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The US Open Golf Trophy

Of professional golf’s four-tournament Grand Slam every summer, the competition for three of the trophies happens in the United States.  The oldest of them all is the US Open Championship Trophy, dating to an 1895 on the Newport Country Club course in Rhode Island.  An elegant silver jug resting on a matching base, it is topped by a majestic female figurine with open wings.  Every June, the best golfers in the world – including amateurs who’ve gone through rigorous regional qualifying tournaments – descend on one of America’s finest courses to do their best to get their hands on the silver handles and have their name engraved in its side.

History

Late in the 19th century, the US Open was contested for the first time and, as is befitting a competition of such international significance, the organizers set out to commission a trophy worthy of the winner.  The US Golf Association cobbled together a $335 prize fund, awarding $150 of it (along with a $50 gold medal) to the champion.  Horace Rawlins, a British pro became the first of 16 consecutive victors from England to claim the US Open Championship Trophy.  As with all of the early winners, custom was that he would display trophy at his local club for one year and return it in time for the next competition.

Unfortunately, due to a 1946 fire, the trophy is lost to history.  The following year, before the tournament was held at St. Louis Country Club, the USGA commissioned the current trophy, based largely on the first design.  The silver cup features two ear-like handles at its sides and a simple lid featuring an angelic woman at the peak.  Tapering smoothly until it meets the wide silver base, the barrel of the US Open Championship trophy features an engraving of a golf scene on one side and the winners’ names on the back.

Thanks to the original being catastrophically destroyed, the USGA has taken steps to protect the replacement and ensure its safety for generations to come.  Though regularly displayed at promotional events leading up to the tournament, the trophy is generally housed in Far Hills, New Jersey at the USGA Museum and Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History.  In the weeks after their triumph, golfers are presented with a replica which they are allowed to keep for themselves – long after the celebratory drink of champagne (or beer, in the case of 2011 winner Rory McIlroy).

Best Players

Bobby Jones (4 wins)

The lawyer from Atlanta is justifiably a part of golf lore, as he is the most decorated amateur in the history of the game.  Beginning with a victory at the 1923 tournament in Innwood, New York, he started a run of four titles in the US Open alone – and twelve overall – that would culminate in the amazing summer of 1930.  The sweet-swinging American went on a legendary string of victories, sweeping the US Open, US Amateur, (British) Open Championship and British Amateur in the same, the “Grand Slam” of his day and first in history, shortly after which he retired from competitive play.

Ben Hogan (4 wins)

If Jones was a testament to the beauty of finesse, then this hard-charging Texan was the epitome of power.  Known for his icy demeanor toward opponents and tendency to smoke as he traversed the course, Hogan ran off victories in four of five tournaments from 1948 to 1953, a feat made all the impressive considering a career-threatening car accident left him with multiple fractures in early 1949.  An experimenter by nature, he is credited with bringing a new level of thinking to the golf swing, as he often spent hours hitting balls to get his technique exactly as he wanted it – no doubt part of the reason he is named by many as the best ball striker in the sport’s history.

Jack Nicklaus (4 wins)

The only man to claim trophies in three different decades, the Golden Bear lifted the US Open Championship Trophy in 1962, 1967, 1972 and 1980 – part of a remarkable run of consistency that included 11 top-five finishes over the course of 44 consecutive starts from 1957 to 2000.  Though each win is famous in its own right, the last of his wins ranks as one of the best-remembered, as Nicklaus ended a two-year run of uncharacteristically poor play to claim America’s championship.

Tiger Woods (3 wins)

As the lights of golf have gotten brighter, the most famous player of all time rose to the top of the game early in the 2000s.  Right around the turn of the 21st century, Woods was storming through golf’s major championships by playing on a level far above his considerably talented competitions.  Just as course designers were “Tiger-proofing” holes to compensate for his rangy drives and pinpoint short game, he ran through the 2000 US Open and claimed a 15-stroke victory – the largest in tournament history – with a final score of 12-under, the first time a winner finished under par by double-digits.

Recent Winners

Rory McIlroy (2011)

Graeme McDowell (2010)

Lucas Glover (2009)

Tiger Woods (2002, 2008)

Angel Cabrera (2007)

Geoff Ogilvy (2006)

Michael Campbell (2005)

Retief Goosen (2004)

Jim Furyk (2003)