Peter Thomson’s achievements go far beyond the fairways of the British Open
APART from being Australia’s greatest ever golfers, Peter Thomson was a groundbreaking president of the Australian PGA for 32 years and one of Australia’s finest golf journalists.
JIM TUCKERThe Courier-MailJune 20, 201811:15pm
PETER Thomson felt so in control of his game with 18 holes to play at the 1954 British Open that he skipped lunch in the clubhouse to scoot by his hotel for a jacket and tie.
Thomson must have enjoyed that expectant feeling many more times during one of golf’s most fabled careers, but those confident strides to the trophy at Royal Birkdale ignited his legend.
Five times he held aloft the Claret Jug as Open champion between 1954 and 1965 when 36 holes were still played on the final, demanding day.
Australian sport lost a true great when Thomson, 88, lost his brave battle with Parkinson’s disease, which had afflicted him for more than four years.
Tributes poured in from around the globe for the revered figure that fellow Hall-of-Famer Gary Player described as “a true ambassador of the game and one having, without question, the greatest record of any Australian golfer.”
“Australia has lost a golfing legend and my hero,” tweeted Ian Baker-Finch, the 1991 British Open champion, who Thomson tutored on the patience and shotmaking for links golf.
Victorian Thomson was measured by far more than his majors, three Australian Opens and more than 80 professional victories worldwide.
Thomson was a groundbreaking president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, one of Australia’s finest golf journalists and the captain of the only Internationals team to break American dominance at the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne in 1998.
VALE: Tributes flow for Peter Thomson
We will keep walking the fine golf courses he designed, with the wilderness touches he loved, from the stunning Hamilton Island Golf Club in the Whitsundays to The National Golf Club at Victoria’s Cape Schanck.
Thomson saluted his final British Open triumph, again at Royal Birkdale in 1965, as his finest because for the first time he beat the challenges of top Americans Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.
“This was the greatest of my Open victories because I had the world’s best against me,” Thomson said.
As a journalist, the highly intelligent Thomson’s insight and knowledge could literally stop the Australian Open.
In 1969, he wrote for his newspaper that all the holes at Royal Sydney were undersized after he was joint first-round leader and his putter head had not fitted the holes as normal.
He was right. The cups had been put into the greens too deeply at the beginning of the day and the expanding of the earth in sunshine had made the holes smaller.
When Thomson was named Australian golf’s first “Immortal” at the Australian PGA dinner at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast in 2016, his wry sense of humour was still there.
The frail, yet proud, Thomson penned some wonderful words to be read by wife Mary in his last major public appearance in front of more than 500 spellbound guests.
“This award, the Immortal, if it works may mean I’ll never need a funeral,” he said through his wife. “I always felt I never worked a day in my life such was the pleasure and challenge this wonderful game of golf provided.”
Thomson’s trips to the US were far fewer for Masters (eight) and US Open (five) appearances, when he played in 30 British Opens, but American galleries knew his class.
After narrowly missing out on the seat of Prahran at the 1982 Victorian state elections, Thomson said, “the direction my life was heading was suddenly halted and I said to (my wife) Mary ‘let’s go’.”
It was to the rich American seniors circuit where he won nine times in 1985.
His mentor Norman von Nida told Thomson to play without a hat because with his smooth swing and full head of hair, he would be a standout.
In Australian sport, Peter Thomson always will be.
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Originally published as Golf’s immortal on fairway to heaven