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The Masters honors Jackie Burke, Jr!


This past January, golf lost one of the most important links to the past. John Joseph (“Jackie”) Burke Jr., a PGA and Masters champion, died at the age of 100.

Prime Minister Edward Heath presenting the Ryder Cup to the US captain Jackie Burke, after retaining the cup, winning 19-13. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images) Burke on the right.

One can trace the history of golf from his dad, through Ben Hogan, touching Jack Nicklaus and even today’s #1 golfer, Scottie Scheffler. Jack Burke was fearless, comedic, approachable, tough and one heck of a coach!


Masters Ode to Burke


Burke was born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1923, spent time in Philadelphia and ultimately called Houston his home. The son of a professional golfer, Jackie grew up in the depression and never graduated college. He quickly picked up the game and at 20 became a teaching pro at Galveston Country Club. He continued playing events as an amateur until World War 2.


During WW2, Jackie became a Marine and using his teaching skills, became an instructor for the Marine Corps ultimately becoming a black belt in karate. After his four year stint, he returned to being a club pro in New York. Jackie then began to play more consistently on the PGA tour, winning his first event against the legendary Gene Sarazen.


The fifties were a golden age of golf with the likes of Ben Hogan, Sarazen, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Cary Middlecoff, just to name a few. Jackie was right in their company.


1956 was the year Jackie became the #1 golfer by winning the PGA Championship and The Masters. In fact, his Masters win was and still is the largest comeback on the last day by a champion. He fought through wind that day (not unlike what the pros had to deal with for this year’s Masters) to defeat Ken Venturi and Cary Middlecoff.


Jackie Burke’s 1956 Masters!

Click on the link for a great video recap!


In fact the wind was strong every day of the Masters that first weekend in April. It had rained on the opening day, but by Sunday, the wind stayed strong like Friday and Saturday.


Jackie was eight strokes behind the amateur at the time, Venturi, as he teed off. In fact, he almost missed his tee time. He was at church and it started thirty minutes late. He had just fifteen minutes to prepare for the round!


His final round 71 brought him in at one over par for the tournament, the highest final score ever for the Masters, matched twice later. He only had one three putt the entire tournament. Venturi and Middlecoff each had at least three on the front side the last day!


One other piece of Masters lore…the 1956 was the last Masters to not have a cut after the first two days. More trivia? What year was the Masters first televised? Read to find out.


Burke’s PGA win


Later at the PGA Championship played at the Blue Hill Golf and Country Club in Massachusetts, Burke defeated Ted Kroll, another top 1950’s golfer, 3 and 2 (which means won 3 holes and only had 2 left). (NOTE: The PGA was a match play event then.) Jackie defeated Chandler Harper (3 and 2), Fred Hawkins (4 and 2), and Ed Furgol (1 up through 37 holes!) to face Kroll for the final.


In every match, Jackie was behind at some point. The first two days, Burke defeated Leon Pounders, a longtime club pro from Hawaii, (2 and 1) and Bill Collins, winner of the Metropolitan PGA Championship, (5 and 3). Round three almost saw Burke lose. 


He was tied with Freddie Haas heading into extra holes. He promptly defeated Haas on the 20th hole. (NOTE: Haas was famous for defeating Byron Nelson, ending Nelson’s string of 11 straight PGA Tour victories, a record that will never be eclipsed!)


After his PGA win, he settled on spending more time with his family rather than the grind of the tour at that time. In fact, he was worried the check for the PGA would bounce!


Burke’s Legacy


But Burke’s legacy can be summed up by something his dad told him.


In a story for GolfWeek, Jackie shared his dad’s advice:


“My dad said to me once, ‘Son, before you leave this planet, you try and leave more than two footprints here.”


Burke and his playing friend, Jimmy Demaret, himself a three time Masters winner, wanted to create a space only for hardcore golfers. A place created from their combined world experiences. Thus was born The Cypress Creek Course in Houston, known today as the Champions Club. No fancy food. No family amenities. Just pure golf. Footprint number 1!


The course has hosted numerous events for men and women since 1959. Members included the founders, fellow golfers like Steve Elkington and Hal Sutton and even astronauts like Alan Shepard, Gene Cernan and Charles Duke.


Burke and his “tree”

But he also was a teacher of the game AND of the specifics of the mental aspects of playing. Footprint #2. He has mentored/tutored the likes of Ben Crenshaw, the aforementioned Elkington and Sutton, Phil Mickelson, Tom Kite and famous women golfers like Kathy Whitworth and Mickey Wright. 


He held ground and helped foster great golf coaches like Jack Grout (Jack Nicklaus), Harvey Penick (Kite, Whitworth, Wright, Crenshaw), and Claude Harmon, whose sons have all gone on to coaching famous golfers, with oldest son, Butch, Tiger Woods’ first swing coach.

With his death the link to Byron Nelson, Middlecoff, Hogan, Sarazen and Sam Snead is now shorter. But who knows? Maybe today will be the day a player 7 strokes or more behind Saturday’s leader, Scottie Scheffler, will awaken the ghost of Jackie Burke, Jr., on those hallowed grounds at Augusta.

Jackie Burke and wife

Courtesy of KHOU

Burke is survived by his second wife, Robin, and their daughter Meghan. He had five boys from his first marriage, which ended when his first wife, Eileen, passed.


Burkes Stats

PGA Wins 19

Majors Masters (56) PGA (56)

Played on 5 Ryder Cups Record 7-1-0

Captained 1 Ryder Cup Won 1973 19-13

Playing Captain 1 Ryder Cup Lost 1957 16-13

Vice Captain 2004 Lost 18.5 – 9.5


Trivia Answer!

What was the first year the Masters appeared on TV live? Jackie’s 1956 winning year!


I am a math teacher in SW Ohio. Born and raised in NE Ohio, I am married with four sons who keep the flame burning for all things Cleveland. I cover soccer, betting, football and anything that focuses on the human side of sports.

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