May 24, 1910 in Houston one of the most colorful characters in golf history was born and the game would never be the same. It would take a while before James Newton Demaret would win on the PGA Tour but his influence on the sports went far beyond any trophy presentation. Jimmy, as he was known to all, was the first three-time winner of the Masters, an accomplished singer and actor and perhaps Ben Hogan's closest friend on Tour. And as a player he was one of the best ever.
Demaret played in 13 PGA Tour events in 1940 and won six of them, including his first of three Masters titles. But his banner year was 1947 when he was both the Vardon trophy winner (69.90) and leading money winner ($27,936). In total, Demaret won 31 times on the PGA Tour. Wherever he went his style was unique, so much so that his nickname on Tour was "The Wardrobe".
He was named to four Ryder Cup teams, including the 1941 team that did not compete against the British because of World War II. He has the only perfect Ryder Cup record among players who played on 2 or more teams and in 5 or more matches. Jimmy was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1983. He is generally acknowledged as the Father of the Senior Tour as he and Fred Raphael conceived Legends of Golf in 1978 at Onion Creek a course designed and co-owned by Demaret himself.
Demaret, a companion of movie stars, royalty, heads of state and astronauts, was a pioneer in TV golf and co-hosted, with Gene Sarazen, the Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf series. He co-founded Champions Golf Club with life-long friend Jack Burke. It has hosted the 1967 Ryder Cup, the 1969 U.S. Open, the 1993 U.S. Amateur, and other high-profile events.
A product of the Hermann Park caddie pen, Demaret played in only one tournament as an amateur, that being a match for Northside High School. He received pay for his services as an assistant pro at the early age of 14 and would go on to hold several club jobs before concentration on the life of a touring pro.
At his beloved Champions Golf Club three days after Christmas in 1983 Jimmy Demaret was preparing for his daily tour of the course. He suffered a heart attack before being able to tour the site. Upon hearing about the passing of the iconoclast, Jack Nicklaus said "to Jimmy golf was a part of life. He was a good friend and a good man. He will be missed."
- 31 PGA Tour Victories
- 3 Major Championship Titles: The Masters (1940, 1947, 1950)
- 1947 Vardon trophy winner (69.90)
- 1947 PGA Tour leading money winner ($27,936)
- Four time Ryder Cup team member (6-0-0 record)
- World Golf Hall of Fame Class of 1983
- Created the conceived Legends of Golf with Fred Raphael
- Owned and operated numerous courses including Champions Golf Club and Onion Creek.
Lifelong Work with the Burkes
Jimmy Demaret grew up in Houston, where in 1920, he started caddying at the age of eight. He worked for fellow Texas Golf Hall of Famer Jack Burke, Sr., at River Oaks Country Club and moved from the caddie barn to the pro shop by the age of 14. His professional golf career started halfway into his high school career. Jimmy’s first tournament victory, the first of five straight Texas PGA Championships, earned him $25 in 1934. Thirteen years older than Jack Burke, Jr., (and having served as his childhood babysitter), Jimmy and Jack became long-lasting friends who combined for 47 PGA Tour victories and together created Champions Golf Club in Houston.
Ostrich feathers. Canary yellow and electric blue duds. A Swiss yodeler’s hat. It’s no wonder that Jimmy’s sense of style earned him the nickname, “The Wardrobe.” In addition to his flashy dress, his smile and affable personality made him one of the first true celebrities on the PGA Tour. A talented singer with a powerful baritone voice, Jimmy considered a singing career prior to choosing golf. Also a talented comedian, he frequently entertained at nightclubs at Tour stops. He also rubbed elbows with numerous celebrities including Bing Crosby and Bob Hope and made appearances on I Love Lucy and The Tonight Show.
Green Jackets Look Good Too
Jimmy’s first two Masters titles, in 1940 and 1947, came prior to Augusta National Golf Club awarding a green jacket to the tournament’s winner (only club members received them prior to 1949). Augusta National retroactively awarded them to each previous winner, but Jimmy made sure to receive one in the post-round tradition by winning the 1950 event and becoming the first three-time winner of the Masters. The players who later joined him in that club reads as a Who’s Who in Golf – Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Nick Faldo, Phil Mickelson, Gary Player and Sam Snead.
Fair Winds and Following Tees
In 1940, Jimmy played in 13 PGA Tour events, winning six times. However, while in his prime, World War II interrupted his career, beginning with his selection to the 1941 Ryder Cup which was ultimately canceled. Instead, Jimmy served his country in the U.S. Navy from 1943-45 while stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas. In all, Jimmy won 31 times on the PGA Tour and had eight top-10s at the Masters, four in the U.S. Open, and one in his only appearance at the Open Championship. A lifelong Texan, he was considered by Ben Hogan to be the greatest windy weather player he’d ever seen. The two friends were a formidable tandem on U.S. Ryder Cup teams in 1947 and 1951, going undefeated as teammates.
A Wonderful Life
Jimmy’s career was notable outside of playing tour golf as well. In 1954, he published My Partner, Ben Hogan, a book chronicling the life and career of Hogan in the aftermath of his life-threatening auto accident. He also was television golf pioneer and co-host of Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf series in the 1960s alongside Gene Sarazen. By founding the Legends of Golf Tournament at Onion Creek Club in Austin, Texas, a course he designed, Jimmy essentially became the “Father of the Senior Tour.” Jimmy also spent much of his time at Champions Golf Club, where in 1983 he suffered a fatal heart attack while getting into a golf cart to drive around the course he co-founded.
Demaret and Jack Burke Jr.
Demaret in competition
Article on Jimmy Demaret's last exhibition match at Brae Burn
Demaret helping a young lady with her swing
Young Jimmy Demaret
Jimmy Demaret talking with boxer Rocky Marciano
Demaret's Navy portrait
Jack Burke Jr. and Jimmy Demaret
Production notes from filming of exhibition at Winged Foot G.C., 1962
Demaret in the Navy
An early photo of Jack Burke Sr. with Ben Hogan, Jug McSpaden, Byron Nelson, and Jimmy Demaret
Larry Knobel, Jimmy Demaret, Eddie Roman and Jack Burke Jr.
Jimmy Demaret and Byron Nelson at a USO show
Ryder Cup Champions
Jimmy Demaret and Sam Snead
Demaret with some fellow Navymen
A gathering of Masters Champions
Jimmy Demaret first flight
A signed photo from Jimmy Demaret to Brookhaven C.C.
Jimmy Demaret and Jack Burke Jr.
Demaret taking Rocky Marciano out for a round