World Golf Hall of Famer, U.S. Open champ Gene Littler dies at 88

Gene Littler, Colonial, golf, AP Photo

World Golf Hall of Famer, U.S. Open champ Gene Littler dies at 88

PGA Tour

World Golf Hall of Famer, U.S. Open champ Gene Littler dies at 88

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Twenty nine-time PGA Tour winner and 1961 U.S. Open champion Gene Littler died Friday night at age 88.

The 1990 World Golf Hall of Fame inductee died in his hometown of San Diego, his son Curt Littler told the Associated Press.

Born in 1930, Littler won the U.S. Amateur at age 23 and turned pro several months later. His near-perfect golf swing was the source of envy for peers in the years to come and helped him become known as “Gene the Machine.” Many still consider it one of the greatest swings of all time.

“Gene was the consummate gentleman but also a fierce competitor,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said. “His rhythmic swing that earned him his distinctive nickname remains in our minds a thing of beauty. It was a pleasure to watch Gene Littler hit a golf ball. San Diego has produced great champions like Billy Casper, Phil Mickelson and Mickey Wright. Gene Littler stood right there beside those giants of the game, and we mourn the passing of a tremendous golfer, husband and father.”

Littler attended San Diego State University and served in the Navy from 1951-54, during which time he played for the U.S. Navy golf team.

Littler played on seven U.S. Ryder Cup teams and compiled a 14-5-8 record for the Americans. A beacon of consistency, Littler only once finished outside the top 60 on the Tour money list from 1954-1979. His lone major victory came in the 1961 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills, where Littler shot 68 in the final round to erase a three-shot deficit to top Bob Goalby.

In 1972, he had surgery to remove a malignant tumor from the lymph glands under his left arm. Littler would go on to win four more times.

He maintained those steady results once eligible for the PGA Tour Champions and recorded eight senior victories from 1983-89.

Gene Littler, 1964 Masters, masters golf, augusta, georgia

Gene Littler hits from a bunker to the second green in first round of the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., on April 9, 1964. (AP Photo)

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