Height: 5 ft 6 in
Born: January 12, 1869
Died: May 5, 1942
Birthplace: West Kirby, England
Before America’s Bobby Jones, we had England’s Harold Horsfall Hilton. Like Jones, Hilton competed against and often beat the best professionals of the time. Hilton was born in West Kirby, England in 1869. He won both the U.S. Amateur (becoming the first foreign born player to do so) and the British Amateur titles in 1911, becoming only the second player to accomplish the feat. Hilton won three other British Amateur championships.
More impressively, Hilton won the professional British Open, “the Open Championship” twice. Hilton won in 1892 at Muirfield and again, five years later at Royal Liverpool.
Hilton’s passion for the game extended beyond playing. He helped design Ferndown Golf Club in Dorset, a course which hosted Open Championship qualifying over the years. He also wrote about the game and served as editor for both Golf Illustrated and Golf Monthly.
In 1978, the World Golf Hall of Fame inducted Hilton into their shrine – more than 35 years after his death.
In that 1911 U.S. Amateur win, Hilton hit a golf shot on the 37th hole (first play-off hole in a 36-hole match play) that was still talked about decades later. Hilton pushed a three-wood and the golf ball was headed into a waste area to the right of the green. The ball struck a rock and ricocheted onto the green. His stunned opponent, Fred Herreshoff, mishit his next shot and made bogey. The unlikely turn of events allowed Hilton to become the first foreign born player to win the U.S. Amateur. Legendary sports writer Herbert Warren Wind called it, “the most discussed single shot ever played in an American tournament.”