How Many Golfers Have Won Professional Events As Teenagers? It's More Than You Think...

Golf is a game where knowledge and experience are valuable attributes, but these teenage sensations proved they're not the be all and end all...

Lydia Ko with the trophy after winning the 2015 Evian Championship GettyImages-488039026.jpg
Lydia Ko with the trophy after winning the 2015 Evian Championship
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A large number of teenagers have won professional golf tournaments, particularly in the women’s game. Lydia Ko was 17 years, 9 months, 9 days when she became World No 1. As a teenager, she won two Majors in addition to 12 other events on the LPGA tour, four co-sanctioned events by the Ladies European Tour and the ALPG Tour (now known as the WPGA Tour of Australasia), and one further win on the ALPG.

Lydia Ko holds the record for the youngest winner of the LPGA tour from when, aged 15 years, 4 months, 3 days old, she won the 2012 Canadian Women’s Open. She had also become the youngest winner on the Ladies European Tour when she won the 2013 New Zealand Open as an amateur aged 15 years, nine months and 17 days. But this record was broken by Atthaya Thitikul when she won the Thailand Championship by two shots aged 14 years, 4 months and 19 days.

But in winning the Evian Championship in 2015, aged 18 years, 4 months and 20 days, Lydia Ko remains the youngest winner of a women’s Major. She is one of seven golfers to win a Women’s Major while in their teens. The others are the then 18-year-olds Brooke Henderson and Morgan Pressel, and 19-year-olds Lexi Thompson, Yani Tseng, Inbee Park and Yuko Saso.

But only one man has won a men’s Major as a teenager. He is John McDermott, who was also the first American to win the US Open, in 1911. He had lost a three-man playoff for the US Open the previous year, but in 1911 came through a three-man playoff triumphant when he was 19 years, 10 months and 14 days old. He won the US Open again the following year. A fragile, brash personality, he suffered grievously from mental illness and his top-level golf career was cut short. Aged 23 he was admitted to a mental institution and was to spend most of his life in care.

McDermott is one of five golfers classed as winners of the PGA Tour while still in their teenage years, the most recent of whom is Jordan Spieth. The Texan was 19 years, 11 months, 17 days young when he won the 2013 John Deere Classic in a three-way playoff. The youngest winner on the PGA Tour, albeit in the days before the PGA Tour actually existed, is Charles Kocsis, who was 18 years, 6 months and 9 days old when he was victorious at the Michigan Open in 1931. An amateur, he was to win the Michigan Open again twice in his thirties and was Low Amateur at the 1952 Masters.

Harry Cooper won the 1923 Galveston Open four days after his 19th birthday, one of his 31 professional victories during that decade and the subsequent one. One of the best golfers of his time, he never won a Major – unlike Ralph Guldahl. Guldahl’s 16 pro victories included three Major titles, the US Open of 1937 and 1938 and the Masters of 1939. Guldahl’s first win in a professional tournament had come at the 1931 Santa Monica Open when he was 19 years, 8 months and 3 days old.

The youngest winner on the European Tour is Matteo Manassero, who is the only 17 year-old to win. He did so twice. The first time, aged 17 years, 6 months and 5 days old, was at the Castello Masters in 2010. The second win was Malaysia Open when two days shy of his 18th birthday. His first win had supplanted Danny Lee’s record as the youngest winner, and did so by a year and 25 days. In 2009 Lee had won the Johnnie Walker Classic in Perth, Australia, a tournament co-sanctioned by the European, Asian and Australasian Tours.

Rasmus Højgaard became the third youngest winner on the European Tour when he eagled the third play-off at the 2019 AfraAsia Mauritius Bank Open. He was 18 years 7 months and 19 days old at the time and it was his fifth start on tour.

Roderick Easdale

Contributing Writer Roderick is the author of the critically acclaimed comic golf novel, Summer At Tangents. Golf courses and travel are Roderick’s particular interests. He writes travel articles and general features for the magazine, travel supplement and website. He also compiles the magazine's crossword. He is a member of Trevose Golf & Country Club and has played golf in around two dozen countries. Cricket is his other main sporting love. He is also the author of five non-fiction books, four of which are still in print: The Novel Life of PG Wodehouse; The Don: Beyond Boundaries; Wally Hammond: Gentleman & Player and England’s Greatest Post-War All Rounder.