Australia’s Greatest Golfer: Steve Elkington v Bruce Devlin


So just how did two youngsters born 130 kilometres apart in the New South Wales Northern Tablelands and who both learned their golf in the state’s south-west end up sharing a place in the Texas Golf Hall of Fame?

Although Steve Elkington was born two years after Bruce Devlin shot to prominence by winning the 1960 Australian Open as an amateur, the pair trod an eerily similar path to reach the upper echelons of world golf.

Devlin was convinced by none other than Norman von Nida to quit his father’s plumbing business in Goulburn and take his golf talents abroad while some 20 years later Elkington blazed a trail by leaving his home town of Wagga Wagga to take up a scholarship at the University of Houston.

Already an accomplished amateur in his home country, Elkington quickly showed that Aussies could further their careers and be valuable additions to US college programs by playing a leading role in the Cougars’ squad that won national titles in 1982, 1984 and 1985.

That college career – and a runner-up finish to Nick Price at the 1992 Texas Open – secured Elkington’s place in the history books of the Lone Star State and provided the grounding for one of the best PGA TOUR records of any Australian player.

Only six Australian players have more PGA TOUR wins than Elkington’s 10 and his 1995 US PGA Championship at Riviera Country Club elevated his standing in golf history to the very elite level.

Starting the final round six strokes back of South African Ernie Els, Elkington’s aggressive approach led to a near flawless 64 and a playoff showdown with Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie, a playoff he would win with yet another birdie at the first extra hole.

Renowned as one of the game’s purest ball-strikers, Elkington would twice come to the fore at what is unofficially dubbed ‘the fifth major’, The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, the most notable of which was a seven-stroke demolition of the field in 1997.

As Elkington was a trailblazer for young Aussies considering using the college system to play their way into the opportunities offered by the PGA TOUR, Devlin was one of the first Australians to make a permanent base for themselves in the US.

A resident of Texas to this day, Devlin joined the PGA TOUR in 1962 when foreign players were few and far between and quickly established his credentials as one of the leading players on tour.

His first win came in 1964 at the St Petersburg Open Invitational and three of his eight PGA TOUR titles would come in Texas, the 1966 Colonial National Invitation, the 1969 Byron Nelson Golf Classic and the 1972 Houston Open, one of two wins that year that saw Devlin finish eighth on the moneylist with prizemoney of $US119,768.

Although he didn’t emulate Elkington’s feat of winning a major championship Devlin was a regular contender in golf’s showpiece events, with five top-10 finishes in each of the Masters, US Open and Open Championship, his five top-10s in The Open coming in successive years from 1964-1968.

At the completion of his playing days Devlin turned his talents to course design and made a lasting impression with designs at 16 Texas courses, including at TPC Woodlands that was a long-time host of the Houston Open.

Both Devlin and Elkington have been immortalised with their inductions into the Texas World Golf Hall of Fame; now they are seeking to stay in contention to be crowned Australia’s Greatest Golfer.

Bruce Devlin
Career wins: 31
PGA TOUR wins: 8
Australasian Tour wins: 19
Australian Open: Won (1960)
Australian PGA: Won (1969, 1970)
Round 1 def. Frank Phillips
Round 2 def. Hannah Green

Steve Elkington
Career wins: 17
Major wins: 1 (1995 US PGA Championship)
PGA TOUR wins: 10
Australasian Tour wins: 1
Australian Open: Won (1992)
Australian PGA: T44 (2003)
Round 1 def. Peter O’Malley
Round 2 def. Rachel Hetherington


Headlines at a glance