20 Jun 18
The world of golf is mourning the loss of PGA Life Member and five times Open champion Peter Thomson who has passed away in Melbourne, Australia, at the age of 88.
Peter took up golf when he was 12 and became his club’s champion three years later. As a professional he followed up with 89 tournament wins, an achievement that included claiming the Claret Jug five times. A trio of those came in 1954, 55 and 56, making him the only golfer in the 20th century to win The Open in three successive years.
Nine of Peter’s wins were achieved on the American senior circuit in 1985, setting a record that still stands; another followed three years later when he was victorious in the PGA Seniors Championship at North Berwick.
His career as a PGA of Australia professional was similarly significant and successful.
Peter was the longest serving chairman of the PGA of Australia, undertaking the role for 32 years. He also designed and built courses in Australia and around the world, helped establish the Asian Tour and worked backstage for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organisation where he was chairman for five years.
Those achievements on and off the golf course were recognised by both Great Britain and his home country.
Peter was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1957, Commander of the Order of the British Empire two years later, and an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2001.
He was also a longtime friend of the PGA of Great Britain and Ireland and was recently made a Life Member.
Paying tribute, The PGA's chief executive Robert Maxfield said: “The term sporting legend is often attributed to men and women who do not justify the description. That’s not the case with Peter. His achievements on the golf course and as a person are testament to that.
“His passing means the game has lost one of its most accomplished players and ambassadors, we at The PGA have lost a loyal and great friend and the world has lost a gentleman who was renowned for his kindness and grace.
"We extend our heartfelt condolences to Peter’s wife, Mary, and his four children, Deirdre, Pan, Fiona and Andrew.”
Martin Slumbers, chief executive of The R&A, added: “Peter was a true gentleman and will be forever remembered throughout the world of golf as one of the great champions of our wonderful sport.
“He was a distinguished Honorary Member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and will be sorely missed by all of us at The R&A. Our thoughts are with his family at this very sad time."
In winning The Open five times, Peter emulated the achievements of two of the three PGA founders, James Braid and JH Taylor, as well as Tom Watson. Only the third member of the founding trio, Harry Vardon, with six victories, has won it on more occasions.
The successes of Watson and Peter, however, were achieved in a more competitive age and against fields comprising a host of international stars.
One of them, Peter Alliss, a former PGA captain who played in the Ryder Cup eight times and became a celebrated TV commentator on the game, finished four shots behind Peter at Royal Birkdale in 1954 when he won The Open for the first time.
The two went on to become friends as well as rivals and Alliss recalled: “The game was played differently back then. It was played more along the ground as opposed to in the air as it is now.
“Peter was a brilliant judge of distance, a sound putter, had good nerves and an adequate short game. Above all, he had a superb golfing brain – he was able to think his way round the golf course.
“Off the course, he was always a gentleman, had a sharp and often sardonic sense of humour and a keen interest in what went on around him.
“I remember him coming back from a trip to India with a huge book about Gandhi. That inspired him to see the film four times.
“And he loved the musical My Fair Lady – he knew all the words of all the songs. We were friends for 61 years and I like everyone in golf and all his other friends will miss him terribly.”