This Day In History: October 4

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On October 4, 1895, 21-year-old Englishman Horace Rawlins wins the first U.S. Open golf tournament, edging Willie Dunn and others with a 36-hole total of 173 at the Newport (Rhode Island) Golf Club, an oceanside course.

Rawlins worked at the Newport Golf Club as an assistant to his instructor, William Davis. As the Chicago Chronicle put it, Rawlins’ win “was a surprise to everybody, as he was not expected to make a showing with such men as Davis, Dunn and [Willie] Campbell, but he played superb golf.”

But the New York Times was less charitable: "Rawlins' game was well-balanced, strong in all it elements, yet brilliant in none."

The U.S. Open was completed in a day, with 18 holes played in the morning and 18 in the afternoon. The modern tournament consists of four 18-hole rounds over four days. 

Rawlins trailed after 18 holes, shooting a 45 followed by a 46. He was clutch down the stretch, however, shooting consecutive nine-hole totals of 41  to finish the tournament two strokes ahead of Dunn, who finished with a 175. Rawlins finished five strokes ahead of his instructor, Davis, who finished with back-to-back rounds of 42. Of the 11 golfers who entered the event, only eight finished. 

Organizers reportedly deducted $50 from Rawlins' $200 prize to offset the cost of the gold medal he was given. 

Though he played in the U.S. Open 13 more times, Rawlins was unable to replicate the magic he had in the 1895 tournament. He did, however, have an impressive runner-up finish to James Foulis in 1896 in a field that had expanded from 11 to 35 golfers.