Tom Weiskopf, British Open winner, golf course designer, dies at 79

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Tom Weiskopf, winner of 16 PGA Tour titles including the 1973 British Open, has died, his wife has confirmed. Weiskopf was 79 and had suffered from pancreatic cancer since late 2020.

Weiskopf has experienced every corner of the game, from his time as a PGA Tour player to his broadcast work as a golf commentator as well as a renowned golf course designer.

With remarkably high ball flight and tremendous power for his time and control, he won 16 PGA Tour titles between 1968 and 1982, and four more PGA Tour Champions, including the 1995 US Senior Open. he memorably struggled with his temper on the golf course, earning him the nickname “The Towering Inferno”.

A son of Buckeye State, Weiskopf was born on November 9, 1942, in Masillon, Ohio. He golfed for Ohio State University and was considered “the next Nicklaus”, to be produced from that state and golf program. He turned professional in 1964.

Tom Weiskopf (The Augusta Chronicle via USA TODAY NETWORK)

“He’s had a hell of a career,” said his good friend Tony Jacklin. “He was unhappy to have met Nicklaus so often. He held Jack in such high regard.

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Weiskopf had a career year in 1973, when he won seven tournaments around the world, including his only major at Royal Troon. He was blessed with so much talent and had so much ability that he was often considered an underachiever for his win total, a topic he discussed with Golfweek in an interview in 2020.

“I didn’t really have the passion or effort I wanted to put into it and everyone pushed me to put it in. Golf was more of a means to an end for me. It was a way to give my family the best possible life. Hunting, fishing and the outdoors were more important to me. Getting the sheep grand slam was more important. That’s why I gave up a Ryder Cup one year so I could win my Grand Slam,” he explained.

But in retrospect, Weiskopf regrets not having realized his full potential: “I challenge myself all the time: why couldn’t I have done that? Why couldn’t I train? Why did I drink? Well, I’ve been sober for 20 years. It is my greatest achievement. Because I was a party animal, a guy who had a good time. I had so much talent that I could activate it when I wanted it, when I needed it, but it wasn’t important to me,” he said.

Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf at Augusta National Golf Course during the 1982 Masters. (The Augusta Chronicle via USA TODAY NETWORK)

Weiskopf’s Hall of Fame credentials have been discussed for years, with several of his contemporaries supporting his candidacy.

“Certainly,” said Johnny Miller when asked if Weiskopf deserved to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. “A lot of guys come into the Hall but they were never the best, just the work was Hall of Fame worthy. But when you have a run like Tom’s (in 1973) there’s two ways to look at greatness, it’s not just always being good, but there’s a point in your career where you can -to have been the best in the world. Its important to me.

Weiskopf then worked in television on both CBS and ABC/ESPN as a golf analyst. He had his second most successful act in golf course design, first with Jay Morrish and later with Phil Smith as his partner. He thanked Nicklaus for giving him the idea that he could be good at it.

“I was invited by Jack Nicklaus to do site visits with him,” he recalls of his introduction to the design side of the game. hole at the start and people kept asking me: ‘Tom, what do you think?’ One or two of my suggestions were used and it gave me confidence that an opportunity might one day arise for me, and it did.

Weiskopf’s design credits include TPC Scottsdale, which hosts the PGA Tour’s WM Phoenix Open and the renovation of Torrey Pines (North), which co-hosts the Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open. He is often credited with bringing the flyable par-4 back into fashion, which he tried to incorporate into many of his designs.

“I go back to the first time I played at St. Andrews. I think it was 1970 and I threw the ball on the green at 9, 10, 12 and 18. I never did it on the same day because they were all in different directions. I think it should be no different than an accessible par 5. I told (Jay Morrish) that I wanted to put an accessible par 4 on all our golf courses. He said it was a great idea,” Weiskopf recalls. “I’ve put in at least one if not two of the 73 golf courses I’ve done. I think it works best on the 16th or 17th hole. You don’t always take them out. I’d say three quarters of them are between 300 and 330 yards. It hit me when I played St. Andrews. These days it seems to be the flavor of the month. But it’s a tough hole to get right and make it exciting .

Weiskopf was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2020 after experiencing severe stomach pain while reopening Troon Country Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. He underwent a CT scan at his home in Montana upon his return there, which revealed damage to his pancreas. He fought until the end, following the advice of his doctor.

“He said, ‘Let’s start with your attitude. You have to compete with this cancer. You are going to have difficult days. You can’t let this chemo get you down. You have to keep fighting. I’ve seen it in some cases where I didn’t know if the person was going to survive, but they had such a positive attitude that they prevailed. I said, “I think I can do it,” Weiskopf recounted in December 2020. “The second thing I need from you is communication. You need to call your loved ones, call your friends because they are good people to talk to when you are depressed and someone will say something that will resonate with you and change the way you think at that time and help you get through these difficult days. You cannot escape this situation. You need to be open and you need help.

“The last and most important thing he said was, ‘Do you believe in God?’

“I said, ‘Of course I do. He said, ‘Well, give Him a ring once in a while.’ ”

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