If identifying the best golfer from every state sounds like a near-impossible task, that's because it is. The process is littered with excruciating decisions. To wit, which Washington State native had a better career: Fred Couples or Joanne Carner? Here's another: Who deserves bragging rights as Louisiana's top dog -- Hal Sutton or David Toms? You could make a strong case for either one. And how about New York, where two giants, Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen, shaped their legacies? Tough call, right? And yet we endured, parsing resumes and birth certificates, to nominate the best-ever player from all 50 states.
Before we dive in, a word about our methodology: It was hardly scientific. (How could it be?) Major wins and Tour titles were the most important factor but when tiebreakers were needed we leaned on other variables, such as a player's influence or overall impact on the game. We were also flexible on what constituted a golfer's "home state." For instance, if a player was born in state A but spent most of his/her golf career living in state B, we felt that gave him license to represent state B. (See, Woods, Tiger.)
But enough preamble. Here, from Alabama to Wyoming (and, yes, even Alaska, too!), is the greatest-ever golfer from every state in the union. Did we botch the call in your home state? Let us know about it in the comments section below.
ALABAMA: HUBERT GREEN
With 19 PGA Tour victories, including the 1977 U.S. Open and the 1985 PGA Championship, the Birmingham-born Green is best in 'Bama. Among the major winners who called Alabama home in college are Jerry Pate (Alabama), Jason Dufner (Auburn) and Graeme McDowell (Alabama-Birmingham), but none matches Green's pedigree. Larry Nelson, born in Ft. Payne, Ala., comes close in terms of playing record. But Green grew up playing Birmingham Country Club, where his parents were members.
ALASKA: DANNY EDWARDS
Edwards was born in Ketchikan, in the state's southeastern corner. He didn't stick around for long but given the scarcity of great golfers from The Last Frontier, Edwards is our man. He spent most of his amateur golf days in Oklahoma, winning the state high school championship and becoming a three-time All-American at Oklahoma State in the early 1970s. He played for the victorious Walker Cup team in 1973, before launching a 15-year PGA Tour career highlighted by five wins, including two Greater Greensboro Open titles. The 1985 Pensacola (Fla.) Open was his final victory, but perhaps his most memorable win came at the 1980 Walt Disney World National Team Championship, where he partnered with his younger brother, David (a Neosho, Mo., native).
ARIZONA: BILLY MAYFAIR
So many accomplished players have spent meaningful time in Arizona, from ASU star Phil Mickelson to Arizona Wildcat standouts Annika Sorenstam and Jim Furyk. Dozens of PGA Tour pros currently call Scottsdale home as does Cristie Kerr, the LPGA's third all-time money winner. But for his deep Arizona roots, Mayfair gets the nod. He won five PGA Tour titles, including the 1995 Tour Championship, and downed Tiger Woods in a playoff to win the 1998 Nissan Open at Riviera. A decorated college star at Arizona State, the Phoenix-born Mayfair captured the 1986 U.S. Amateur and won the 1987 Haskins Award as the best college golfer in the U.S.
ARKANSAS: PAUL RUNYAN
The University of Arkansas likes to summon alum Stacy Lewis to salute Razorback fans with a spirited "Sooieeeee!" But native son Paul Runyan deserves the honor as the state's standout. Born in Hot Springs in 1902, Runyan ruled golf in the 1930s, winning two PGA Championships, in 1934 and '38. He won 29 PGA Tour titles, including nine in 1933 alone. He was a Ryder Cupper in 1933 and '35 and won the PGA Tour money title in 1934. His '38 PGA win was memorable, because he crushed Sam Snead 8 and 7, despite being outdriven by as much as 75 yards per hole. Always a wizard with his wedges and putter, Runyan was later acclaimed as the top short-game teacher in golf. For all of you E.J. "Dutch" Harrison fans, cheer up: We're awarding the 18-time Tour winner our runner-up ribbon.
CALIFORNIA: MICKEY WRIGHT
What, were you thinking the top spot should go to another Stanford golfer whose last name begins with W? We agree -- just not in Cally. We're saving Tiger Woods for the state he has called home for the bulk of his blockbuster career. And Phil Mickelson? While we stand in awe of the San Diego native's 42 PGA Tour wins and five majors, he falls just short of a player who might well be the greatest female golfer ever and with a swing that Ben Hogan said was the best he ever saw, period. Wright, also from San Diego, rang up 82 wins (currently second all-time), including 13 majors, yet walked away from pro golf at age 34. The only woman with more wins, Kathy Whitworth, opined that Wright would have won 100 titles had she kept playing. Billy Casper, Johnny Miller, Gene Littler -- supreme talents all. But none matched Mickey.
COLORADO: HALE IRWIN
Born in Joplin, Mo., raised in southeast Kansas and now residing in Paradise Valley, Ariz., Irwin nonetheless is best known and defined by his life in Colorado. Irwin moved to Boulder at age 14, starred in baseball, football and golf at Boulder High and attended the University of Colorado. He was twice an all-Big 8 defensive back, and in 1967 he won the individual title at the NCAA Championship. Irwin later made his home in the Denver area, and established course design and management businesses there -- and it was during his residence in Colorado that he cleaned up on the PGA Tour, with 20 victories, including three U.S. Opens in 1974, '79 and '90. That third win came at age 45, making him the oldest U.S. Open winner ever. Bonus points for his record on the Champions Tour, where he racked up a staggering 45 wins.
CONNECTICUT: JULIUS BOROS
Ardent fans of women's amateur golf could make a case for Glenna Collett Vare as the Nutmeg State's top acorn, given her six U.S. Women's Amateur wins between 1922 and '35. But she spent most of her life as a Rhode Islander. The honor instead goes to Julius Boros of Fairfield. The man with the easy swing won the 1952 and '63 U.S. Opens and the 1968 PGA Championship. With his PGA win, Boros, then 48, became the oldest major championship winner, a feat that has yet to be topped. He didn't turn pro until he was 29, but Boros won 18 PGA Tour titles and contributed to the spectacular early growth of the senior tour with his victory alongside Roberto De Vicenzo at the 1979 Legends of Golf. Boros posts a close but comfortable victory over West Haven's Doug Ford, who won 19 times on Tour, including the 1955 PGA Championship and the 1957 Masters.
DELAWARE: ED "PORKY" OLIVER
There aren't enough great nicknames on Tour anymore, certainly none as colorful as Ed Oliver's epithet, "Porky." The popular Wilmington native stood 5-foot, 9-inches and weighed 240 pounds, explaining the source of his nickname, but he could really play. He grew up caddying at Wilmington Country Club and began his Tour career in the 1940s, where he posted eight victories, including the Western Open, Phoenix Open and the Bing Crosby Pro-Am. Oliver came very close in multiple majors: Ben Hogan downed him in the match-play final of the 1946 PGA Championship, and he finished runner-up to Julius Boros at the 1952 U.S. Open, and to Hogan at the 1953 Masters. No one else in the Blue Hen State comes close to pipping Porky.
FLORIDA: TIGER WOODS
He's second to Jack Nicklaus for major championship wins and second to Sam Snead in all-time PGA Tour victories. But he's inarguably the best-ever golfer from his new home state. Woods has now resided in the Sunshine State for roughly half his life, having relocated here from California in 1996. As a Florida resident he has won 11 Player of the Year awards, all 14 of his major titles and nearly every one of his greatest professional triumphs. Jack Nicklaus might have an even a stronger claim to Florida greatness, but on a hanging chad vote that yielded a 1-0 decision, Tiger takes Florida.
GEORGIA: BOBBY JONES
Jones may or may not have been the greatest player ever. What's undeniable is that he possessed the greatest resume ever. The Atlanta native grew up at East Lake, in a home across the street from the club and was golf's earliest child prodigy. He competed in the 1916 U.S. Amateur at age 14, reaching the quarterfinals, after winning the Georgia State Amateur earlier in the year. Between 1923 and '30, he competed in 20 major championships and won 13 of them, including the Grand Slam, all four of the existing majors, in 1930. A lifelong amateur, Jones retired at the height of his powers at age 28 and later co-founded Georgia's greatest golf club, Augusta National.
HAWAII: MICHELLE WIE
In 2002, 12-year-old Michelle Wie's effortlessly graceful yet powerful swing so bedazzled Tom Lehman that he labeled her "Big Wiesy," in a nod to Ernie Els. The Honolulu-born prodigy's talent and potential was so vast it could be compared only to Tiger Woods'. At 13, Wie tied for ninth in the Kraft-Nabisco, an LPGA major, where she led the field with a 286.5-yard driving distance average. At 14, she came within one shot of making the cut at a men's PGA Tour event, the Sony Open in Hawaii. Alas, life directed Wie away from stratospheric greatness, yet a sober look at the facts yield a substantial record: four LPGA Tour wins, including the game's most prestigious major, the 2014 U.S. Women's Open. With plenty more opportunities at age 26 to add to her totals, Wiesy is already the easy pick as the Aloha State's big kahuna.
IDAHO: BABE HISKEY
In one of our tightest races, Hiskey barely wins the Gem State crown over Don Bies and Troy Merritt. Nominating Merritt would have obvious, well, merit. The Boise resident and former Boise State great enjoyed a stellar 2015 PGA Tour season, winning for the first time, at the Quicken Loans National, by three over Rickie Fowler. He banked more than $2 million in earnings and finished 56th in the FedEx Cup point standings. But Merritt has played in just one major, and he has just five top 10s in his Tour career. Bies, born in Cottonwood, had one PGA Tour win, but contended often and enjoyed a superb Champions Tour career, winning the 1989 Tradition and six other events. But he made most of his hay in the Seattle area, where he resides today. Burley native Hiskey won three PGA Tour events, and more important, won three Idaho State Amateurs, in 1956, '60 and '61. Give Babe the nod—for now.
ILLINOIS: BOB GOALBY
Goalby will always be best known for his controversial 1968 Masters win, when Roberto De Vicenzo signed an incorrect scorecard to hand Goalby the green jacket. What many forget is that Goalby, a Belleville native, accomplished much more than a tainted Masters victory. He attended the University of Illinois, posted his first PGA Tour win in 1958, and won 11 times in all, with Greensboro, L.A., San Diego and the Heritage at Harbour Town among his finest moments. Also gotta give props to Luke Donald, the Englishman who was No. 1 in the world for nearly a year in 2011-'12. He attended Northwestern and keeps a home in suburban Chicago.
INDIANA: FUZZY ZOELLER
The Hoosier State's best golfer is clear: It's Fuzzy. Frank Urban "Fuzzy" Zoeller won the 1973 Indiana State Amateur and went on to claim 10 PGA Tour titles. The New Albany native's two biggest achievements were his 1979 Masters win, the first time he ever played in that event, in a playoff against Ed Sneed and Tom Watson, and his legendary 1984 U.S. Open triumph at Winged Foot. Zoeller crushed Greg Norman in a playoff 67 to 75, one day after he had waved a white "surrender" flag on the 72nd hole at Norman, thinking the Shark had holed a long birdie effort. Fuzzy's personality was a fresh breeze for the PGA Tour, though a misguided attempt at humor at Tiger Woods' expense during the 1997 Masters knocked Zoeller from a lofty popularity perch. Old-timers might lobby for Chick Evans, the amateur giant who was born in Indianapolis, though Evans really made his mark after a move to Chicago at age 8.
IOWA: ZACH JOHNSON
In an absolute smack down, Zach Johnson buries the upset-minded Jack Fleck. Fleck, form Davenport, did pull off one of history's greatest shockers, his 1955 U.S. Open playoff win over Ben Hogan. But more wins proved hard to come by for Fleck; he has just one, in fact, at Phoenix in 1960. Native son Johnson was born in Iowa City, raised in Cedar Rapids and attended Regis High, where he led them to the 3A State Championship in 1992. Johnson then attended Drake University in Des Moines, contributing to two Missouri Valley Conference championships. As a pro, he captured back-to-back Iowa Opens in 2001 and 2002, led the Nationwide Tour with record earnings in 2003 and won in his rookie season on the PGA Tour at the 2004 BellSouth Classic in Atlanta. He's never looked back. Johnson owns 12 PGA Tour titles, most prominently, the 2007 Masters and the 2015 British Open at the Old Course at St. Andrews. He lives in Sea Island, Ga., but he's as rooted to Iowa as the cornstalks.
KANSAS: BRUCE LIETZKE
Lietzke didn't take majors too seriously and he rarely touched a club from the time the PGA Tour season ended (late summer in his day) until it resumed in January. But the perfectly grooved power fade was seldom better or more consistent than it was in the hands of this Kansas City native. Lietzke won 13 times on Tour between 1977 and '94 and still was top-tennin' in 2000. He moved to Texas at age 8 and accomplished most of his feats while residing there or in Oklahoma. His wins often came in pairs: Two victories apiece at the Canadian Open, the Byron Nelson, at Tucson and at Colonial. Among his seven Champions Tour wins is the 2003 U.S. Senior Open. Runners-up in the Jayhawk State include "Handsome" Dick Metz from Arkansas City (10 PGA Tour wins in the 1930s and 40s, with nine U.S. Open top 10s); Harold "Jug" McSpaden from Monticello (17 PGA Tour wins, a record 13 runners-up and 31 top 10s in 1945 alone) and Gary Woodland from Topeka (two PGA Tour wins, basketball scholarship to Washburn, golf scholarship to University of Kansas).
KENTUCKY: KENNY PERRY
A pack of legitimate contenders could lay claim for the top spot in the Bluegrass State: Bobby Nichols (11 wins, 1964 PGA Championship), Gay Brewer (10 wins, 1967 Masters), Jodie Mudd (4 wins, 1990 Players). You might also toss Russ Cochran and Steve Flesch into the mix. Still, the nod goes to Perry, in large part due to his longevity on the PGA Tour and to his success on the Champions Tour. Born in Elizabethtown and raised in Franklin, Perry played his high school golf near Paducah and attended college at Western Kentucky in Bowling Green. From 1991 through '09, he notched 14 PGA Tour wins, including three at the Memorial. Among his eight Champions Tour wins are three majors. Perhaps Perry will be best remembered for his heartbreaking runner-up finishes in two regular tour majors, the 1996 PGA at Valhalla, in his home state, and the 2009 Masters.
LOUISIANA: HAL SUTTON
Does one player's PGA win at Riviera beat another's PGA win at Atlanta Athletic Club? It does -- just barely -- as Hal Sutton edges David Toms for Pelican State honors by the narrowest of margins. Born in Shreveport, Sutton starred at Centenary College in his hometown. Today he resides nearby in Bossier City. Sutton won the Louisiana Junior Amateur in 1974 and won the U.S. Amateur in 1980. He found immediate success on the PGA Tour, winning the Players and the PGA Championship in 1983, the latter where he held off Jack Nicklaus. He fought off a mid-career slump to win 14 times in all, including the 2000 Players, where he held off Tiger Woods ("Be the right club TODAY!"). Toms has 13 wins. Born in Monroe and now residing in Shreveport, Toms attended LSU ("Geaux Tigers!"). At his biggest win, the 2001 PGA, he held off Phil Mickelson with a 10-foot putt on the 72nd green. But watch out, Mr. Sutton. As proven by DT's T-2 at Mississippi's PGA Tour event in early November, Toms isn't done yet.
MAINE: MARK PLUMMER
Plummer, a mustachioed amateur from Manchester, boasts an astounding 13 wins and seven runner-up finishes in the Maine Amateur between 1973 and 2015. (With his wavy hair and bushy reddish-blonde moustache, Plummer was described by the USGA's Golf Journal as resembling "a rock music critic held over from the 1960s.") That achievement gives him the top spot -- by a whisker! -- over Augusta-born David Peoples, who won twice on Tour, at the 1991 Buick Southern Open and the 1992 Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic. Plus, Peoples' connection to the state is so tenuous that he's not even a member of the Maine Golf Hall of Fame, in contrast to CBS analyst Peter Kostis, caddie Mike "Fluff" Cowan and writer James Dodson. Plummer's 15 minutes of fame occurred in the semis of the 1995 U.S. Amateur at Rhode Island's Newport Country Club when he took Tiger Woods to the final hole before losing 2-up. Johnny Miller described Plummer's homemade swing as looking like he was out "watering a lawn." Say what you will about Plummer's look and swing. He's Maine's best-ever golfer.
MARYLAND: FRED FUNK
The short-hitting, popular Funk is an easy winner here. Born in Takoma Park, he played golf for High Point High in Beltsville and continued his golf at the University of Maryland in 1980. He coached the Terps golf team from 1982-88, along the way capturing the Maryland Open in 1983 and 1987, plus six Middle Atlantic PGA Championships. Funk made the PGA Tour full-time in 1989. He bunted his way to eight wins, including the 2005 Players Championship at nearly 49 years old. In 2007, he notched his final Tour win, the Mayakoba Classic, at 50. His success rolled into the Champions Tour, where he has nine wins, three of them majors, highlighted by his 2009 U.S. Senior Open victory.
MASSACHUSETTS: FRANCIS OUIMET
Did you know that Paul Azinger was born in Holyoke, Mass.? Tempting choice, but not a chance. Local-boy-made-good -- really-good -- Francis Ouimet has held the Bay State crown for a century and likely will for a century more. Pat Bradley gave spirited chase via a Hall of Fame career that included 31 LPGA Tour victories, with six majors. Three of those major titles came in 1986. But how does anybody top Brookline-born Ouimet, who put golf on the map in the United States with his never-been-topped upset victory at the 1913 U.S. Open, played at The Country Club, right across the street from the modest house where he grew up? Earlier that summer, at age 20, Ouimet captured the first of his six Massachusetts Amateur titles. He would later win two U.S. Amateur trophies, in 1914 and '31, win a Massachusetts Open and a Boston Open. A lifelong amateur, he competed on the first eight Walker Cup teams and captained the next four and in 1951 became the first non-Briton selected to be Captain of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. But his singular feat in 1913 will live forever, when he made a playoff with the world's top two professionals, England's Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, then shocked them in the 18-hole playoff, firing a 1-under 72, beating Vardon by five and Ray by six.
MICHIGAN: LEO DIEGEL
For a golf-rich state that tied for sixth in our United States of Golf ranking, Michigan is surprisingly bereft of superior players. Calvin Peete was born in Detroit, but didn't pick up golf until he had settled in Rochester, N.Y. Hall of Famer Donna Caponi was also born in Detroit but hone her swing in Southern California. Dave Hill is the closest pursuer. The Jackson native attended the University of Detroit and sports 13 PGA Tour wins, three Ryder Cup appearances and a Vardon Trophy for low scoring average in 1969. Diegel wins the prize, however, for his two majors: back-to-back PGAs, which snapped Walter Hagen's incredible PGA winning streak at four. Born in Gratiot Township, Wayne County, in 1899, Diegel racked up 30 tournament titles in the days before there was a formal PGA Tour and won the Michigan Open in 1916 and '19. He also won four Canadian Opens and played on four Ryder Cup teams (Leo was a lion at match play). He employed a bizarre putting style, with both elbows pointed outward, giving rise to the verb "Diegeling."
MINNESOTA: PATTY BERG
Tom Lehman could certainly make a case for North Star State glory. The Austin native and University of Minnesota grad is the only golfer to be named Player of the Year on the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Web.com Tour; he also won the 1996 British Open. But Patty Berg's accomplishments cannot be diminished. She won 60 LPGA Tour events between 1937 and '62, ranking fourth all-time, and she continues to hold the career majors mark in women's golf, with 15 victories in tournaments designated as majors at the time. Born in Minneapolis, Patricia Jane Berg attended the University of Minnesota, won the Minneapolis City Championship in 1934 (three years after she took up the game), won the Titleholders (then a women's major) as an amateur in 1937 and the U.S. Women's Amateur in 1938. Eight years later she won the U.S. Women's Open. Three times she claimed the LPGA money title and three times she was named Associated Press Woman Athlete of the Year. She also was great for the game -- the popular Berg remained one of golf's greatest ambassadors long after her retirement.
MISSISSIPPI: PETE BROWN
Brown squeaked this one out over Mary Mills and Jim Gallagher Jr. Mills hailed from Laurel and won the Mississippi State Amateur eight straight years, from 1954 to '61. She played the LPGA Tour from 1962-'81, winning nine times, including at the 1963 U.S. Women's Open and the LPGA Championship in 1964 and '73. Gallagher learned the game in Indiana, where his father was a golf professional. He didn't move to Mississippi until the early 1990s, when he married his wife Cissye and relocated to her hometown of Greenwood. Cissye a former LPGA player, is a 12-time winner of the State Amateur and it was here, while residing in the Magnolia State, that Gallagher achieved his greatest success, winning the 1993 Tour Championship and making that year's Ryder Cup team. Brown is a true Mississippi product. Born in Port Gibson and raised in Jackson, where he caddied at the municipal course, Brown became the first African-American to win an accredited PGA Tour event, the 1964 Waco Turner Open. He later captured the 1970 San Diego Open, beating the reigning British Open champ Tony Jacklin in a playoff, one shot ahead of Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf.
MISSOURI: TOM WATSON
There are so many elite golfers with Missouri roots, from Horton Smith of early Masters fame to his fellow Springfield product, Payne Stewart. The true star of the Show Me State, however, is Thomas Sturges Watson. Born in Kansas City, Watson resides these days in suburban Stillwell, just across the state line in Kansas. He captured four Missouri State Amateur titles before turning pro and then went on to compile one of the greatest records in golf history. He owns 39 PGA Tour victories, five British Opens, two Masters and the 1982 U.S. Open highlighted by a memorable chip-in at the 71st hole at Pebble Beach. Tack on 14 more Champions Tour wins, a staggering number of scoring records for his age, five money titles, six PGA Tour Player of the Year crowns, four Ryder Cup appearances as a player and a pull-no-punches style and, well, you don't have much of a contest.
MONTANA: ALICE RITZMAN
Big Sky Country has produced dozens of natural wonders and soul-stirring courses, but not many golfers who made any national impact. Kudos to the state's best amateur, Gene Cook, who snared six Montana Amateur titles, two Mid-Ams and seven Senior Am crowns. And a tip of the rancher hat to Tom Weiskopf and David Graham, a pair of major winners who established permanent residences in Montana, though well after their competitive playing days had ended. So we salute Alice Ritzman, who played the LPGA Tour from 1978 to '98. Born in the Flathead Valley town of Kalispell, Ritzman claimed the State Amateur in 1972 and 1973, attended Eastern Montana College in Billings and turned pro. She never did win on Tour, losing twice in playoffs in 1981, to Hall of Famers Kathy Whitworth and Hollis Stacy and losing another one in 1986, when yet another Hall of Famer, Betsy King, edged her at the Rail Charity Classic. Upon her retirement, Ritzman held the record for most money won (nearly $1.5 million) and highest ranking on the career money list (43rd) by a non-winner. One LPGA Tour record Ritzman still holds: She made three eagles in the same round at the 1979 Colgate European Open.
NEBRASKA: JOHNNY GOODMAN
For three decades, Nebraska's G.O.A.T. has been just about a dead heat between the eventual champ and Mark Calcavecchia. Calc was born in Laurel, but moved away at 13, to West Palm Beach, Fla. That's where he blossomed as a golfer, eventually earning 13 PGA Tour victories, including the 1989 British Open. He also sports an Australian Open win and three Champions Tour Ws. When he was "on," he shattered scoring records, often at the Phoenix Open. At the RBC Canadian Open in 2009, he broke the PGA Tour mark for consecutive birdies with nine. But none of this was accomplished during his days in the Cornhusker State. That's why Goodman prevails. Born in south Omaha, Goodman caddied at the Omaha Field Club, won the Omaha City Championship in 1925, and took three straight Nebraska Amateurs from 1929-31. In 1929 he achieved immortality, beating tournament favorite Bobby Jones in the first round of the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach. Goodman got beat the next day, but claimed runner-up in the event in 1932, then shocked the world one more time in 1933 when he won the U.S. Open as an amateur, the last am to do so. He would finally win the U.S. Amateur in 1937.
NEVADA: PATTY SHEEHAN
Place your bets! Native sons Scott Piercy and Robert Gamez, perhaps? Or long-time Nevada transplants Charley Hoffman and Ryan Moore? Maybe long-shot Natalie Gulbis?! OK, betting window is closed. If you picked Patty Sheehan, come collect your winnings. Sheehan certainly did plenty of that during her career. Born in Middlebury, Vt., the junior ski phenom managed to excel at golf as well. At Earl Wooster High in Reno, she accomplished a three-peat at the Nevada High School Championships, winning from 1972-'74, then won four consecutive Nevada State Women's Amateurs from 1975-'78. She didn't miss a beat upon turning pro. Sheehan was Rookie of the Year in 1981, Player of the Year in 1983 and captured 35 titles in all, six of them majors. Among her wins are two U.S. Women's Opens and three LPGA Championships. Ca-ching!
NEW HAMPSHIRE: JANE BLALOCK
Only one true contender, Aaron Baddeley, emerged to challenge Ms. Blalock and his link to the Granite State isn't exactly rock solid: He was born in Lebanon, near the Vermont border, but moved to Australia when he was two. Years later he won the 1999 Australian Open as an amateur and successfully defended the title in 2000 after he had turned professional. Three PGA Tour wins have followed, most recently in 2011. But he's no match for our winner. Born in Portsmouth, Blalock won the New Hampshire Amateur five consecutive times from 1965-69. She turned pro that year and in a 17-year LPGA career won 27 times. No majors to her credit, though she did win the Dinah Shore Colgate Winner's Circle in 1972 before it carried "major" status.
NEW JERSEY: VIC GHEZZI
One of the enduring New Jersey mysteries -- besides the The Sopranos ending -- is whether anyone will ever catch Ghezzi for Garden State supremacy. The Rumson native snared 11 PGA Tour wins, including the 1941 PGA Championship at Denver's Cherry Hills, where he downed Byron Nelson in 38 holes. He also won three New Jersey PGA Championships and three New Jersey State Opens. Ghezzi posted four career top 10s at the Masters and nearly won the 1946 U.S. Open at Canterbury, near Cleveland. Tied after 72 holes with Lloyd Mangrum and Byron Nelson, the trio tied again after 18 holes. The second 18 saw Mangrum nip Ghezzi and Nelson by a single shot.
NEW MEXICO: NANCY LOPEZ
Purists plead their case for Steve Jones, the 1996 U.S. Open winner, who was born in Artesia, but we're not convinced. The Land of Enchantment yields to one of the game's most enchanting talents, Nancy Lopez. Born in Torrance, Calif., Lopez relocated to New Mexico in childhood and won the State Amateur at age 12 in 1969. She won the next two years as well. Following her graduation from Roswell's Goddard High in 1975, Lopez placed second at the U.S. Women's Open. During her first full season on the LPGA Tour in 1978, she became a national sensation, winning nine tournaments, including five in a row. She collected every award possible then nearly repeated the next year, winning eight times. All told, she won 48 LPGA Tour titles, three LPGA Championships and the hearts of fans everywhere with her sunny disposition.
NEW YORK: WALTER HAGEN
Walter Hagen vs. Gene Sarazen. Gene Sarazen vs. Walter Hagen. What to do when you have to pit two of the game's top 10 golfers for bragging rights in the Empire State? We could look to the final of the 1923 PGA Championship, one of the testiest on record. Sarazen felt Hagen disrespected him and some accused Hagen of skipping the '22 event to avoid the then 20-year-old U.S. Open champ. All square at the second hole of sudden death, Sarazen caught a lucky break on his drive, which irked the Haig. In a show of bravado, the Squire announced to the gallery, "I'll put this one up so close to the hole, it will break Walter's heart." Sarazen did just that and the feud continued. Still, in their respective primes, Hagen was the better player. The Rochester native learned the game at his hometown country club as a caddie, and would go on to win two U.S. Opens, four British Opens and five PGA Championships, including a record four in a row. His 11 professional major titles trail only Nicklaus and Woods. He also won five Western Opens, back when its prestige was the equivalent to a major. Harrison native Sarazen, by contrast, won all four majors -- his 1935 Masters win was aided by his famous double eagle at the 15th during the fourth round -- but won only seven majors overall and had an especially spotty record in the PGA during Hagen's remarkable run. Edge: the Haig.
NORTH CAROLINA: RAYMOND FLOYD
Some serious golf talent has emerged from the Tar Heel State, from Davis Love III to E. Harvie Ward to Webb Simpson. But Raymond Floyd's legendary stare -- and sterling record -- catapult him to the top. Born at Ft. Bragg, where his father was the golf pro at the Army base course, and raised in Fayetteville, Floyd stayed in state for high school and one semester of college, then won early in his PGA Tour career, in 1963 at age 20. He would go on to grab 22 titles, with four majors among them: the 1976 Masters, 1986 U.S. Open and the 1969 and 1982 PGAs. He also compiled a stellar Champions Tour tally, with 14 wins, four of them majors.
NORTH DAKOTA: BEVERLY HANSON
North Dakota has produced some outstanding athletic talent, from Yankee great Roger Maris to hoopster Lute Olson to UFC's Ronda Rousey. But elite golfers have been in short supply. One player who breaks the mold is Fargo native Beverly Hanson. She studied at the University of North Dakota, among other institutes of higher learning and won the U.S. Women's Amateur in 1950 before schooling competitors on the LPGA Tour beginning in 1951. She won the first tournament she ever entered, the Eastern Open, and went on to a career with 17 wins, including the inaugural LPGA Championship, in 1955. She captured two other majors and won the LPGA money crown in 1958.
OHIO: JACK NICKLAUS
Who else? Born in Upper Arlington and educated at Upper Arlington High and at Ohio State, the Golden Bear learned from Jack Grout at Scioto Country Club, where he broke 70 for the first time at age 13. Starting at age 12, he captured five consecutive Ohio State Junior Championships. At 16, he claimed the Ohio Open. While at Ohio State, he won two U.S. Amateurs, in 1959 and 1961 and earned individual honors at the 1961 NCAA Championship. Nicklaus turned pro in 1962 and all he did was win 71 titles, including an all-time record 18 professional major championships. Not too much more we need to add here. Tom Weiskopf, you're a strong but distant runner-up.
OKLAHOMA: CHARLIE COE
Scott Verplank has been an Oklahoma resident since the 1980s, owns five PGA Tour wins, a U.S. Amateur victory, an NCAA individual title and sits 30th on the all-time money list. Oklahoma City native Bob Tway has claimed eight Tour wins, including a major, the 1986 PGA Championship. Then there's also Dr. Gil Morgan from Wewoka. Morgan has seven PGA Tour titles, plus another 25 on the Champions Tour, including three majors. But our vote goes to lifelong amateur Charlie Coe. Born in Ardmore, Coe attended the University of Oklahoma from 1946 through '48, winning the conference championship all three years. He claimed the 1949 U.S. Amateur by an 11-and-10 margin and the 1958 title, 5 and 4. He lost in the 1959 final, 1 up, to Jack Nicklaus. Perhaps most remarkable are Coe's Masters records: most appearances by an amateur (19), most low amateur finishes (6), and lowest finish by an amateur, a T-2 in 1961, when only Gary Player bested him. Coe didn't even play a full amateur schedule (he made a successful living in the oil business), but for nearly 15 years, he was among the 25 best players in the world, pros included.
OREGON: PETER JACOBSEN
Jake is the obvious and deserving pick in Oregon, though not by much. The underrated Bob Gilder, a lifelong Corvallis resident, also deserves a nod for his 10 Champions Tour titles and going undefeated in playoffs (1-0 on the regular tour, 3-0 on the senior circuit). Jacobsen was born in Portland, attended Lincoln High and starred for the University of Oregon, winning the Pac-8 Championship in 1974. He prevailed at the Oregon Open as an amateur in 1976 and won it again in 1979 after turning professional. Best known now for his broadcasting duties, Jacobsen was perhaps the PGA Tour's greatest entertainer, between his impressions and his band, Jake Trout and the Flounders. But some forget he also forged a fine record, with seven wins, 23 years apart from first to last, and two Ryder Cup appearances. Injuries curtailed his career on the Champions Tour, where he won just twice, but both were majors. He nailed down six Tour wins, three in 1982. One of those victories was at Westchester, where he holed out with a 3-wood for double eagle on Saturday's final hole to double his lead going into the final round.
PENNSYLVANIA: ARNOLD PALMER
We certainly don't need to make a case for The King, but here goes: Born in Latrobe to a father who was head professional/superintendent at Latrobe Country Club, Palmer enjoyed success as a teenager, claiming both the Western Pennsylvania Junior and the Western Pennsylvania Amateur by the time he was 18. Further triumphs followed at Wake Forest and during a stint in the United States Coast Guard. When he claimed the 1954 U.S. Amateur, Palmer was on his way. Among his achievements are 62 PGA Tour wins and seven professional majors, including the Masters in 1958, '60, '62 and '64. More important is his legacy. His charisma and go-for-broke style helped popularize golf with the masses, pairing perfectly with the advent of televised golf. He singlehandedly made the British Open relevant again, after a long period where leading Americans stopped playing in it. He has earned seemingly every possible golf and civilian award, and he was the first golfer ever to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2004. He also gave us the Arnold Palmer, half lemonade, half iced tea. Palmer still maintains a summer residence in Latrobe.
RHODE ISLAND: BRAD FAXON
Anyone who follows golf closely knows there's a 1 and 1a of Rhode Island golf: Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade. We considered breaking the tie by naming little-remembered Lawson Little as best in the Ocean State. Little was born in Newport and accomplished the unprecedented feat of winning back-to-back U.S. and British Amateurs, in 1934 and '35. During his pro career, he won eight times, including the 1940 U.S. Open. But Lawson honed his skills in Northern California and is so closely identified with that region that he can't claim Rhode Island. That honor goes to Faxon. Though he was born in New Jersey, Fax was raised in Barrington and still lives there. He won the Rhode Island Amateur in 1979 and '80 and won consecutive New England Amateurs in 1980 and '81. While at Furman in South Carolina, he won the Haskins Award in 1983 as collegiate golf's top player. Younger fans might know him best for his new broadcast duties with Fox, but it wasn't long ago that one of the Tour's greatest putters compiled eight wins on the PGA Tour, plus two Ryder Cup appearances. Bristol native Andrade won four times on the PGA Tour and recently won his third Champions Tour event. He also owns a Rhode Island Open title, as does Faxon. But Fax gets the nod on the back of his Tour titles.
SOUTH CAROLINA: BETH DANIEL
If top honors in the Palmetto State were limited to raw talent and potential, Columbia native Dustin Johnson would be a shoo-in. He played his college golf at Coastal Carolina University and won a handful of prestigious amateur titles. His has racked up nine PGA Tour victories and a number of excruciatingly close calls in majors. But the real decision here was between Betsy Rawls and Beth Daniel. Rawls, a Spartanburg native, posted 55 wins, including a staggering eight majors, four of them U.S. Women's Opens. Daniel can't touch that -- though admittedly, we're talking about very different eras. Rawls, though, didn't blossom as a golfer until she moved to Arlington, Texas. She won the Texas Women's Amateur in 1949 and '50 and she attended the University of Texas. Daniel has the much stronger tie to South Carolina. The pride of Charleston, she enjoyed a spectacular amateur career. She was twice the U.S. Women's Amateur champ, in 1975 and '77, won the South Carolina Women's State Amateur in 1978 and she stayed in state to attend Furman, where she was part of the national championship team in 1976. Her pro career was equally stellar, with her 33 LPGA Tour wins, including the 1990 LPGA Championship, earning her Hall of Fame honors. She competed on eight Solheim Cup teams and was a three-time Player of the Year.
SOUTH DAKOTA: TOM BYRUM
Chalk up South Dakota as the only state in which two brothers can make strong case for best in class. Tom and Curt Byrum were born in Onida, Tom two years after Curt. Each won one PGA Tour event, oddly enough in 1989. Curt is probably better known these days because of his broadcasting duties on Golf Channel, but Tom edges him out with the better record. Curt actually has better local results, winning the 1976, '79 and '80 South Dakota Men's Stroke Play Championship and the 1979 State Match Play. But in time, Tom ascended to the throne. While Curt took home a little more than $1.5 million on the PGA Tour, with 19 top 10s, Tom hauled in more than $6.5 million, with 41 top 10s -- good enough to declare him South Dakota's best Byrum.
TENNESSEE: CARY MIDDLECOFF
Plenty of intriguing candidates populate the Volunteer State, from Nashville's Brandt Snedeker to Germantown's Loren Roberts. The Boss of the Moss has called Tennessee home since the 1980s and was voted into the Tennessee Golf Hall of Fame in 2006. Still, it's no contest. The dentist from Memphis, Dr. Cary Middlecoff, tops them all. Middlecoff won 40 PGA Tour titles, good for 10th place all time, including three majors, the U.S. Opens of 1949 and '56 and the 1955 Masters. Middlecoff remains vastly underrated, partly because his era spanned Hogan, Snead and Palmer, partly because he was such a deliberate (read: slow) player and partly because he stepped away so early, after only a 15-year career. Middlecoff won four consecutive Tennessee Amateur titles from 1940-43 and eventually turned pro at 26. An elegant and powerful ballstriker and a superb putter, he entered only one British Open and played in only nine PGA Championships. Had he competed in more majors, he might have been one of the all-time greats.
TEXAS: BEN HOGAN
The Lone Star State has yielded a mind-boggling amount of elite golf talent. There's Kathy Whitworth, who captured more LPGA Tour events than any player in history. And Byron Nelson, who won 52 tournaments -- and five majors -- in a career that saw him retire at age 34. No one will ever top his 1945 season when he won 18 tournaments, including 11 in a row. And Lee Trevino and Ben Crenshaw and Babe Didrikson Zaharias and Jordan Spieth and... Remarkable. And then you have Ben Hogan, who stands above them all. Born in Stephensville, he lived nearby in Dublin until he was 8 and then his family moved to Fort Worth. He grew up caddying at Fort Worth's Glen Garden Country Club alongside Byron Nelson. It took Hogan some time to find his way as a professional, but once he did, he had no peer. He won 64 PGA Tour events, good for fourth all-time, notched nine majors, six of them after surviving a near-fatal car crash in 1949, and he won five Colonial National Invitation tournaments in his home city of Fort Worth. Considered by many experts as the greatest ballstriker of all time, Hogan can safely claim one more honor: Best Damn Golfer from Texas.
UTAH: GEORGE VON ELM
Three questions you might be asking: Who? Why not Johnny Miller? And what about Jay Don Blake? Answers: Blake earns kudos as Utah's most successful homegrown pro. Born in St. George, he attended Dixie High and played his golf at the Dixie Red Hills Golf Course. He enrolled at Utah State in Logan and won the NCAA Men's Championship Individual title in 1980. A somewhat disappointing pro career netted him just one PGA Tour win, but he did prevail at the Utah Open in 1988 and won three more times on the Champions Tour. As for Miller, while he did attend Brigham Young University and has long kept a home in Utah, he blossomed as a Bay Area Californian and he's more closely associated with that state than with Utah. Which brings us to highly underrated George Von Elm. Born in Salt Lake City, Von Elm won the Utah State Amateur in 1917, '20 and '21 and attended the University of Utah. On the national amateur stage, he might have been the second best player in the country after Bobby Jones. He relocated to Southern California in the early 1920s and began a great run in challenging Jones for supremacy. He reached the quarters of the U.S. Am in '23, losing to Francis Ouimet; he reached the final in '24, when Jones beat him; advanced to the semis at Oakmont in '25, when again he lost to Jones; and then finally, in 1926, he brought down his chief rival, beating Jones in the final at Baltusrol, in a year where Jones had already claimed the U.S. and British Opens. Eventually, Von Elm turned pro, winning five times, and losing a marathon 72-hole playoff to Billy Burke at the 1931 U.S. Open.
VERMONT: KEEGAN BRADLEY
Born in Woodstock, Bradley has great golf genes. His father Mark is a longtime club professional, and his aunt, Pat, is one of the most acclaimed women golfers in history. Keegan spent his time in Vermont focusing on skiing before going to win a state high school title in Massachusetts. He attended St. John's University, in Queens, N.Y., where he would win nine individual collegiate titles. Because his father summered in Jackson Hole, Wyo., as the head pro at Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club, Bradley found his way west, where he won the 2005 Wyoming Amateur and represented the state at the Pacific Coast Amateur Championship in 2006 and '07. He has won three PGA Tour titles, including the 2011 PGA Championship, where he became one of only four players to win his first major start. He's also been a member of two Ryder Cup teams and of the winning 2013 Presidents Cup squad. Keegan's been all over the map, so we're giving him Vermont, where it all started.
VIRGINIA: SAM SNEAD
Curtis Strange and Lanny Wadkins are two titanic talents who were born and raised in Virginia. For lasting greatness, though, Snead gives each of them two a side. Born in Ashwood, near Hot Springs, Slammin' Sam developed one of the most natural, powerful swings in history. He caddied at the Homestead resort and eventually signed on as an assistant pro. Within a few years, Snead switched allegiances, joining the rival Greenbrier resort just across the border in West Virginia, but he kept affiliations with both properties for the rest of this life. He won an astonishing 17 West Virginia Opens. Also remarkable are his gold-standard 82 PGA Tour wins, including seven majors, as well as his age records and longevity marks. He was the first, and still the youngest, to match and then break his age at a PGA Tour event, with his 67 at age 67 at the 1979 Quad Cities -- followed by a 66. He won eight Greensboro events spanning 1938 to '65. At 62, he finished T-3 at the PGA Championship, trailing only Lee Trevino and Jack Nicklaus. There were many great players and personalities on the PGA Tour over the past 90 years. There was only one Sam Snead.
WASHINGTON: FRED COUPLES
No state's race was as tight as Washington's, with two Hall of Famers battling for supremacy: Fred Couples and Joann Carner. Couples and Carner both enjoy strong connections with the Evergreen State. Carner might be the most underrated great player in history. The Kirkland native won 43 LPGA Tour titles and five U.S. Amateur crowns (second all-time), and she remains the only woman to win the U.S. Girls' Junior, the U.S. Women's Amateur and the U.S. Women's Open. Before Lydia Ko came along, Carner was the last amateur to win an LPGA event, in 1959. Known at times as “the Great Gundy,” or “Big Mama,” her longevity rivaled Sam Snead's: In 2004, she became the oldest woman to make a cut at an LPGA event at age 65. But with only two pro majors, Carner gets edged by Couples. Freddie was born in Seattle, grew up playing local munis and won the Washington State Amateur in 1978. He also won the Washington State Open that year as an amateur. Couples arguable underachieved on the PGA Tour with 15 wins -- including the memorable 1992 Masters -- but did win twice at the Players Championship in 1984 and '96, and twice at Riviera. He also had a commendable British Open record. Without ever winning, he posted nine top 10s in a stretch of 16 starts. He also seemed to be a leaderboard fixture at the Masters, reeling off four straight top-13 finishes after turning 50. Perhaps the clincher for Boom Boom is his exemplary Champions Tour record. He's battled many injuries during this time, mostly back-related, yet has taken home 11 trophies, two of them at majors. Perhaps “Couples” is the appropriate name, because this is the one state that deserves a pair of winners.
Since Sam Snead has already been claimed by Virginia, the Mountain State's finest amateur golfer, William C. Campbell, gets the nod. Known to most as "Bill," this Huntington native compiled a phenomenal record of consistency and longevity in regional and national competitions. An insurance agent by trade, Campbell competed in 37 U.S. Amateurs, including 33 in a row from 1941 to '77. He won the event in 1964, downing fellow West Virginian Ed Tutwiler. Campbell won two U.S. Senior Amateurs, in 1979 and '80, and captured four North & South Amateurs at Pinehurst. He was a marvel locally, winning 15 West Virginia Amateurs and three West Virginia Opens, and distinguished himself internationally, running up an 11-4-3 individual record in eight Walker Cup matches (going 7-0-1 in singles). Campbell finished runner-up in the '54 British Amateur. Had he given the pro game a chance, he could very well have succeeded. He earned invitations to 18 Masters, with a T-23 in 1954 his best finish, and qualified for 15 U.S. Opens. He tied for 36th in 1955 and '66. Campbell's legacy includes stints as USGA president in 1982-83 and as Captain of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.
WISCONSIN: STEVE STRICKER
When do no majors trump two majors? When it's a head-to-head duel for Badger State honors between Steve Stricker and Andy North. Thorp native Andy North carries plenty of ammo into this fight, thanks to two U.S. Open wins, in 1978 and '85, plus a third PGA Tour title at Westchester and one Champions Tour win (co-victory with Tom Watson) in an injury-plagued career. North was raised in Monona. He graduated from Monona Grove High in 1968 and a year later won the 1969 Wisconsin State Amateur. He became an All-American at the University of Florida, played on the 1985 Ryder Cup team and in later life has become one of the game's most respected broadcasters. But a lack of consistency on Tour and mediocre results in the majors outside of his two wins relegate the Madison resident to second place. Edgerton's Steve Stricker, on the other hand, has made a career out of comebacks, winning Comeback Player of the Year twice in succession in 2006 and '07. He has 12 PGA Tour wins and a rank of eighth on the all-time money list. That's rarified air. Among his 12 wins are one World Golf Championship and two FedEx Cup playoff events, as well as three straight John Deere Classic titles. Stricker took care of business locally as well, winning five Wisconsin State Opens, the first (in 1997) while still an amateur. Stricks, who also lives in Madison, reached a career high of No. 2 in the World Ranking in 2009 and '10. That's sufficient for No. 1 honors in Wisconsin.
WYOMING: JIM BENEPE
We could have gone with Keegan Bradley (see Vermont), given his successes as a teenager in Wyoming, but we're giving the honor to the homegrown lad, Jim Benepe. Born and raised in Sheridan, Benepe showed promise as a teen by winning the 1982 Wyoming Stroke Play Championship and the 1983 Wyoming State Match Play Championship. He attended college at Northwestern and claimed the Big 10 Championship and All-American status in 1986. He found quick success as a pro, winning the British Columbia Open in 1987 as well as the Canadian Tour's Order of Merit and Rookie of the Year that year. Benepe broke through Down Under in 1988, winning the Victorian Open in Melbourne and then set sail for the PGA Tour. On a sponsor's exemption at the Beatrice Western Open, his first-ever PGA Tour event, Benepe played well but seemed destined for a runner-up finish. But when Oregon's best golfer, Peter Jacobsen, double-bogied the final hole, Benepe found himself a Tour winner. This feat catapulted him to Rookie of the Year honors. Injuries and poor play forced Benepe away from the game after 1991, though he did post a T-3 at the B.C. Open in 1990, a T-14 at that year's U.S. Open, and a T-7 at the 1991 Canadian Open. Benepe still lives in Sheridan.