Harry Givan could best be described as a versatile performer who wore many hats during his illustrious golfing career. He was a caddie; a high school athlete who excelled in golf, basketball and baseball; a college graduate; an accomplished engineer; insurance broker, fund-raiser and campaign manager; opera singer; sports columnist; and last but certainly not least, a dedicated family man.
Givan had the endurance and talent to successfully compete against two generations of golfers. During the pre-World War II era, he vanquished national-caliber players like Lawson Little, Johnny Goodman and Johnny Fischer, and local Walker Cuppers like Doc Willing, Scotty Campbell, Bud Ward, Don Moe and Jack Westland. The list doesn't end there. Throw in numerous local and state champions like Johnny Shields, Frank and Ben Dolp, Bon Stein, Leslie Leal and, north of the border, Ken Black. After the war, Givan went toe-to-toe with such fine players as Bruce Cudd, Dick Yost, Al Mengert, Dick Price and Ray Weston.
The Early Years
When he was nine years old, Harry's parents moved him and his sister from Sequim, Washington, to an uncle's residence in Seattle. Even at that young age, Harry exhibited the skills of a fine athlete. At Seattle's Lincoln High School, he turned out for football, baseball, basketball and golf, with golf at the bottom of his list of favorite sports. One day, he and a friend decided to earn extra pocket change by caddying at Seattle Golf Club. While on the job, he learned to play golf by watching golf professional Bob Johnstone (the all-time leader in Northwest Open wins with eight) and some of Seattle's better players, such as Al Espinosa, the pro at Inglewood Country Club.
Givan's breakthrough in golf came when he won Seattle's City Caddie Championship at the original Glendale Country Club (now called Glen Acres). He later said he'd "only played a bit but managed to shoot 75." Givan's athletic gift served him well in golf. Seattle attorney and former PNGA President, Carl Jonson, remembered Harry in high school. "He was a tremendous athlete. In golf he had a great shoulder turn, kind of like Fred Couples. He could hit the ball a long way." William Steedman of the Seattle P.I. wrote of Givan's first win:
"Harry Givan, an unconcerned young man, is an accomplished golfer for one of his years and has already earned some fame on the links. Last year he broke into print when he scored a hole-in-one at Inglewood and won the club's bag-toters championship."
Givan was forced to give up caddying on his 16th birthday to avoid being considered a professional looper. There wasn't much money in professional golf during this period, so Harry retained his amateur status and supported his family through a successful insurance business.
Givan's First Big Tournament Foray
In 1929 Givan played in his first PNGA Men's Amateur, losing in the first round to a star player from Seattle's Sand Point Country Club, Lloyd Nordstrom. During the early 1930's, Givan rarely played golf as he concentrated on his studies while working side jobs. "I had to earn money to put myself through the University. There was no one else there to supply the money. It was up to me. Golf was never the Alpha and Omega of my life."
In 1933 Harry graduated from the University of Washington with honors in Engineering, and went to work for Puget Sound Power & Light. Givan, who by then was a member of the Olympic View Golf Club (no longer in existence) in Seattle's Ballard district, was settled financially and enjoyed a challenging job. In 1933 Givan entered the Washington State Men's Amateur Championship at Spokane Country Club. His graceful and compact swing was in fine working order for the event. After qualifying with a sizzling 66, Harry romped through the field and won the event, beating Bob White, 3 & 1, in the final.
It wasn't until 1935 at Seattle Golf Club that his fellow PNGA contestants got a glimpse of his natural ability. Seattleites came out in droves to see the final that year, which pitted local stars Givan and Scotty Campbell. The two fought gallantly, with Scotty winning in overtime on the 37th hole.
A Surprise Pick for the Walker Cup Team
While playing a practice round in June 1936 prior to the PNGA Men's Amateur Championship at Point Grey Golf & Country Club in Vancouver, B.C., Harry received word that he'd been selected for the Walker Cup Team. After reaching only the round of 16 in the 1935 U.S. Amateur, Givan doubted he would be named to the team. But that was the year the selection committee sent messages to all male amateur golfers which stated they'd consider qualities other than playing abilities and scores when it picked team members, namely etiquette and sportsmanship.
At the PNGA Men's Amateur Championship, the unheralded Givan proceeded to show the Eastern selectors they hadn't erred in choosing him. In the quarterfinal, he met a player who could hit the ball as far as he could: Vancouver, B.C.'s Stan Leonard. Givan demolished Leonard, 7 & 5. But the match of the tournament was Givan's conquest of one of California's star players, Sherman Elsworthy, 8 & 7.
In the final, Givan met a young junior from Marine Drive Golf Club, Jim Robertson, the first Vancouverite to reach the final of a PNGA Men's Championship. Givan, who played every round at Point Grey under par, was not about to let a junior grab the crown. The most memorable shot for Harry came on the 10th hole in the morning round. As he recalled later, "I hooked my drive to the edge of the rough behind a bushy tree. I hit an iron which curled around the tree towards the pin. The ball appeared to bounce a couple of times and stopped on the lip."
In the PNGA Men's Amateur Championship at Tacoma Country & Golf Club the following year, two Walker Cuppers battled it out in the final. For Don Moe, it was the first success he'd had in a championship for a couple of years due to illness. The two talented golfers did not disappoint the gallery. With Harry leading 2-up after the morning round, Moe went to work and matched Givan's birdie barrage; each of the next several holes were tied or won with a birdie. Givan turned up the pressure even more on the 25th hole, winning with a par, then he birdied the 27th, 29th and 30th holes. The match was over, and Givan successfully defended his crown.
In the late 1930's, Harry changed professions and went to work in New York for an insurance firm. For him to enter PNGA events he had to "commute," playing at a Northwest course during the week and then returning to the Big Apple on Sunday. Though inconvenienced, Givan managed to reach the semifinals in 1939 and the finals in 1940, losing on both occasions to eventual winner Jack Westland.
Return to Northwest Spurs Givan On
When he permanently returned to the Northwest in 1940, Harry showed his dominance again, going on to win the 1942 Northwest Open as well as other regional titles. Former PNGA Men's Amateur champion, George Holland, described Givan's game during the early 1940's. "The unique thing about Harry was that he could manufacture shots. He could hit it long, hit it high, hit it soft. His body would do what he needed to put the ball where it was supposed to go."
In 1945 Harry was the tournament chairman for the inaugural Seattle Open, a PGA Tour event. Despite his tournament responsibilities, he finished second to the great Byron Nelson. A memorable moment came when he out-drove the big-hitting Lawson Little with a 327-yard moonshot. Givan later beat Sam Snead in an exhibition at Seattle Golf Club. The sweet-swinging Virginian "was as mad as hell" after falling to the "Seattle Bomber." For his contributions to business and sport, Givan was named the first recipient of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's "Man of the Year" Award in 1945.
An Amazing Career Continues
Following World War II, Givan re-established himself in the PNGA by winning Men's Amateur titles in 1945 and 1946. The 1945 event was originally scheduled for Jericho Country Club in Vancouver, B.C., but the course had closed during the war. No matter. Givan returned to the site of his first PNGA victory at Point Grey and won again. As one local reporter commented, "The truth of the old adage, that class will always tell when the chips are on the line, was firmly hammered home [by Givan's win] at Point Grey." Harry didn't play particularly well that week, but managed to reach the final against old friend Kenny Black. Black's putting was not up to par and he lost, 4 & 3. Givan then defended his title in 1946 against Ernie Jonson at Fircrest Golf Club in Tacoma.
Though he took an extended sabbatical following the win in 1946, Givan was not through competing in PNGA events. "I won it four times and then gave it up and came back 15 years later and won it again in 1961. I birdied the last four holes in a row [for the victory].''
In 1970 Givan was inducted into the Washington State Sports Hall of Fame. In 1978 Harry, along with golfing buddies Jack Westland and Frank Dolp as well as promoter Robert Hudson in the "Builder's Category," was among the inaugural inductees in the Pacific Northwest Golf Hall of Fame.