Golfing major winner Littler dies aged 88

Gene Littler has died at the age of 88

Gene Littler has died at the age of 88

Gene Littler, one of only 11 golfers to win both the US Amateur and US Open titles, has died at the age of 88. Littler ranks No. 19 all time in PGA Tour wins with 29, which included one major championship - the 1961 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills - and a successful battle with cancer in the 1970s.

The California native launched his golf career having initially joined the US Navy after graduating from university, and he soon earned a reputation for having one of the best swings in the game which earned him the nickname "Gene the Machine". He had a swing that Gene Sarazen once described as better than Sam Snead's and was a homebody who valued time with his family more than creation of a brand on the PGA Tour.

"Gene was the consummate gentleman but also a fierce competitor", PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

"I would stand close by and watch him", Littler told PGATour.com in 2012.

Gene Littler, the former United States Open champion, died on Friday night in San Diego.

Along with his military obligations, Littler was able to still play competitive golf and was a member of the winning 1953 U.S.

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His most productive year was in 1959 when Littler won five times, was runner-up three times and finished No. 2 on the PGA Tour money list behind Art Wall. His signature victory came in 1961, when he shot a final round 68 to win the U.S. Open at Oakland Hills in MI.

In 1972, he had surgery to remove a malignant tumor from the lymph glands under his left arm. His first win as a professional came in 1955, up the road at the Los Angeles Open, beating Ted Kroll by two shots at Inglewood Country Club, a course that saw him chip in for birdie three times during the 72 holes.

He maintained those steady results once eligible for the PGA Tour Champions and recorded eight senior victories from 1983-89. Gene Sarazen once said Littler had a ideal swing, like Sam Snead, "only better".

"I worked on tempo a lot, and I think my tempo was really pretty good", Littler once said.

That was his only professional major, though he almost won the 1977 PGA Championship at Pebble Beach until losing to Lanny Wadkins in the first sudden-death playoff in a major. "I don't know if mechanically it was that sound or not, but it must have been OK".

Littler made history in the latter, when he was part of the first sudden-death major championship playoff.

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