- Category : Sports-Golf
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 2/5 - Hermit / Heretic
- Definition : Split - Small (6,34,57)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Laws 2
American golf professional who began golf at age nine and became a professional golfer in January 1954, going on to win a host of other tournaments. He remarkably survived a glitch in his swing--and more importantly--a malignant tumor of the lymph gland, making him the only player to establish wins after the kind of surgery that saved his life.
Littler began golf at age nine, won his first tournament at age 11 and the National Jr. Championship in 1948. After serving in the U.S. Navy from 1951-1954, he turned pro on 1/27/1954 and was a national golfing phenomenon, heralded as the next Ben Hogan. Earlier in January, he had won the 1954 San Diego Open as an amateur. In January 1955, he won the Los Angeles Open, as well as the Tournament of Champions, in Las Vegas, from 1955-1957.
His nearly-flawless swing developed a glitch, and he didn't win again in 1957 or 1958. After working with Paul Runyan, a top player in the '20s and '30s, he was back on track, going on to win the 1959 Phoenix Open, and four more tournaments that year. From 1959-1962, he finished among the top-ten money winners.
Not especially interested in fame, he entered the final round of the 1961 Open at Oakland Hills without fanfare, making his claim for the prize unnoticed against leader Doug Sanders. He won, though the 1961 Open was his only win of a major. He went into another slump in 1963 and 1964, but then went on to win the 1965 Canadian Open and the 1966 World Series of Golf, finishing among the top five in seven tournaments that year.
In March 1972, a physical exam turned up a lump under his left arm which was a malignant tumor of the lymph gland. The tumor was diagnosed as a melanoma, and in April 1972, he underwent extensive surgery that could have ended his golfing career. Six months after the surgery, he finished in the top-ten in the Taiheiyo Masters in Japan. In July 1973, he shot 66-66-68-68 to win the St. Louis Children's Hospital Classic, becoming the only player who had ever come back from the surgery he had endured. That same year, he won the Ben Hogan award as comeback player of the year and the Bob Jones Award for distinguished accomplishments in golf. In January 1975, he won the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am. He continued to play into his 60's on the Senior tour.
In 1984, Littler fell from a ladder. He has also had three knee operations and surgery on both shoulders for rotator-cuff injuries, and suffers from an arthritic back.
A strong family man, Littler has been married to his wife Shirley since January 1951. They had met in history class at San Diego State, and have two children, Curt and Suzanne.