Hale Irwin: A Living Legend in the Senior Golf World

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Hale Irwin is a name that needs no introduction in the world of golf. Irwin has won many championships and accolades with a career spanning over five decades.

Hale Irwin is one of the few players to accomplish three different U.S. Opens, and in 1990, at the age of 45, he became the oldest winner in the history of the US Open.

He is an icon in the world of senior golf. This article will look at his life and career in detail.

The Early Years

Hale Sennet Irwin was born in Joplin, Missouri, on June 3, 1945. When he was four years old, his father began teaching him how to play the game of golf. However, at Boulder High School, he started to set records not only in golf but in football and baseball.

His time in football and winning multiple state championships helped him excel as a golfer. In an interview with the Denver Post, Irwin stated:

“I looked at every golf course as a football field; It was me or them. I say that somewhat jokingly because, the thing I had was effort. With my football background, I was even a little guy back then. I had good football speed, but I didn’t have flat-out speed. So I had to read my keys, be in good position. I had to play technically better than the next guy, and I had to play over my weight. All that effort is what I could take to the golf course.”

– Hale Irwin, (Denver Post Interview)

Irwin graduated from high school in 1963. Following that, he received his education at the University of Colorado, Boulder. In his senior year (1967), he competed in golf and won the solo NCAA title as a defensive back. While in college, he was also a 3 time Academic All-American.

The following year, he began his career as a professional golfer

Hale Irwin Golf Swing

When Hale Irwin was asked, he stated the hardest part is maintaining the intensity of focus in a golf swing. It’s easy to wobble and wander to what feels good or easy.

The golf swing simply comes down to — how is your tempo? One of the best tips in golf is to focus on your rhythm and balance.

Irwin is known for his one-plane swing. Here’s a short video where it breaks it down further. The video also includes helpful tips for senior golfers – stay fit and active, and keep hitting balls to help with flexibility and strength.

PGA Tour

Irwin’s first victory on the PGA TOUR came in 1971 at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. He went on to win three consecutive U.S. Open tournaments and two U.S. Senior Open championships and was a member of the United States Ryder Cup team that won in 1991. 

For the last quarter of a century, he has participated in a charity golf tournament held annually in St. Louis to raise money for the St. Louis Children’s Hospital and the Hale Irwin Center for Pediatric Hematology & Oncology.   

Irwin was presented with the Ambassador of the Golf Award by Northern Ohio Golf Charities at World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Open in Akron in 2009.

Hale Irwin considers the two-iron shot he struck on the 18th hole of the 1974 U.S. Open at Winged Foot to be his all-time favorite stroke. This shot helped him win the championship.

Personal Life

Irwin has two children with his wife, Sally, whom he married a year out of college. They had two children, Becky and Steve while residing in St. Louis, Missouri.

In addition, his son Steve competed at Colorado on the golf team. Irwin’s son, Steve, earned a spot in the 2011 United States Open. 

The St. Louis Children’s Hospital honored Hale Irwin by naming a wing in his honor after he contributed to fundraising efforts there for 25 years. Irwin also likes spending quality time with his grandkids, fishing, hunting, and doing all three. He is the uncle of Heath Irwin, a former lineman at Colorado University.

Irwin was awarded the Payne Stewart Award by the PGA Tour in 2019. This honor was bestowed on him in recognition of his integrity, sportsmanship, and dedication to charitable work.

Current years, Hale and Sally live in Paradise Valley, Arizona. They enjoy spending time with Becky’s two sons as well as remaining active in the golf community.

Read Next: The Amazing Ben Hogan Golf Story: 5 Lessons to Inspire You

Highlighted Wins of Hale Irwin

Irwin’s first victory on the PGA Tour came in 1971 at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. he went on to win three U.S. Opens and two U.S. Senior Open championships and was a member of the United States Ryder Cup team that won in 1991. In addition, he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1992.

These accomplishments are among the most exciting and memorable of his golfing career. On the Champions Tour, Hale finished in the top three 44% of the time and placed in the top 10 72% of the time. 

  • Won the US Open in 1974, 1979, and 1990
  • Participated in the Ryder Cup in 1975, 1977, 1979, 1981, and 1991 and served as captain of the United States Presidents Cup squad in 1994.
  • Held a record 20 wins on the PGA Tour, starting with the Sea Pines Heritage Classic in 1971 and ending with the MCI Heritage Golf Classic in 1994.
  • Winner of the U.S. Senior Open 1998 and 2000 Winner of the 2003 Office Depot Father/Son Challenge alongside son Steve Irwin Personal Best: Won 45 titles on the Champions Tour.

When questioned about career-defining moments, Hale leans towards the 2-iron he struck to win the 1974 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. However, most people will remember him forever for his impromptu jaunt around the 72nd green at Medinah on his way to winning his third U.S. Open Championship. Hale won the U.S. Open three times in total.

Irwin became eligible to play just on the Senior PGA Tour in 1995, which eventually became the Champions Tour and is now known as the PGA Tour Champions.

He had even more success on this level than on the PGA Tour during his time playing on it. Irwin has had 45 victories and earned more than 26 million dollars during his career, making him the all-time leader in both categories until the 2021 season. 

These days Hale Irwin remains busy as ever with maintaining multiple responsibilities as a professional golfer, golf course designer, and family man.

Hale Irwin Golf Courses

Glacier Mountain Club  in Colorado
Photo: Glacier Mountain Club, designed by Hale Irwin

Since 1986 when founding Hale Irwin Golf Design, Irwin has designed an expansive list of golf courses. There are 33+ courses either in-progress, under construction, or currently in use.

His son, Steve Irwin is the President of Hale Irwin Golf Services. Together their goal and primary focus have been on quality over quantity in all of their projects.

Some of their newer golf course projects include:

Fun Facts

Hale Irwin is known for saying that if he could meet any great person, dead or living, it would be Abraham Lincoln. Largely, he significantly impacted our history during a very turbulent period. 

Cypress Point & Winged Foot are two of his favorite golf courses in the United States. Still, he considers Royal Melbourne in Australia his favorite course outside the United States. 

Irwin is one of only five players who have won official events on six continents. The other four golfers who have accomplished this feat are Gary Player, Bernhard Langer, David Graham, and Justin Rose. In addition to that, he has established a successful career as just a golf course designer.

Heath Irwin, the nephew of Hale Irwin, is also a star athlete. He is known for being a past lineman for the Colorado Buffaloes (University of Colorado).

Byron “Whizzer” White, a fellow Colorado University football star who became the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice, is his all-time favorite athlete. 

Read Next: Bernhard Langer: The Incredible Rags to Riches Golf Story

Final Thoughts

Hale Irwin is one of the most successful golfers of all time, with a career spanning over five decades. Even these days, he is still going strong, from golfing to designing courses. With his many accomplishments, especially on the senior tour, it is without a doubt he has more yet to show us.

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Erin has spent over 17 years as a healthcare executive working with seniors in nursing homes, skilled nursing, assisted living, and independent living communities. She also holds a Masters Degree in Social Work and other advanced degrees related to seniors.

Erin grew up playing golf in a family of golf fanatics. She started this site to help others add more enjoyment to the game of life through golf.

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