Eddie Merrins, who was affectionately known as “The Li’l Pro” and one of the most accomplished and decorated PGA professionals, died on Nov.22. CBS Sports’s Jim Nantz, a longtime close personal friend, confirmed his passing on Wednesday morning in Los Angeles after a long illness at age 91.
“The famed ‘Li’l Pro’ was a giant in the game,” Nantz said.
Merrins devoted his professional career to teaching the game as the longtime head professional at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles (and eventually pro emeritus). In his spare time, he coached the UCLA men’s golf team to the 1988 NCAA title. During his 14-year tenure, Merrins coached 16 All-Americans, including Corey Pavin, Steve Pate, Tom Pernice Jr., Duffy Waldorf, Scott McCarron, Bob May and Brandt Jobe. At one time, eight of his former players represented the school on the PGA Tour, more than any other program.
“He taught me that if you want something you have to go get it yourself,” McCarron said via text. “No one is going to hand it to you.”
After starting his career at Merion Golf Club, Merrins moved to New York where he was elected to PGA membership and spent a year as a teaching professional at Westchester Country Club and two years as the head professional at Rockaway Hunting Club on Long Island.
Legendary UCLA coach and teaching professional Eddie Merrins has passed away at the age of 91.
— UCLA Men’s Golf (@uclamensgolf) November 23, 2023
During that tenure, he won both the 1961 Metropolitan PGA Championship and the 1961 Long Island Open. An outstanding collegiate golfer at LSU, Merrins won the SEC title twice (in 1953 and ’54) and was the NCAA runner-up in 1952.
As a professional, he competed in over 200 PGA Tour events, including eight USGA Open Championships, six PGA Championships, two British Opens and six PGA Club Professional Championships. He fell one victory shy at the 1954 U.S. Amateur of earning an invite to the Masters.
Back in those days, quarterfinalists were invited (now just the finalists receive that distinction). Merrins lost to Bob Sweeney, who reached the final before some young upstart named Arnold Palmer bested him on the 36th hole.