If any one player personifies the combination of effortless ease, flawless technique and hidden competitive fire, it was Julius Boros.
Everything about the phlegmatic former accountant conveyed relaxation and imperturbability. But when an opportunity to win a championship was on the line, few converted as efficiently or as briskly as Boros.
Boros never took a practice swing, and didn’t tarry on the greens. “Julius wasn’t the kind of man who bent over too much,” said Dave Marr with his trademark pith. “He was slowest and fastest,” wrote Golf Digest editor Jerry Tarde. “Slowest walking to the ball and fastest once he got to it.”
Although he did not turn professional until the age of 29, and despite suffering from physical maladies all his life, Boros put together a career that was remarkable for its consistency, longevity and brilliance. He won 18 times between 1952 and 1968, including three major championships. He was PGA Player of the Year in 1952 and 1963, led the money list in 1952 and 1955 and played on four Ryder Cup teams.
“By the time you get to your ball, if you don't know what to do with it, try another sport.”
His first victory was the 1952 U.S. Open, which he won by four at Northwood C.C. in Dallas. He won the championship again in 1963 at Brookline, birdieing two of the last three holes to get into a playoff with Arnold Palmer and Jackie Cupit, and defeating them with a flawless 70 in the playoff. It made him, at 43, the oldest winner of the championship since Ted Ray. Then, in 1968, Boros won the PGA Championship in San Antonio by again defeating Palmer down the stretch and, at 48, became the oldest ever winner of a major.
Besides majors, Boros had a way of winning big-money events. He won the World Championship of Golf in 1952 and 1955 when the first prize was an astronomical $50,000. His last victory was the 1968 Westchester Classic, which then had the biggest first prize in golf at $50,000. In 1975, the 55-year-old Boros came within a whisker of becoming the oldest winner ever of a PGA TOUR event, losing a sudden-death playoff to Gene Littler at Westchester. Asked when he was going to retire, Boros answered, “Retire to what? I’m already a golfer and a fisherman. I have nothing to retire to.”
The son of Hungarian immigrants, Boros was born March 3, 1920, in Fairfield, Conn. A big man at 6 feet and considerably more than 200 pounds, he had a nonchalant bearing that earned him the nickname “Moose.” He learned to take things even easier after discovering during his military stint that he had a bad heart. Despite his apparent imperturbability, he admitted, “I was as apprehensive as the next guy in a tight situation. It felt like razor blades in my stomach.”
Julius Boros was undefeated in Ryder Cup Foursomes play, compiling a 5-0-2 record.
The biggest reason Boros was able to last so long was that his technique was so free of strain and technically correct. Boros’ motto was “swing easy, hit hard,” and he could produce plenty of power. Yet the overall effect was one of grace and control, fairways and greens. “Julius Boros is all hands and wrists, like a man dusting the furniture,” said 1964 British Open champion Tony Lema. His iron shots in particular landed with unique softness, as if by a parachute. He was also the master of the sand wedge, particularly out of deep rough around the green, his soft, slow swing feathering the ball with uncanny touch.
It all reflected itself in his success at the championship that is most about control, the U.S. Open. Boros finished in the top five of the U.S. Open nine times between 1951 and 1965. And as late as 1973, he was tied for the lead after 62 holes before finishing tied for seventh.
Boros won the 1977 PGA Seniors’ Championship and played a key role in the launch of the Champions Tour by making the final birdie putt on the sixth extra hole of sudden death that gave partner Roberto De Vicenzo and him victory over Tommy Bolt and Art Wall in the 1979 Legends of Golf. Boros died on a golf course near his home in Florida May 28, 1994. His son, Guy, won the 1996 Greater Vancouver Open, making the Boroses one of only three father-son tandems to have won on the PGA TOUR.