Today in 1934 that the prestigious U.S. Open golf tournament began – only it’s remembered today not for the prestige but for some very strange things that happened in the tournament.

One of which was, that the guy who beat out the very best golfers of the era was sick as a dog the whole time.

Olin Dutra was a California native who had won a number of tournaments in his career but had never become as well known as players like Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen or Walter Hagen.

The line on Dutra was that he could make great shots but needed more mental toughness to take his game to the next level.

Going into the tournament he worked on his self-confidence, but then he had a different problem: he got a case of food poisoning that turned out to be amoebic dysentery.

He spent some time in the hospital and lost at least 15 pounds thanks to the illness.

At one point he thought about withdrawing from the tournament to recover.

But in the end Dutra decided to play anyway; doctors had him eat sugar cubes and drink lots of water to keep his energy and hydration up.

His first few rounds went ok, though he trailed the leaders.

In the third round, the wind picked up and that threw some of the leaders off their games.

Dutra, who played well in high wind, began making shot after shot.

Eventually it was down to Dutra and Gene Sarazen, who faltered on several key holes in the final round, ending up with a tournament score of 294.

Dutra hit a long drive to the end of the green on his final hole, brought the ball to four feet of the hole with his putter and then tapped it in on the next stroke for a final score of 293.

He’d nearly missed the tournament due to illness, and ended up winning it by a single stroke.

Dutra told the crowd that after overcoming physical AND mental obstacles, winning the US Open made him feel like the “luckiest boy in all the field.”


Olin Dutra wasn’t the only golfer who had an odd time at the 1934 US Open.

The great Scottish player Bobby Cruickshank, who had come within a single shot of winning the tournament two years before, was one of the leaders early on.

According to The Scotsman newspaper, Cruickshank was on the 11th hole when he hit a ball that looked like it was headed for the water but ended up on the green instead.

He reportedly threw his club into the air, shouting, “Thank you Lord!”

At which point the club landed on his head.

What goes up must come down.

Bobby Cruickshank – the war hero who became one of Scottish golf’s nearly men in United States (The Scotsman)

Olin Dutra overcomes bout of food poisoning to win by one stroke over Sarazen at Merion (U.S. Golf Association)

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Photo by Catalin Munteanu via Flickr/Creative Commons