MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Five-time British Open champion Peter Thomson died at his home in Melbourne on Wednesday after a four-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, Golf Australia said. He was 88.
Considered one of Australia’s greatest golfers, Thomson was the first from the country to win the British Open when he took the title in 1954. He won it again in 1955, 1956 and 1958, and was runner-up in 1957.
Thomson won the fifth of his British Open titles in 1965, a record only since matched by American Tom Watson, who won the last of his five titles in 1983.
“A gentleman of the game, a legend of Australian sport and an Immortal of the PGA of Australia, Mr Thomson’s contribution to golf and our Association was immense and will live forever in our hearts and the pages of history,” CEO of the PGA of Australia said on their website.
“This is a sad day for Australian golf but we reflect on the life of Peter Thomson with respect and pride knowing that it was a great privilege to have a man of his talent, passion, wisdom and grace be such an integral part of the PGA of Australia and our sport.”
Thomson also had 13 other top-10 finishes at the British Open and won 24 other tournaments in Europe. He won events in Asia and South Africa and clinched 11 victories on the U.S. Senior PGA Tour, including nine in 1985 alone.
His only other major victory was the PGA Seniors’ Championship in 1984.
“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,” Chief Executive of The R&A Martin Slumbers said in a statement.
“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.”
A successful golf course designer upon his retirement, Thomson was the Australian PGA President for 32 years and helped establish the Asian Tour.
He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1988, the same year as Watson.
Thomson, who spent more than 60 years as a respected golf columnist for newspapers and magazines, is survived by his wife Mary, a son and three daughters, 11 grandchildren and four great-grand children.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Christian Radnedge