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Walter E. Burkemo (October 9, 1918 – October 8, 1986) was an American professional golfer, best known for winning the PGA Championship in 1953.

Walter Burkemo
Personal information
Full nameWalter E. Burkemo
Born(1918-10-09)October 9, 1918
Detroit, Michigan
DiedOctober 8, 1986(1986-10-08) (aged 67)
Fenton, Michigan
Nationality United States
Turned professionalProfessional
Former tour(s)PGA Tour
Professional wins8
Number of wins by tour
PGA Tour2[1]
Best results in major championships
(wins: 1)
Masters TournamentT6: 1960
PGA ChampionshipWon: 1953
U.S. OpenT4: 1957
The Open ChampionshipDNP
Walter Burkemo
Allegiance United States
Service/branchUS Department of the Army Seal.png U.S. Army
RankArmy-USA-OR-05.svg Sergeant
Battles/warsWorld War II, European Theater
Battle of the Bulge
AwardsPurple Heart ribbon.svg Purple Heart (2)

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Burkemo was the youngest of 13 children of Norwegian immigrants who settled there. He began in golf at the age of 8 by caddying at Lochmoor Country Club in Detroit. Burkemo won his first title in 1938 at the Southern Florida Open; however, World War II intervened soon thereafter and he found himself drafted into the U.S. Army. Burkemo served in the infantry as a sergeant in the European Theater. He was seriously wounded twice, earning two Purple Hearts,[2] the second time during the Battle of the Bulge.

Burkemo resumed his PGA Tour career after recovering from his injuries. He had little success in the late 1940s; but in 1951, his luck began to change when he won his first of four Michigan Opens.[3] His best years in professional golf were in the early 1950s; he won the PGA Championship in 1953 and was runner-up in 1951 and 1954. Although he was one of the most consistent top-10 finishers on the tour, he would go on to win one only more event, the Mayfair Inn Open in 1957. He was a member of the Ryder Cup team in 1953.

The 1953 PGA Championship was played in July at Birmingham Country Club in Birmingham, Michigan, only six miles (10 km) from the Franklin Hills Country Club where Burkemo was club pro. He benefited from a so-called "home field advantage" because during the match play era, the PGA Championship was a marathon of double rounds for five straight days. The week began with 36 holes of qualifying on Wednesday and Thursday, followed by six matches – two rounds at 18 holes each on Friday and the last four rounds at 36 holes, concluding with the final on Tuesday.[3] He also benefited from the fact that Ben Hogan, the reigning Masters and U.S. Open champion, was in Scotland to practice and qualify for the British Open, which started the day after the PGA Championship final match. In an era without any exemptions, the British Open's mandatory 36-hole qualifier immediately preceded the competition on Monday and Tuesday, during the semifinals and finals of the PGA.[4] (After his automobile accident in 1949, Hogan did not enter the PGA Championship until 1960, then a stroke play event.) Burkemo's toughest match en route to the final against Felice Torza was in the semifinals against 1948 Masters champion Claude Harmon. Burkemo was 3 down after 11 holes but rallied and birdied the 36th hole to win 1 up.[3][5]

After the 1954 season, Burkemo returned to life as a club pro because the grind of the PGA Tour was proving too difficult for him to maintain with a wife and four children. He continued to play the tour part-time for the rest of his career. He and his brother Vic opened Burkemo's driving range in St. Clair Shores. For years it was a favorite in the area, grandson David Marsh (son of Janet Burkemo) recalls.

Burkemo was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame and the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame. He died in Fenton a day before his 68th birthday.[3]

PGA Tour wins (2)Edit

Other wins (6)Edit

this list is probably incomplete

Major championshipsEdit

Wins (1)Edit

Year Championship Winning score Runner-up
1953 PGA Championship 2 & 1   Felice Torza

Note: The PGA Championship was match play until 1958

Results timelineEdit

Tournament 1937 1938 1939
Masters Tournament
U.S. Open CUT
PGA Championship
Tournament 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949
Masters Tournament NT NT NT
PGA Championship NT
Tournament 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959
Masters Tournament T42 T22 T15 T17 CUT CUT T22
U.S. Open T36 CUT T40 CUT CUT T29 T4 T5 WD
PGA Championship 2 R16 1 2 R64 R16 3 T16 T17
Tournament 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
Masters Tournament T6 T11 CUT T43 CUT
U.S. Open T49 CUT T8 CUT T22
PGA Championship T24 14 T39 CUT T17 T41 CUT CUT CUT
Tournament 1970 1971
Masters Tournament
U.S. Open
PGA Championship CUT CUT

Note: Burkemo never played in The Open Championship

  Top 10
  Did not play

WD = withdrew
CUT = missed the half-way cut
R64, R32, R16, QF, SF = Round in which player lost in PGA Championship match play
"T" indicates a tie for a place


Tournament Wins 2nd 3rd Top-5 Top-10 Top-25 Events Cuts made
Masters Tournament 0 0 0 0 1 6 12 8
U.S. Open 0 0 0 2 3 4 14 8
The Open Championship 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
PGA Championship 1 2 1 4 6 11 20 14
Totals 1 2 1 6 10 21 46 30
  • Most consecutive cuts made – 6 (1951 PGA – 1954 Masters)
  • Longest streak of top-10s – 2 (1957 U.S. Open – 1957 PGA)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Barkow, Al (November 1989). The History of the PGA TOUR. Doubleday. p. 254. ISBN 0-385-26145-4.
  2. ^ Sell, Jack (July 2, 1951). "It's been a tight squeeze for Burkemo all the way". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 16.
  3. ^ a b c d "In Ben's Shadow". Golf Digest. Archived from the original on November 9, 2004. Retrieved July 31, 2006.
  4. ^ "Burkemo Wins P.G.A. - Locke Paces British Qualifiers". Montreal Gazette. Associated Press. July 8, 1953. p. 21. Retrieved January 2, 2013.
  5. ^ "Burkemo, Torza Win Way Into P.G.A. Final Round". Montreal Gazette. Associated Press. July 7, 1953. p. 17. Retrieved January 2, 2013.

External linksEdit