GOLF

Tom Weiskopf, Open champion and golf course architect, dies at 79

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Tom Weiskopf’s golf skills have gone far beyond his 16 PGA Tour wins and his only major at Royal Troon in the Open Championship. He was outspoken and precise in the TV booth and had even greater success designing golf courses.

Weiskopf died Saturday at his home in Big Sky, Montana, his wife said. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2020. He was 79 years old.

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Laurie Weiskopf said Tom was working at the Spanish Peaks Club last week and attended a legacy luncheon at a club where he designs a collection of his favorite 10 by 3s.

“He worked all the way. It was amazing,” she said. “He had a great life.”

The son of a railroad worker from Ohio, Weiskopf once said he fell in love with the game before he even started playing it. His father took him to the 1957 US Open in Inverness and he was fascinated to see Sam Snead make such pure contact.

Pure contact was his trademark at Ohio State and then his touring career. At 6-foot-3 – tall for golf in those days – Weiskopf had a powerful, rhythmic swing. His best year was in 1973, when he won the round the world seven times, including the claret jug and the World Series of Golf at Firestone before it was an official tour event.

He was also known for the majors he didn’t win and the competition he faced – especially Jack Nicklaus, the Ohio star who preceded him and cast a huge shadow over Weiskopf during his whole career.

Weiskopf has finished second in the Masters four times, the most of any player without winning the green jacket. The most memorable came in 1975, when Weiskopf and Johnny Miller stood on the 16th tee as they watched Nicklaus make a 40-foot birdie putt down the slope that led to another victory.

He was famous for saying of Nicklaus, “Jack knew he was going to beat you. You knew Jack was going to beat you. And Jack knew you knew he was going to beat you.”

More telling was his interview with Golf Digest in 2008, when Weiskopf said: “Going one-on-one against Jack Nicklaus in a major tournament was like trying to empty the Pacific Ocean with a cup of tea. You you stand on the first tee knowing your best golf might not be good enough.”

Weiskopf was very good at many things, yet he often said he wasn’t making the most of his talent. He attributed much of this to alcohol consumption, which he says ruined his golf career. He gave up alcohol in 2007 and considered it one of his big wins.

He also said he had never been passionate enough about golf. His love was the outdoors, especially hunting and fishing. Weiskopf once skipped the 1977 Ryder Cup so he could go sheep hunting.

His free spirit and unfiltered thoughts were an integral part of his personality. His temper has earned him nicknames like “Towering Inferno” and “Terrible Tom”. Much of this has been attributed to his high standards in golf.

“I couldn’t accept failure when it was my fault,” he said after winning the 2005 US Senior Open in Congress. “It just made me tear up.”

Weiskopf’s last PGA Tour win was the 1982 Western Open. His last full year on the PGA Tour was a year later. He played on the PGA Tour Champions, and maybe his only major win was the Senior Open by 4 strokes over Nicklaus.

Weiskopf went on to work in television on both CBS and ABC/ESPN.

He partnered with golf course architect Jay Moorish and their first collaboration was Troon Country Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. Dozens of other golf courses followed, including Loch Lomond in Scotland and a refurbishment of the North Course at Torrey Pines.

A standard of its design is the driveable par 4. The inspiration came from playing the Old Course in St. Andrews, where he could drive four of the par 4s, depending on the wind.

“I should have done more,” Weiskopf told Golf Digest of his career. “But I don’t dwell on it anymore. I will say this, though: if it weren’t for the fact that I love what I do now [golf course design]I would probably be a very unhappy person.”

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