Monday, November 17, 2014

John McDermott Finally Gets His Due

John McDermott Gets His Due, finally – Bill Kelly

John McDermott is finally getting his due over a hundred years after he became the first American and at 19 he remains the youngest to win the U.S. Open national golf championship.

After winning the 1910 Philadelphia Open, the 1911 U.S. Open, the 1911 Philadelphia Open, the 1912 U.S. Open, 1913 Philadelphia Open, the 1913 Western Open, the 1913 Shawnee invitational, and being the first American to place among the leaders of the British Open, McDermott was the best American golfer and said to be on his way to being the best ever.

Then McDermott fell ill with an undiagnosed nervous breakdown and didn’t play in a tournament after 1914, but he continued to play quietly until his clubs were stolen. In and out of asylums for the rest of his life, McDermott attended the 1971 Open at Merion a few weeks before he died at his sister’s house.

After losing his health and his clubs, McDermott appeared to have lost his legacy as well as he was much maligned by Hollywood and in a carelessly written profile in Golf Magazine that said McDermott was a “famously rude, combative, abrasive, embarrassing, insane bigot, best left forgotten.”

[Golf Mag."The Curious Case of John McDermott" by John Garrity  John McDermott won U.S. Open twice then checked into psychiatric ward -]

When Hollywood put “The Greatest Game” to the screen McDermott is wrongfully, unfairly and rudely portrayed as a typical Mick – a tall gangly red haired buffoon with a mustache.

And that’s how it seemed Johnny McDermott would be remembered, but then Pete Trenham, John Burnes and Jeff Gold stepped up to the tee and took some swings for him.

On the 100th anniversary of his tremendous feats McDermott was belatedly and posthumously inducted into the prestigious Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, an honor that was accepted by Jim Faser, whose family owned the Atlantic City Country Club where McDermott was the pro.[Pete Trenham & The History of the PGA Philadelphia / Trenham Golf History Johnny McDermott - YouTube]

McDermott was also more accurately portrayed in a short film by Pete Trenham [Pete Trenham & The History of the PGA Philadelphia] – whose golf history web site [Pete Trenham & The History of the PGA Philadelphia] is a treasure trove of Philadelphia area golf lore, including my own book "Birth of a Birdie" [].

Then, through the efforts of John Burnes, the state of Pennsylvania erected a permanent historic plaque in front of the Kingsessing Library at 1201 South 51st Street in McDermott’s old West Philadelphia neighborhood – “JOHN J. McDERMOTT (1891-1917) In 1911 at the Chicago Golf Club, 19-year old John McDermott became the first American to win the U.S. Open. He successfully defended his title the following year. One of the world’s top golfers between 1910 and 1914, he helped to popularize the game in this country. His career was cut short due to illness and he retired in 1914. This was his childhood neighborhood, where he caddied and learned to play at Aronimink Golf Club, once located here.”

Pete Trenham helped dedicate the plaque on Thursday, October 9, 2014 [Pete Trenham & The History of the PGA Philadelphia]

And now McDermott is prominently featured in a new book – Jeff Gold’s “Golf’s Forgotten Legends and Unforgettable Controversies,” (Morgan James, N.Y. 2014)  [ / Jeff Gold Golf, Golf Book Phoenix AZ, Golf Books for Sale Phoenix AZ - Golf's Forgotten Legends: & Unforgettable Controversies: Jeff Gold: 9781630473013: Books]

This excellent book can be purchased at Jeff Gold Golf, Golf Book Phoenix AZ, Golf Books for Sale Phoenix AZ

And incldues a chapter on the greatest golfer of all time - not who you think. .
Gold details the numerous historical and factual errors in “The Greatest Game,” and takes special issue with John Garitty’s portrait of McDermott in Golf Magazine (May 2, 2012), going so far as to cancel his subscription, calling for a boycott and demanding a retraction, correction and public apology.

“In my eye,” writes Gold, “Johnny McDermott holds the title of Greatest Teenage Golfer in American History. I can’t envision another American teenager coming within miles of challenging Johnny’s U.S. Open record, a tie for second and a win, not to mention his two teenage wins in the Philadelphia Open against a field of top professionals. Even Tiger Woods as a teenager never challenged McDermott’s accomplishments.”

Rather than a boring lout, Gold says that McDermott should be honestly remembered for inspiring the now intense international Walker and Ryder Cup matches and should be an inspiration to all young, teenage golfers. 

                                                   John McDermott with U.S. Open Trophy 

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