A golfer's nickname can come in many forms. From the most straightforward, i.e., which way round they play the game, to the reverential and then to the amusing and pretty much scathing. Golf probably isn't the greatest of sports for nicknames, with a general lack of imagination, but there are plenty of crackers.
One player is referred to on Tour as 'Eleven-erife' as he always likes to go one better than his peers. Then there's 'Bomb Scare' who was known to empty rooms with his conversation.
We chart some of our favourites, which include pretty much all the greats who have ever teed it up.
PHIL MICKELSON - LEFTY
This isn't the most imaginative of nicknames but it's certainly one of the most recognisable. Mickelson is naturally right-handed but learnt the game by mirroring his father's swing and he would go on to become just the third left-hander to win a Major, following Bob Charles and Mike Weir. He now has six of them and is only missing the US Open from the career Grand Slam.
SAM SNEAD - SLAMMIN' SAM
Samuel Jackson Snead was a phenomenal ball striker and long hitter, hence the nickname. Gary Player would single him out as having the best swing of all time and his swing is still mirrored today. In 1949 he would win two of the three Majors and was tied second in the US Open, a Major that would elude him. Snead remains, along with Tiger Woods, as the most successful golfer on the PGA Tour with 82 victories.
From Frank Urban Zoeller Jr we were given Fuzzy and a golfer who has always been known by just their nickname. Zoeller is on the tip of everyone's tongue when The Masters comes around as he remains the only modern-day player to win at Augusta on his debut in 1979 – he would only have one top 10 in 30 further visits – and he would follow that up with a US Open five years later.
BILLY CASPER - BUFFALO BILL
Supposedly Casper ate buffalo meat and organic vegetables to try and keep his weight down and, after moving to this diet, he would go on a big winning run. Casper, who would have 11 children, is generally regarded as one of the most underrated players of all time and one of the best putters. Come the end of his career he would sign off with three Majors and 51 PGA Tour victories, one shy of Byron Nelson.
MIGUEL ANGEL JIMENEZ - THE MECHANIC
It's often thought that Jimenez is called The Mechanic due to his love of fast cars and Ferraris which ties in with his penchant for the high life. The reality is slightly different as he explains here: "I did work in a garage before I played golf. People started to call me The Mechanic in 1999, probably because of the way I am on the course. I'm methodical, and that's why they call me The Mechanic."
BEN HOGAN - THE HAWK/BANTAM BEN/WEE ICE MON
Hogan picked up nicknames like he did Majors. He was known as The Hawk, Bantam Ben and The Wee Ice Mon. The last of these was picked up at Carnoustie in 1953, his only Open appearance, and is a reference to his nerveless display. Bantam Ben was given to him as, at 5ft 8in, he was short but aggressive, like a bantam. As for The Hawk this was based on his meticulous attention to detail in all areas of the game.
JOANNE CARNER - BIG MAMA
Carner was affectionately known as Big Mama due to her uncomplicated power. Bizarrely, for someone who won 49 times, she only turned professional at the age of 30 having captured five US Women's Amateur titles. Her greatest days came at the US Women's Open, which she won by seven in 1971 before a second victory in 1976. From the mid '70s to the mid '80s she was pretty much an ever-present in the top five of the Majors.
BEN CRENSHAW - GENTLE BEN
Despite seemingly fitting his demeanour in his later career, Crenshaw was actually given the moniker 'Gentle Ben' ironically due to his temper, which was feisty in his younger days. The American will always be associated with Augusta and his two Green Jackets of 1984 and 1995, the second of which came just days after burying his long-time mentor Harvey Penick. Crenshaw was so incredible on the greens that even his putter had a nickname, Little Ben. These days he is a renowned course architect.
ELDRICK TONT WOODS - TIGER
The Tiger in Tiger Woods comes from his father Earl's friend, the South Vietnamese Colonel and lost comrade Vuong Dang Phong who had also been known as Tiger. "I instinctively knew that my son was going to have fame. Someday my old friend would see him on television, read about him in a newspaper or magazine, and say, 'That must be Woody's kid,' and we'd find each other again." YearS later he would discover his grave in North Vietnam.
JACK NICKLAUS - GOLDEN BEAR
There are a few versions of how the Golden Bear was christened with one often-repeated story being when sportswriter Don Ward used it in a piece for Golf Digest in 1961. Ward was struck by Nicklaus' stout physique and blond hair. Another is that Nicklaus chose it after visiting Columbus Zoo where he saw a bear that was painted gold for an exhibit. In his early days he was labelled 'Ohio Fats' due to his portly frame.
ARNOLD PALMER - THE KING
Palmer was first labelled 'The King' in the 1960s and it very quickly stuck. The man who would bring The Open back to life, win four Masters in alternate years and light up any back nine, wore the crown very easily. Palmer would sign every autograph, decorate any magazine cover and would end up with 95 professional wins. Palmer, the last playing Ryder Cup captain, died in 2016 at the age of 87.
MILDRED ELLA DIDRIKSON ZAHARIAS - BABE
Mildred Ella 'Babe' Didrikson Zaharias was quite remarkable. She won two golds and a silver in track and field at the 1932 Summer Olympics, excelled in basketball and baseball, and then turned her hand to golf and won 10 Majors. She claims to have been called 'Babe' after hitting five home runs in a childhood baseball game though her Norwegian mother had called her 'Bebe' from her early days.
CHARLES HOWELL III - CHUCKY THREE STICKS
This is one of the great nicknames and was coined by ESPN's Charlie Rymer in Howell's very early days on Tour due to his three Roman numeral IIIs. The Augusta native was thought to be the next big thing, with a swing and shoulder turn to die for, but it never really materialised. Chucky would have three PGA Tour wins to his name when he signed with LIV Golf in the middle of 2022.
ERNIE ELS - BIG EASY
One look at Els' effortless move through the ball and it's very easy (pun intended) to see where his moniker comes from. The 6ft 3in South African has four Majors to his name and, in another era, he might well have doubled that. Behind Greg Norman, he's maybe the next unluckiest golfer not to have won The Masters. Els has many business interests including his wine range, which includes the Big Easy offerings.
MICHELLE WIE - BIG WIESY
Supposedly Ernie Els sung Wie's praises in her early days and the 'Big Wiesy' was a play on words on the South African's nickname. For talent, and hype, the one-time Major winner was out on her own but things never quite played out. She would make the cut in eight Majors as an amateur and then finish inside the top three in her first three pro Majors before stepping away from the game in 2022.
MARK JAMES - JESSE
It's unclear where 'Jesse' comes from given there's no likeness and, as far as we know, the Yorkshireman has no history of being a gun-toting outlaw. More likely is that it just fits nicely with his surname and he's carried it well over the past few decades. James would skipper the European team at Brookline in 1999 and led his side to a four-point lead before the Americans, and those shirts, turned the match on its head.
PAUL LAWRIE - CHIPPIE
If you've ever watched Lawrie around the greens then you'll quickly understand where 'Chippie' comes from. The Scot, an absolute wizard with his wedges, is obviously best known for his Open win at Carnoustie in 1999 but his work to develop the game is unstinting. In 2021 the St Andrews Brewing Company launched a new Chippie range of beers, brewed on his behalf, with proceeds going towards the development of the game in Scotland.
CRAIG STADLER - THE WALRUS
The moustache and Stadler's bulky frame lend themselves easily to the 'Walrus' moniker. Things moved on in recent years with the arrival of his son, Kevin Stadler, who quickly picked up the nickname of 'Smallrus'. They were the first father and son combo to play in The Masters, a place where Dad was victorious in 1982. Otherwise Stadler Sr is well known for his part in the movie Tin Cup where he appeared as himself.
HAL SUTTON - HALIMONEY
Sutton has three ex-wives, hence this one. The 2004 Ryder Cup skipper had two distinct parts to his playing career; he'd won a Major, the 1983 PGA, two years after turning pro and he seemed the natural successor to Jack Nicklaus. There followed some bleaker times before he returned and landed a second Players crown when he saw off Tiger Woods in 2000. And with it one of the greatest sayings... 'Be the right club, today.'
SCOTT HOCH - THE CHOKE
Hoch had a two-foot putt to win The Masters in 1989 but then saw it slip by the hole on Augusta's 10th green. Minutes later Nick Faldo rolled in a putt across the 11th green and Hoch was left with one of the most unwanted nicknames in the game. He had already missed a four-footer at the 71st hole. “I’m glad I don’t carry a gun with me,” said Hoch after the play-off.
TONY LEMA - CHAMPAGNE TONY
Late in the 1962 season Lema would turn his career around when he won three times. At the Orange County Open Invitational he told the media that he would serve them champagne if he won. And there was born one of the great nicknames. He would win The Open at St Andrews by five shots in 1964 but, at the age of 32 and just two years later, he would be killed in a plane crash.
FRED COUPLES - BOOM BOOM
Back in the day Couples' driving was sensationally good and very long, hence the nickname. In 1981, his first year on the PGA Tour, he would average a whopping 277 yards off the tee with his languid and rhythmic move through the ball. The American likely deserved more than his one Major and he certainly deserved a crack at the Ryder Cup captaincy having led the Presidents Cup side to three straight wins.
LEE TREVINO - MERRY MEX/SUPER MEX
Trevino was actually born in Texas, into a family of Mexican ancestry. If you're looking for a few on-course funnies then the six-time Major winner would be top of most people's list – on one occasion Tony Jacklin would comment that he didn't want to engage in any chat. To which Trevino replied: "I don't want you to talk. I just want you to listen." Trevino remains one of the greatest swingers of all time.
JOHN DALY - WILD THING
The stories of Daly's excesses have all been well told, with decades of drinking, betting and four ex-wives. Few have seemingly burst onto the scene in more dramatic fashion than when he gripped and ripped his way to a PGA victory in 1991. Four years later he would add The Open. He regularly topped the driving distance stats yet still had a magical touch around the greens. What we would have given for at least one Ryder Cup appearance.
GREG NORMAN - GREAT WHITE SHARK
Supposedly Norman got his nickname in the early 80s from his fishing antics – "It takes a while to pull the fish up and when you do, the sharks have had them. You get frustrated. So I shot the sharks around my boat." Helped by his jet-blond hair and aggressive style of play the shark logo is emblazoned across many of the Aussie's business ventures. Indeed his website can be found at www.shark.com.
WOODY AUSTIN - AQUAMAN
This seemed to be the done thing at the time. In 2008 Richard Finch fell in the water at the Irish Open, en route to his victory. At the previous year's Presidents Cup Austin went head first while attempting a recovery from beside the 14th green in Montreal. He and David Toms would lose the hole but three birdies coming home halved the match. In the singles against Angel Cabrera he would wear a pair of swimming goggles.
PAULA CREAMER - PINK PANTHER
US tour pro Casey Wittenberg apparently christened Creamer the 'Pink Panther' due to her penchant for wearing the colour. The American barely misses a trick and most photos of her throughout the years will generally involve some element of pink. Her greatest day came at the 2010 US Women's Open when she won by four shots at the venerable Oakmont – needless to say she was in her favourite colour.
TIM HERRON - LUMPY
This isn't the most flattering of nicknames and it came from a high-school job at a golf course in Minnesota. Herron had gone out to pick up balls and, when he returned to the pro shop, he was met with ‘Lumpy, how are ya doin?' When he won on the PGA Tour in 1996 this story was unearthed and it has stuck since then. He would go on to win four times on Tour.
CRAIG PARRY - POPEYE
One look at Parry's forearms will tell you how he got his nickname. The Aussie was a regular winner around the world with his uncomplicated swing and he would occasionally threaten in the Majors. At the 1999 Open at Carnoustie had Parry parred the last two holes he would have joined the play-off. Bizarrely he double-bogeyed the 17th and then holed a bunker shot for a birdie on 18, in front of his playing partner Jean van de Velde.
LOREN ROBERTS - BOSS OF THE MOSS
Roberts has pocketed over $15m in career earnings thanks in part to a red-hot putter. The Boss of the Moss was always destined for great things on the greens. Former Masters champ Cary Middlecoff said in the mid-1980s: "We've got a kid back home (in Tennessee) who is just a beautiful putter. He'll just break your heart on the greens, he's so pure. If he ever gets to believing in himself, he could really be something to watch."
STEVE PATE - VOLCANO
Pate was well known for his eruptions on the course. The American, who played on two winning Ryder Cup teams, once tackled, with his shoulder, a tee sign that offended him. Few things were safe when Pate saw the red mist though he was a regular threat throughout the 1990s. When someone asked David Duval if he ever lost his temper on the golf course, he quipped, “regular mad, or Steve Pate mad?” High praise indeed.
GLEN DAY - ALL DAY
Journeyman Day has done what few other golfers have managed to do in that he received a slow-play penalty in a tournament. At the 1995 Honda Classic Day was penalised a shot and 54-hole leader Mark O’Meara complained about having to wait on every shot. The moniker 'All Day' was given to him by none other than Jack Nicklaus which is a nice thing to have on your CV.