Ole Miss Golf's First All-American • PGA/World Golf Hall of Fame Inductee
Cary Middlecoff, a Memphis, Tenn., native, distinguished himself as the greatest golfer in Ole Miss history and one of the best the Mid-South has ever known. Middlecoff was Ole Miss' first golf All-American in 1939.
Middlecoff earned his dental degrees and was part of the Army Dental Corps in World War II. During a military leave in 1945, the 23-year-old Army Lieutenant left his mark on the golfing world when he won the North-South Open in Pinehurst, N.C. He was the first and only amateur ever to win that event when it was part of the the PGA tour.
After leaving the military at the rank of Captain, Middlecoff went to work in his father's dental office in Memphis. He never intended to make a career out of professional golf, but his father, Dr. H.F. Middlecoff, encouraged him to make a living playing golf.
He entered the PGA tour in 1947, and from 1947 to 1961, Middlecoff won more than 40 tour events and about $250,000. He finished runner-up on the money list four times.
In his first season, Middlecoff won the Charlotte Open and collected $2,000, a huge paycheck for that era. Middlecoff went on to win $10,000 that year. The rest of the story is history. Middlecoff won the 1949 and 1956 U.S. Opens and the 1955 Masters. He was runner-up in the 1957 U.S. Open and finished second twice in the Masters, 1948 and 1959. Middlecoff just missed winning the 1955 PGA Championship as he was edged out by Doug Ford.
Middlecoff's best year came in 1955 when he won six titles (The Masters, Crosby, St. Petersburg, Western, Miller Open and Cavalcade of Golf) and was the second leading money earner. He also finished second on the money list in 1949, 1951 and 1952, captured the Vardon Trophy in 1956 with a 70.35 stroke average and competed on winning Ryder Cup teams in 1953, 1955 and 1959.
In 1974, Middlecoff was inducted by the PGA of America (in conjunction with golf writers and a panel of other experts) into the PGA Hall of Fame. He became the 48th member of the PGA/World Golf Hall of Fame in 1986. Middlecoff was one of the first inductees into the PGA Hall of Fame along with Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen. His induction ceremonies were appropriately conducted at Pinehurst, N.C., the new home of the Golf Hall of Fame and the golf resort where he won his first professional tournament. In 1990, Middlecoff became a member of the Tennessee Golf Hall of Fame and in 1996 was selected to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1987.
After retiring from competition, Middlecoff spent 15 years as a network television golf commentator. Middlecoff died Sept. 1, 1998, of heart failure at age 77.