Golfing greats Jack Nicklaus and Peter Thomson led the 90th birthday tributes to fellow Open Champion, Kel Nagle.
Nagle is golf’s oldest living Major Champion having captured the Centenary Open in defeating rising American star Arnold Palmer in 1960 at St. Andrews.
The Australian also won at least one tournament a year from 1949 to 1975 and with 61 victories on the Australasian Tour, Nagle is 30 wins ahead of second placed Greg Norman.
Nagle, who turns 90 next Tuesday (December 21st), was on hand at the Mona Vale Golf Club in Sydney where he was joined by his family along with many of Australia’s leading touring and club professionals including fellow Australian Open winners Thomson, Frank Phillips, Billy Dunk and Bob Shearer.
Reigning Open Champion, Louis Oosthuizen and winner of this year’s 150th anniversary Open Championship at St. Andrews, also recorded a video message of congratulations for Nagle.
Thomson travelled from Melbourne to be present to congratulate his long-time friend.
The five-time Open Champion Thomson retold the story of having to loan Nagle his jacket for the presentation ceremony 50 years ago at the Home of Golf.
“I had a jacket with me just in case I won but I failed, so as Kel didn’t have a jacket I loaned him mine even though it looked a bit tight on him,” said Thomson.
“The funny thing was that when he gave it back to me Kel’s first prize cheque was still in the pocket, so I guess he didn’t really need the prize money.”
Guests were also shown a special video message from Nicklaus, winner of 18 Major Championships including two Open’s at St. Andrews in 1970 and 1978.
Nicklaus called Nagle a ‘great competitor and a true gentleman’.
“What a great competitor you were as you but then you were a good friend that was always there when you needed to be,” said Nicklaus.
“Kel you are a true gentleman and you played the game as it should be played.
“I congratulate you on your 90th birthday and hope we can do the same on your 100th.”
On show at the celebration luncheon were letters of congratulations from other Open Champions including Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Bob Charles and Norman along a letter from former U.S. Open and U.S. PGA winner David Graham.
Bizarrely it was just hours before the birthday luncheon that fellow Australian Peter Senior captured the rain-affected Australian PGA Championship title at Coolum.
Heavy rain forced officials into completing the event early on Monday morning with the 51 year old Senior defeating reigning Australian Open winner, Geoff Ogilvy at the second extra play-off hole to become the oldest winner of the Australian PGA crown.
Senior, who won the recent Australian Seniors Open in Perth, Western Australia, surpassed Nagle who was the previous oldest winner in capturing the Australian PGA title in 1968 as a then 48 year old.
However there is still one Australasian Tour record Nagle still lays claims and that's the 1975 New Zealand PGA he won as a 55 year old.
Report Courtesy of Bernie McGuire