William Law Anderson was a colossus of golf at the dawn of the 20th century. He became the first player to win four US Opens and remains the only man to have won three titles in a row.
Born in 1879, he developed a love of the fairways as he was brought up near the links of North Berwick. A licensed caddie at the age of 11, he became an apprentice club maker before emigrating to the United States with his father and brothers in 1896, aged 16.
The teenager took his love of golf with him across the Atlantic and the following year he was runner-up in the third US Open, finishing just one stroke off the eventual winner, Joe Lloyd. With his distinctively strong and flat sweeping style – known as the ‘St Andrew’s swing’ – It was the start of a remarkable run that would net him his first win at the Southern California Open in 1899.
After that there was no stopping him and he dominated the US Open over the next 10 years, winning in 1901, 1903, 1904 and 1905. On the other occasions he finished third, fourth (twice) and fifth (three times). Renowned for his accuracy and concentration under pressure, he was also a four-time winner of the Western Open – at the time considered a major championship.
After working as a golf professional at 10 different clubs in 14 years, where he taught and inspired many amateurs, he died in 1910 aged just 31. Alex Smith, a Scot who finished runner-up to Willie in two US Opens, said: “Most likely, had he lived longer, he would have set a record for Open Championships that would never be beaten.”
An original member of the PGA Hall of Fame, Willie was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1975.
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