By Tim Geary
The first time I ever saw Brad Faxon he was vaulting over a hedge after defeating an opponent in the quarterfinals of the 1977 Rhode Island junior state amateur tournament.
Faxon was on his way to the second of three straight junior titles. He would also later win back-to-back state (1981 – ’82) and New England (’82-’83) amateur crowns before he began playing for bucks.
A lot of water has gone under the bridge since Faxon’s amateur career (which included two first team All American awards while at Furman University) ended.
I would submit that what he did in those early years is by itself enough to project Fax into this conversation.
So just who is the greatest golfer to ever come out of New England?
Tough question? Sure is.
Some would argue Francis Ouimet, based solely on his staggering upset victory over Harry Vardon and Ted Ray at The Country Club back in 1913.
Some might point toward Bob Toski, others to Dana Quigley and my worthy colleague is claiming that it’s Julius Boros.
I have to admit, that Mr. Gorman may have the edge in this argument. When we agreed to debate this issue he had selected Paul Harney. At the time neither of us realized that Boros was originally a New Englander.
So I will concede, but since this is a debate I will argue the merits of Brad Faxon, who remains my personal favorite.
Another who would challenge Faxon for this title is LPGA Hall of Famer Pat Bradley.
Ouimet might be ‘America’s Greatest Golf Hero’ but he certainly isn’t the greatest golfer that New England ever produced. It takes more than one great week to have that crown lowered on your noggin.
Faxon has proven it over a span of three plus decades.
He followed up his short, but highly decorated amateur career with a very impressive professional one.
It includes eight ‘sanctioned’ victories on the PGA Tour, participation on two Ryder Cup teams, one international victory (the 1993 Australian Open), the 1986 Provident Classic (which later became a recognized PGA Tour stop) and a bunch of wins in those “silly season” events where pros are teamed together.
No other New Englander, can come close to this resume, with the possible exceptions of Boros, Bradley, who won 31 LPGA events, including six majors and Quigley, who won 11 times on the Senior Tour but would be the first to tell you that his accomplishments pale in comparison with Faxon’s.
I am very impressed with Bradley and without a doubt Pat is the greatest female golfer in New England history, but at the risk of being labeled a male chauvinist pig, I would submit that the PGA Tour is the highest playing field there is in golf.
Fax was long considered the best pure putter in golf and his short game is legendary, but he has been much more than just a great player.
Faxon, along with fellow Rhode Islander Billy Andrade, has given back like few others. Their charitable foundation has raised millions for underprivileged children and together with CVS Pharmacy they have helped to raise over $12 million for many other charities in southern New England through the 11 year old CVS/Caremark Charity Classic.
Faxon also can often be found at Buttonhole, the short course and learning center in Providence which introduces children of all backgrounds to the game and the valuable life lessons that it teaches.
Injuries, specifically to his knees, have hampered Faxon since his last victory in 2005, but he has remained heavily involved in golf at all levels.
A past member of the PGA Tour policy, Fax is also a golf course architect (working closely with Maine’s Brad Booth) and somebody who has always been accessible, be it to the media or for a wide variety of worthwhile causes.
New England has produced many outstanding players over the years, remarkable when one considers the short season, but nobody else measures up to Brad Faxon.
Boros has the major championship and more titles, but Fax has made a bigger impact overall.
Julius Boros is top New England-native Pro
18 career wins includes two majors
by Tom Gorman
Compiling a list of native New Englanders who have risen to national prominence as a professional golfer is an easy assignment. In fact, since the game took roots here in the United States in 1885 at Franklin Park in Boston, the list is so embarrassingly short, that it only includes two foursomes.
That’s right, only two scorecards needed. Eight players rise to the cream of the crop as far as being homebred-New Englanders who have carved out impressive careers in the sport of professional golf. Quite a weak, checkered history, indeed!
Let’s start with the honorable mentions, some of whom are still employed on the PGA Tour, Champions Tour or Nationwide Tour. The list of nominees include: Kevin Johnson, Peter Teravainen, Jim Hallet, Fran Quinn, Andy Morse, Bruce Douglas, Dr. Bill Mallon, Tim Petrovic, J.J. Henry, Patrick Sheehan, Jay Williamson, Dana Quigley, Allen Doyle, Henry Picard, Billy Burke, Brett Quigley, Brad Adamonis and James Driscoll.
All 18 players have achieved levels of distinguished performance in golf competitions rarely seen from home-bodies in the six-state New England region. Rhode Island-product Dana Quigley, has earned the nickname “Ironman” for playing in 278 consecutive starts on the Champions Tour, beginning at age 50 and ending at 58. With 11 senior tour wins, he has amassed career earnings in excess of $14 million. His nephew, Brett Quigley, has never won on the PGA Tour, has career earnings over $10 million. He’s a prime example of mediocrity in a sport that pays millions for just making the cut each week on the PGA Tour. Quigley is not great and never will be, but he is very, very rich because he excels in his chosen profession.
Norwood, MA-favorite son Allen Doyle, now 60, turned pro at age 46 and has 11 Champions Tour victories totaling $11 million in his career. From 1990 – 1994, Doyle regularly played against a young Tiger Woods and “dusted” him often in national amateur competitions.
Now, let’s look at the best of the best. For an area that boasts the most knowledgeable sports fans in the world, the golf pickings are slim for men. If this debate included women, the hands-down best-player-ever from these parts is Westford, MA-native Pat Bradley. Now, 58 and retired, Bradley recently moved to Cape Cod and plays The Hyannisport Club every day. Throughout her acclaimed World Golf Hall of Fame career, she won 31 times including six majors.
Here is my ranking of players: (# 8) Bob Menne (# 7) Billy Andrade (# 6) Jerry Kelly (# 5) Ken Green (# 4) Brad Faxon (# 3) Bob Toski (# 2) Paul Harney. The history of these players performing successfully in big-time tournaments is sometimes erratic, but consistency and a lengthy golf resume are qualities that define greatness, at least if you’re from New England.
Danbury, CT-native Ken Green turned pro in 1980 and has five wins on the PGA Tour. He played on the 1989 Ryder Cup. After turning 50 last July, Green joined the Champions Tour but was seriously injured in a car accident in June and had his lower right leg amputated.
Bob Toski, born in Haydenville, MA turned pro in 1945, and joined the PGA Tour in 1949. Weighing only 127 pounds, he won four times in 1954 and went on to win 11 professional events. Toski rose to the top of the golfing world as a player when he was leading money-winner in 1954 and later as an instructor, course designer, club maker and TV commentator.
Paul Harney, born and raised in Worcester, MA, spent part of his career as a full-time PGA Tour player, but mostly was a club pro. He played full-time on Tour from 1955-1965, winning six PGA events, including the ‘64 and ’65 Los Angeles Open. He had great success in major championships, placing in the top-10 six times. In September 2005, Harney was enshrined into the PGA Hall of Fame. He owns a family-run golf course on Cape Cod.
Now, the No. 1 player of all time from New England – Julius Boros. Born & bred in Fairfield, CT, Julius Boros (1920-1994) personifies the combination of effortless ease, flawless technique and competitive fire. Boros did not turn professional until age 29, and despite suffering from various physical problems his entire life, he put together a put together a career that was outstanding because of his consistency, longevity and brilliance.
He won 18 times between 1952 and 1968, including three prestigious major championships. Boros was PGA Player of the Year in 1952 and 1963, led the money list in 1952 and 1955 and played on four Ryder Cup teams. At The Country Club in Brookline in 1963, Julius Boros beat Arnold Palmer and Jacky Cupit in a three-way playoff to win in the U.S. Open.
If you play golf in our short, cool, unglamorous season, you are probably a New England PGA Tour aspirant. We produce many great athletes but few are world-class golfers!
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