Lloyd Mangrum, movie star handsome with a pencil-thin mustache, was one of golf’s toughest competitors. A top player in the 1940s and 1950s, Mangrum was mentioned on the required 75 percent of the PGA TOUR ballots in 1998, during a year when no other player received more than 66 percent of the vote on the returned ballots.
Mangrum, born in Trenton, Texas, in 1914, never had an amateur golf career. He started working as an assistant professional to his brother, Ray, the head professional at Cliff-Dale C.C. in Dallas at the age of 15. He joined the pro tour in 1937 and broke through for his first victory in the 1940 Thomasville Open.
Like so many golfers of his era, Mangrum’s career was interrupted when he entered the military service during World War II. Mangrum served his country with distinction as a staff sergeant in the Third Army. During the invasion of Normandy, his jeep overturned and his arm was broken in two places. Mangrum also suffered shrapnel wounds to his chin and knee during the Battle of the Bulge. He returned home from the war in 1945 with four battle stars and two Purple Hearts.
"I don't suppose that any of the pro and amateur golfers who were combat soldiers, Marines or sailors will soon be able to think of a three-putt green as one of the really bad troubles in life."
After the war, Mangrum returned to golf, competing against Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Jimmy Demaret and Sam Snead. “I don’t suppose that any of the pro and amateur golfers who were combat soldiers, Marines or sailors will soon be able to think of a three-putt green as one of the really bad troubles in life,” Mangrum said after returning from the war.
Appropriately enough, Mangrum won the first post-war U.S. Open in 1946, defeating Byron Nelson and Vic Ghezzi in a playoff with par 72 at Canterbury C.C. in Cleveland, Ohio. Nelson and Ghezzi each shot 73. Because the three were tied after 18 holes, despite Mangrum building a four-stroke lead at one time, the three were forced to go another 18 holes before Mangrum prevailed, just barely, shooting a 72.
In 1948, Mangrum had one of his best years when he won six times and finished in the top 10 in 21 of the tournaments he entered. Long a contender for the game’s top honors, Mangrum lost in a three-man playoff to Ben Hogan in the 1950 U.S. Open at Merion, 69-73. George Fazio shot 75 in the playoff after the trio had tied after 72 holes with seven-over-par 287 totals.
Mangrum was the tour’s leading money winner in 1951 and also won the Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average that year. He was named to six Ryder Cup teams, although the 1941 matches were cancelled, and he served as captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team in 1951.
Lloyd Mangrum served in the U.S. Army during the invasion of Normandy.
A gambler at heart, Mangrum was deadly on and around the greens and these skills helped him win more than 50 tournaments in his career. Mangrum also was a master of the low-flying iron shot into the teeth of the wind.
In the foreword to his instructional book, Golf: A New Approach, Bing Crosby described Mangrum’s game as one of “rhythm, balance and style” and that Mangrum had “an ideal golfing temperament, great competitive spirit and what most folks consider the finest putting touch in the game today.”
A series of heart attacks forced Mangrum into an early retirement from competitive golf. The man who won two Purple Hearts in World War II and battle stars for his courage under fire eventually died from his 12th heart attack in 1973 at the age of 59.
But, as both a soldier and a golfer, Lloyd Mangrum truly had the heart of a champion.