Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Peter Thomson, a 5-time Open winner, steps 

away from distinguished design career

Peter Thomson
Peter Thomson (Bob Thomas/Getty Images)
One of golf’s greatest players and finest gentlemen is stepping aside to enjoy his retirement. Australian Peter Thomson, a five-time Open champion and World Golf Hall of Famer, announced this week that he is setting aside his second career as a course designer and leaving the Melbourne-based partnership with which he undertook more than 200 new courses and renovations in 30 countries.
In various design alliances during which he partnered with Michael Wolveridge, Ross Perrett and Tim Lobb, Thomson’s major credits include The Duke’s Course in Fife, Moonah Links and National Golf Club in Australia, Clearwater Bay in Hong Kong, Thomson National in Japan and Carya Golf Club in Turkey.
Thomson, who will turn 87 on August 23, dominated the Open like no other player of the modern era. He and Old Tom Morris are the only golfers to have won three consecutive Opens. Thomson, known as the 'Melbourne Tiger,' won golf’s oldest major championship in 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958 and 1965. In the seven Opens from 1952 through 1958, he finished first or second.
Thomson played with limited success on the US PGA Tour in the mid-1950s, highlighted by a victory at the 1956 Texas International Open. He enjoyed much greater success on the Senior PGA Tour, including a nine-victory 1985 season and the 1988 PGA Senior Championship. 
 Internationally, his record includes 34 titles in Australasia, 29 in Europe and four in Japan.
Thomson was a classic ball-striker, favouring the run-up game and did not rely upon target golf. Nor, for that matter, was he ever much for yardage, opting instead for judgment. 
I’ll never forget caddieing in his group in a pro-am on the day before the start of the 1977 World Golf Hall of Fame at Pinehurst No. 2 and watching him eyeball every approach, playing for (and usually hitting) front centre of every green on that course without ever asking his caddie for a yardage.
At the 1990 Open at St. Andrews, I sat with Thomson in the stands behind the 18th green and recorded a conversation with him in which he looked back on his long and distinguished playing career. A few excerpts from that interview:
“I love to build greens and bunkers. My character comes out in the greens I build. I like leading the bulldozer man. The best effect is when you do things in the field. You can’t predesign everything, though you have to prepare plans in order to come to some estimate of costs. But really when you get down to it, you see it when you go out there on the ground. . . .
“The Old Course here is special. It’s the model for all of us; all courses are essentially copies of this, to some degree. The thing to be learned here is that a lot of your golf is played on the ground: chipping, long putts, approach on the ground. . . .
“Architects can be fearful that someone is going to shoot a low score, but that’s a silly thing. 
"What are you going to do, unless you destroy the dimensions of a golf course? Make it ridiculously narrow, with postage-stamp greens and tiny fairways? But then you are ruining the game for those who are less talented. So you’re not doing anyone a service by going out of your way to make a course hard for the sake of being hard. . . .
“There are two kinds of golf: club golf and professional golf, and the two are drifting farther apart. . .
“In time, all golfers will come to be able to distinguish between good courses – happy courses, adventurous courses – and misery courses.”



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