Every so often, a great golfer has to wait a long time to get their day in the sun, their first major championship win. Some players have to wait until their 40s until they capture their first major championship.
The oldest first-time major winner in men’s golf history is Jerry Barber, who was 45 years, 3 months, 6 days old when he won the 1961 PGA Championship at Olympia Fields Country Club just outside of Chicago. Barber and Don January, a 10-time PGA Tour winner, finished regulation at 3-under 277, triggering an 18-hole playoff. In the playoff, the players were tied heading into the final hole, but when January made bogey and Barber made par, he captured his first major win. January would capture his one and only major in the 1967 PGA Championship.
After finishing T-5 in the 1962 Masters the following April, Barber only made the cut in two more major appearances in his career.
The oldest first-time winner of the British Open Championship is Roberto De Vicenzo, who was 44 years, 3 months, 1 day old when he won the 1967 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in England. A Friday third-round 67 catapulted the Argentinian into the lead by two over Gary Player, and it was the margin by which he won over Jack Nicklaus on Saturday afternoon. Livepool wouldn’t host another Open until 2006.
The oldest first-time winner of the Masters is Mark O’Meara, who was 41 Years 3 months 29 days old when he birdied the final two holes at Augusta National Golf Club in the final round to capture his maiden major championship in the 1998 Masters. The closing birdies on the final two holes were enough to get him a green jacket from close friend Tiger Woods, holding off 1992 winner Fred Couples and David Duval by a shot on 9-under 279.
O’Meara would go on to win the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale later that year, earning the two major championship wins of his career in a single season.
The oldest first-time winner of the US Open is Ted Ray, who won his second major title but first US Open back in the 1920 US Open at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio at the age of 43 years, 4 months, 16 days. It was Ray’s first appearance in the US Open since losing to Francis Ouimet in the 1913 US Open that spurred golf in America. Heading into the afternoon final round on Friday, Ray was two shots back of Harry Vardon, who had also lost out to Ouimet and not been back since.
However, in the final round, Vardon struggled to 78, and Ray’s 75 was good enough for a one-shot win at 11-over 295. Vardon, Jack Burke Sr., Jock Hutchison and Leo Diegel finished tied for second.
To this day, Ray’s 1920 win makes him the third-oldest US Open champion in history.