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PGA loses its 'Poison'

Posted: Monday, March 18, 2002

Paul Runyan, the former PGA champion known as ''Little Poison'' for beating the biggest names in golf with his crafty short game, died Sunday morning after a short bout with pneumonia. He was 93.

Jeff Runyan said his father died at Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Springs, Calif. He had been hospitalized a week ago with pneumonia in both lungs.

''He still had so much he wanted to do,'' his son said. ''He was looking forward to going back to the Masters again this year.''

Runyan had been one of the few survivors who played in the first Masters in 1934, finishing two shots behind Horton Smith in a tie for third. He competed in an era that featured Gene Sarazen, Walter Hagen and Sam Snead, and he held his own.

Runyan was a wizard with his short game, and often frustrated the big hitters by scratching out pars, and victories, when it looked as though he was the heavy underdog.

''I was sorry to hear that Paul Runyan was gone,'' Arnold Palmer said from the Bay Hill Invitational. ''He was a great player with an exceptional short game, and he had a wonderful career.''

It was that short game that earned him his nickname.

''I think he liked it,'' his son said. ''He was just cocky enough to enjoy that.''

Born July 12, 1908, in Hot Springs, Ark., Runyan won 26 times on the PGA Tour, including a career-high seven victories in 1933.

His most memorable season was in 1934, when his six victories included the PGA Championship at Park Country Club in Williamsdale, N.Y.

He defeated Craig Wood in the final match, which went 38 holes.

Runyan, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, was equally renowned as an instructor, and continued to give lessons at the Golf Center at Palm Desert as recently as three weeks ago.

Among the clubs where he taught were La Jolla Country Club near San Diego, Sahalee Country Club outside Seattle and Green Gables in Colorado.

Runyan played in the Par 3 Contest at the Masters three years ago, posting a 9-over 36.

''I remember that it was a very important event for us,'' Runyan said at the time. ''Anything that Bobby Jones had anything to do with was important the first time. Of course, nobody at that time would understand how important it has become now.''

His son said funeral services were pending.

Runyan is survived by two sons, Jeff and Paul; and two grandsons, Gentry and Asa. His second wife, Bernice, died in September 2000.



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