North State Journal’s 100 in 100 series will showcase the best athlete from each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. From Alamance to Yancey, each county will feature one athlete who stands above the rest. Some will be obvious choices, others controversial, but all of our choices are worthy of being recognized for their accomplishments — from the diamond and gridiron to racing ovals and the squared circle. You can see all the profiles as they’re unveiled here.
Floyd was such an accomplished baseball player that he was offered a contract with a $25,000 signing bonus by the Cleveland Indians following his graduation from Fayetteville High School in 1960. But as the son of a golf professional — his father ran the enlisted man’s course at Fort Bragg for 21 years — he was even better as a golfer. So he turned down the Indians to accept a golf scholarship at UNC, where he stayed only one semester before turning pro.
“I was a pretty good pitcher as a kid in Fayetteville, North Carolina,” he said in a New York Times article in 1976. “I could throw a screwball, which is unusual for a young right hander, and I also had a slider. I had an offer to sign with a major league team, but I chose golf instead.”
It turned out to be a good decision. His first career victory came at the age of 20 in March 1963.
Six years later he won his first major title with the first of his two PGA Championships. Floyd added a Masters green jacket to his collection in 1976, leading wire-to-wire on the way to an eight-shot triumph, then became the oldest player to date to win a U.S. Open by shooting a final round 66 to beat Greg Norman in 1986 at the age of 43 years and nine months.
Floyd finished his career with 22 victories and is one of only two golfers, joining fellow Hall of Famer Sam Snead, to win PGA Tour events in four different decades. He added 14 wins on the Champions Tour after turning 50. In addition to his individual success, Floyd was a member of eight Ryder Cup teams. He also served as captain of the U.S. squad in 1989.