Major champion and golf course architect Tom Weiskopf, passed away Arts and entertainment

Tom Weiskopf’s golf prowess went far beyond his 16 wins on the PGA Tour and his only major at Troon in the British Open. He was always articulate, often outspoken and unfailingly accurate in the television booth. He had even greater success designing golf courses.

Weiskopf died Saturday at the age of 79 at his home in Big Sky, Montana, his wife said. In December 2020, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Laurie Weiskopf said Tom was working on the Spanish Peaks at The Club last week and attended the Legacy Luncheon at the Signature Club where he was designing “The Legacy: Tom’s Ten,” a collection of his 10 favorite par 3s.

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

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

“You had dinner with Tom and loved every minute of it,” Andy North said Sunday. “The sad thing that got lost was how good he was. Every time he made a shot, it was beautiful.”

Pure contact was his hallmark at Ohio State and then his career on tour. At 6-foot-3 — tall for golf in that era — Weiskopf had a swing that was powerful and rhythmic, natural and athletic. His best year was in 1973, when he won seven times around the world, including the World Series of Golf at Claret Jug and Firestone before it became an official tour event.

He was equally known for the majors he didn’t win and the competition he faced — especially Jack Nicklaus, the Ohio star who preceded him on the tour a few years ago and cast a huge shadow over Weiskopf for his entire career.

Weiskopf had four runner-up finishes at the Masters, the most of any player without a green jacket. The most memorable was in 1975, when Weiskopf and Johnny Miller stood on the 16th tee as they watched Nicklaus hit a 40-foot birdie hole down the slope that led him 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 he was going to beat you.”

His interview with Golf Digest in 2008 was even more telling when Weiskopf said: “Going head-to-head against Jack Nicklaus in a major is like trying to siphon off the Pacific Ocean with a teacup. You stand on the first tee and that’s your best golf. Good enough.” Don’t be.”

Weiskopf was very good in many areas, and yet he often said he did not make much of his talents. He attributes much of this to his drinking, which he once said ruined his golf career. He quit drinking in 2000 and considers it one of his greatest triumphs.

Nicklaus once said of him, “Tom Weiskopf had as much talent as any player I’ve ever seen play on tour.”

He also said that he was not 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 a big part of his personality. His temperament led to nicknames such as “Towering Inferno” and “Terrible Tom”. Much was traced to his high standards when it came to golf.

“I couldn’t accept failure when it was my fault,” he said after winning the 1995 U.S. Senior Open at Congressional. “It just used to rip me off.”

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 perhaps it was only matched by four shots over Nicklaus in his lone major Senior Open.

His commentary on TV for CBS and ABC/ESPN at the Masters was all about clarity.

Nicklaus was working on the 1986 Masters when he set out to win at the age of 46. Nicklaus was on the 16th tee when CBS host Jim Nantz brought up Weiskopf and asked, “What’s going through Jack’s mind right now?”

“If I had known the way he thought, I would have won this championship,” Weiskopf replied with a laugh.

Weiskopf partnered with golf course architect Jay Moorish and their first collaboration was Troon Country Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, which Golf Digest rated as the Best New Course of 1986. He did 25 courses with Morris and then worked with Phil Smith.

Among the 80 courses designed by Weiskopf were Scotland’s Loch Lomond and a 2016 renovation of the Northern Course at Torrey Pines that fit his criteria — challenging at the highest level, fun for all.

The standard driveball of his design is a par 4. Inspiration came from playing the Old Course at St. Andrews, where he could drive four of the par 4s depending on the wind.

Weiskopf summarized his contributions to golf last summer in Golf Digest.

“Golf, for me, has always been such a big challenge of the mind, and sometimes I wish I had handled that challenge a little better,” he said. “But I love the game. I love talking about it and thinking about it and it’s endlessly fascinating to me.”


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