch from his pants and had matching saddle oxfords made. As Demaret said, “If you’re going to be in the limelight, you might as well dress like it.”
He fathered a daughter, Peggy, with his wife, Idella.
Jimmy Demaret died of a heart attack on December 28, 1983, in Houston. He was 73 years old.
Claudia M. Mazzucco is a researcher at Golf Channel and teacher of History of Golf at the PGA of Argentina, in Buenos Aires. She is the author of Legendary Lessons (2016), El Golf de los Tiempos, A Novel (2002) and The Guide of Golf Courses in Argentina (2003). She received the PGA Award from the PGA of Argentina in 2005