In 1959, 43-year-old Marty Furgol won the San Diego Open for his fourth PGA Tour title. As he accepted the $2,800 winner’s check, he addressed the crowd of 10,000 surrounding the 18th green at Mission Valley Country Club, giving credit to his caddie. “We conferred a lot, and he helped me. I’m going to pay Mr. Riggs the usual $7 per round, plus 5 percent of the purse, which amounts to another $140,” Furgol said, adding, “He needs a new set of teeth.”
In “A Golfer’s Life,” Arnold Palmer wrote Furgol had a “host of eccentricities.” Lack of a social filter was only one of them. Furgol was a nervous ball of energy who fidgeted constantly. He talked incessantly during rounds, either muttering to himself or bantering with the gallery. He often spaced out and wandered into players’ shot paths. Fans enjoyed Furgol’s goofiness when he wasn’t ordering them to stand still, which he did regularly. However, pros didn’t relish playing with him because of his erratic, often annoying behavior.
Despite his idiosyncrasies, Furgol won five times on the PGA Tour and was a member of the 1955 U.S. Ryder Cup team.
“They called him ‘Crazy Marty’ because he talked to himself all the time,” former tour pro Bob Zimmerman recalled recently. Because of a rainout at the 1961 Baton Rouge Open, Zimmerman got to go 36 holes with Furgol and Sam Snead. “So here I am, 19 years old, playing with Sam Snead, one of the greatest players of all time, who’s not talking at all, and the other person is Furgol and he’s talking to himself, and I’m in the middle of them for 36 holes. He was quite a character, no doubt about that.”
Martin A. Furgol was born January 5, 1916 in New York Mills, a small town of about 3,000 in central New York near Utica, not a place one would expect to be a spawning ground for pro golfers. Yet, there were two successful PGA Tour pros from New York Mills. They were both named Furgol. The other was Ed Furgol, who was a year younger than Marty, and who would become the better known of the two because of his win at the 1954 U.S. Open.
According to an online source, there are about 250 people worldwide named Furgol, 35 of whom reside in the United States. Thus, perhaps the weirdest part of this story is that two successful PGA Tour players with a rare surname, born one year apart in the same small town, were not at all related, a fact the two surely grew tired of explaining.
Marty Furgol started caddying and playing golf at age 9. He developed a smooth swing and became skilled enough to drop out of high school after 10th grade and embark on a life as an itinerant club professional, knocking around New York, New Hampshire and Florida. In September 1938, Furgol paid $10 to enter the Glens Falls Open in upstate New York, which was won by 1936 U.S. Open champion Tony Manero. Furgol finished 21st, behind future Hall of Famers Snead, Gene Sarazen, Craig Wood, Ben Hogan and Paul Runyan, to earn $25.
In March 1941, Furgol enlisted in the military and served stateside during World War II. In 1943, he made national news for the first time. The Associated Press reported that Corporal Martin Furgol entered the Greater New York Army and Navy tournament at Bethpage Park on Long Island after hitchhiking from Fort Hancock on the Jersey shore, a distance of 90 miles, with borrowed clubs, shoes and a ball. Carrying the clubs himself, he won the tournament.
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