Golf's Major Universities

A Visual Guide To The Colleges of Major Winners

Last Updated on October 10, 2019 by Alec Rose

Which university has produced the most major winners?

It’s a trivia question that stumped us here at Golfible. While we could quickly guess the university with the most wins, individual winners were not something we had researched before. As a project we also thought a better, more rounded question to answer would be – ‘Which university has each winner attended since the four majors began?’

With that goal in mind we mapped out and visualized the universities attended by each major winner since the first British Open in 1860. Our results follow below. 

For optimal viewing, this map works best in desktop or tablet. 

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Rules We Applied In Research

This is not a college ‘graduate’ list, Otherwise, you would have to leave out players like Tiger which would remove much of the fun. If they attended college, they are on the list. 

Where a major winner attended multiple universities, we have included their wins as a win for each university they attended. We cannot easily attribute a major win to one university over another so a win for all was considered suitable.

The Map

Our visual representation above highlights the location of each major winner’s alma mater.

The bigger the dot the more major wins and as a result, Stanford and Ohio stand out as big blotches next to their rivals.

As a starting point, contrast the emptiness in the Pacific Northwest with the Southeast and Southwest and you can start to see the importance of strong university golf programs. 

Total Wins

Unsurprisingly the total wins table is skewed significantly by the giant shadows of Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. Their two universities sit atop the list as the only colleges to reach twenty majors.

Stanford holds a big lead over Ohio helped by another win this year by Tiger at Augusta. The real difference between the two though is Tom Watson, Stanford graduate in 1971, who pitched in with eight major wins or 32% of Stanford’s major success.

Ohio’s reliance on Nicklaus is captured by his win percentage in the University, a massive 90%. The other 10% is made up by major wins from Dow Finsterwald at the US PGA in 1958 and Tom Weiskopf’s Open Championship victory in 1973.

As the total wins table is so long, we have put it at the bottom of the article. You can skip to it quickly by clicking here

Individual Major Winners In Each University

The total major winners’ list is great for bragging rights, but it doesn’t really give you an accurate portrayal of golf tradition in these universities.

For example, Harvard has seven major titles which is an impressive return on first viewing. These seven wins, however, came from just one man, Bobby Jones in the 1920s.

Compare this to the University of Texas and its total of eight major wins, just one more than Harvard. Five different men including Ben Crenshaw and Jordan Spieth account for these eight titles in three different decades.

The argument could be made therefore that individual winners is a more important metric than total major wins.

Looking at the individual winner’s table, it’s also notable how many winners come from the state of Texas.

This also pops out when you look at our map.

Adding the University of Houston and University of Texas together with smaller Texas Universities gives you a total of seventeen individual Major winners.  A huge number with no other States even close (Florida is next on nine winners).

The outright leader University of Houston is on a bit of a dry streak right now though. 

They haven’t had a champion since Nick Faldo in 1996. Faldo’s win for Houston could also be considered somewhat dubious as he only completed ten weeks in the school before pursuing golf professionally.

Which Universities Have The Clean Sweep of Majors?

Five Universities have managed the grand slam of Majors.

Ohio University unsurprisingly was the first to achieve the slam through the individual brilliance of Jack Nicklaus.

His Open Championship win in 1966 ensured it was only eight years between the Universities first Major win and completing the Slam.

Stanford didn’t even need to wait for Tiger to complete their Slam. Tom Watson’s maiden Masters win in 1971 topped off their trophy cabinet as Bob Rosburg 1959 US PGA win compensated for Watson’s missing US PGA Championship trophy. 

Lanny Wadkins helped Wake Forest to the Slam in 1977 with his US PGA win as this was the only Major his fellow alumni, Arnold Palmer never managed to secure.

There is a real teamwork feel to the grand slams of the two Texas Colleges as multiple players helped Houston and University of Texas Austin complete the feat. 

The University of Texas look like they were on a mission in the 90’s picking up their first US Open in 1992, US PGA in 1996 and British Open in 1997.

Wins By The Decade

We have started this list in the 1960s with the decades before having low win totals that are shared amongst different universities.

Stand out stats for here include Tiger’s twelve wins in the 2000’s, yes he won all twelve. Equally impressive is Jack Nicklaus as he is responsible for Ohio winning both the 1960s and 70s with fifteen of his eighteen titles. 

Brooks Koepka also takes sole responsibility for Florida State emerging with the most major wins in the 2010s.

Coming into 2017, they had zero wins in the decade but four wins in the US Open and US PGA for Koepka ensures Florida State have the most major wins this decade.

One Semester or Less

The college life wasn’t for every major winner on our list with several of them not appearing for their second semester.

We have included them on the list nevertheless as it would be difficult to know the cut-off point for attendance, one semester, one year or two years? To makes things easier we’ve included all players who attended university. 

The one-semester or less club include Billy Casper, Orville Moody, Raymond Floyd and six-time major winner Nick Faldo.

Most College Degrees

Not only was Bobby Jones hugely successful on the course, winning seven majors, he also managed to earn three degrees from Georgia Tech, Harvard and Emory Law School in the 1920s.

No other major winner has since matched this academic achievement. 

Jones was also the first University graduate to win a major after securing the 1923 US Open.

Chick Evans, winner of the 1916 US Open, did attend Northwestern but had to drop out after a year due to financial reasons.

College Rivalries

Here are some comparable stats for some of college noteworthy rivalries.

UniversityMajor WinsUniversityMajor Wins
University of Alabama2Auburn University1
Florida State8University of Florida4
University of Southern California5University of Notre Dame3
University of Texas8University of Oklahoma2

Most Wins By Major

It’s almost complete dominance from Stanford when it comes to wins by tournament.

The US Open is one major where they can feel threatened as six universities lie behind them on four wins.

One of these colleges, the University of Colorado has curiously only ever won the US Open. Four titles in total and all four come from the same major. Three US Open wins for Hale Irwin in 1975,1979 and 1990 and one from Steve Jones at Oakland Hills in 1996.

University Winners Outside of the States?

Our research shows there are only a handful of major winners who attended university outside of the United States. 

Given that many European major winners get university golf scholarships in the US this becomes easier to understand.

Winners like Darren Clarke (British Open:2011), Graeme McDowell (Us Open:2010) and Danny Willett (The Masters:2016) all studied stateside before their careers began. 

Exceptions include the 2019 British Open winner Shane Lowry who studied at Athlone Institute of Technology and University College Dublin (UCD), both in Ireland. 

His fellow Irishman Padraig Harrington also graduated in 1995 from Dublin Business School while the 2018 Open winner Francesco Molinari graduated from the University of Turin in Italy.

You must go back to before the First World War to find another major winner/university student outside of the States. Tommy Armour, winner of the British Open, US PGA and US Open attended the University of Edinburgh in the early 1910s before the outbreak of war. 

Conclusion

A lot can be learned if you look beyond the typical vanity metrics like total wins. Giants like Woods and Nicklaus will always skew stats when it comes to wins so success must also be considered in other ways. 

What was the most surprising stat for you? 

Does your university feature? 

Please let us know in the comments below!

If you enjoyed the read, please consider sharing or linking back to our article to help us produce similar research. Thanks for reading. 

Alec Rose - Editor

Alec likes to write about golf from a graphical perspective. With a data modelling background, he enjoys converting raw golf information into engaging user-friendly visual charts. Interests include statistics, Tiger Woods, and the history of Golf’s 4 Majors.

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