Leo Diegel, born in Wayne County, was just 17 when he won the first Michigan Open Championship in 1916 at Saginaw Country Club and became one of the world’s top players, though he was often overshadowed by rivals Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen. He also won the Michigan Open again in 1919 after no tournaments were held in 1917 and 1918 because of World War I.
Diegel is arguably the most accomplished Michigan native golfer ever. He is credited with 28 PGA Tour wins, including two major championships, the 1928 and ’29 National PGA Championships, and he won the Canadian Open four times. He beat Hagen in match play on the way to both wins in the PGA Championship and was runner-up in the title match to Hagen in ’26. The U.S. Open title eluded him, though he was in the top 10 eight times and finished second once and third twice. He also was a member of four Ryder Cup teams.
Known as a great ball-striker, he battled a balky putter and eventually developed a unique putting style. His elbows-out technique with a dramatic bend at the waist became known as “Diegeling.” LPGA star Michelle Wie is among the most recent to employ a “Diegeling” look.
Diegel is also known for writing with author Jim Dante the highly regarded instructional book; “The Nine Bad Shots of Golf.” He is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame as well as the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.