North was born in Thorp, Wisconsin, and raised in Monona, Wisconsin. He attended Monona Grove High School, graduating in 1968. He won the 1969 Wisconsin State Amateur Championship at Merrill Hills Country Club in Waukesha, Wisconsin by defeating Richard Sucher in a match play final.
North accepted an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, where he played for coach Buster Bishop's Florida Gators men's golf team from 1969 to 1972. He was a three-time first-team All-Southeastern Conference (SEC) selection, and an All-American in 1970, 1971 and 1972. North graduated from Florida with a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1972, and was later inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as "Gator Great."
North turned professional in 1972. He had a moderately successful career on the PGA Tour made remarkable by the fact that two of his three wins on the Tour were in the U.S. Open. The first PGA Tour win of North's career came at the 1977 American Express Westchester Classic. He was 28 years old when he won the 1978 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills Country Club in Cherry Hills Village, Colorado. He moved into the lead after the second round, and was one shot ahead going into Sunday, but an erratic final round left him needing to make a five on the last hole to take the championship. He struggled up the 18th, finding the rough twice and then landing in a greenside bunker, but he made a four-foot putt to win by one stroke over J. C. Snead and Dave Stockton.
At the 1985 U.S. Open, on the South Course at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, North found himself two shots behind Taiwan's Chen Tze-chung going into the final round, but three shots clear of the rest of the field. Chen moved into a four-shot lead early, but threw the tournament wide open by shooting a quadruple bogey eight on the fifth hole. The lead swung between North, Chen, Denis Watson, Payne Stewart, and Dave Barr, who had surged into contention, but North went into the last hole with a two-shot lead, and his bogey five was enough to give him a second major championship.
North played on the 1985 Ryder Cup team. In 1990, he won the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. Since turning 50 in 2000 North has played intermittently on the Champions Tour. His best finish at this level is second in the 2001 Emerald Coast Classic.
In 1993, North joined ESPN as an on-course reporter. In 2004, he was promoted to the lead on-course reporter for ESPN and ABC Sports. He also has been the lead analyst on ESPN's golf studio shows with host Scott Van Pelt since 2003. According to ESPN, his preview shows for major championships have been so in-depth that Tour players have been known to watch them to help with course strategy. From 2003 to 2014, North concluded his U.S. Open preview show by dressing up in a doctor's outfit and using an often modified formula to pick the winner of the tournament. North eliminates groups of players who he believes will not win by writing them on large white placards which he then tosses over the edge of the set. In addition, North occasionally serves as a substitute analyst for Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball radio broadcast. He was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998.1969 Wisconsin Amateur
1971 Western Amateur
Major championships are shown in bold.1978 World Cup (team event with John Mahaffey)
1979 PGA Grand Slam of Golf (shared title with Gary Player)
1980 Center Open (Argentina)
1990 PGA Grand Slam of Golf, Jerry Ford Invitational (shared title with Jim Gallagher, Jr. and Donnie Hammond)
2005 ING Par-3 Shootout
2008 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf (with Tom Watson)
2000 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf (with Jim Colbert)
2001 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf (with Jim Colbert)
2005 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf - Raphael Division (with Tom Watson)
2006 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf - Raphael Division (with Tom Watson)
2007 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf - Raphael Division (with Tom Watson)
CUT = missed the halfway cutMost consecutive cuts made – 7 (1974 PGA – 1977 Masters)
Longest streak of top-10s – 1 (five times)
"T" indicates a tie for a place.
ProfessionalRyder Cup: 1985
World Cup: 1978 (winners)