The two-time Ryder Cup player enjoyed a celebrated career spanning more than half a century after turning professional in 1957, winning eight times on the European Tour and 23 times on the Senior Tour.
He also won the John Jacobs Trophy as the Senior Tour’s Number One player on a record five occasions and in 2012 he was awarded Honorary Life Membership of the European Tour in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the game, as a player, revered coach and long-term administrator, having served on the European Tour Board of Directors and then the Senior Tour Committee for 22 years.
The Englishman was also a renowned course designer, broadcaster and author, and was always conscious of passing on his knowledge to subsequent generations, including as an instrumental figure in setting up the European Tour’s Annual Training School – Apollo Week later known as MacGregor Week – which was formerly held at the start of each year in southern Spain to give aspiring Tour players a holistic grounding in life as a professional.
Born in St Helens, Merseyside, on June 16 1941, Horton moved to Jersey in 1945 where he was brought up and educated. He was a mainstay of the European circuit in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s, winning eight titles - including four times after the formation of the European Tour in 1972 – and recorded four top ten finishes in The Open Championship, including a share of fourth in 1976 at Royal Birkdale. Horton also played in two Ryder Cups, representing Great Britain & Ireland against the United States in 1975 and 1977.
He went on to enjoy even more success on the Senior Tour, winning 23 times, which stood as a record until Carl Mason’s surpassed that benchmark at the OKI Open de España Senior by Cleveland/ Srixon in 2011.
His outstanding achievement of winning the Senior Tour Order of Merit five times remains a record though, with four of his John Jacobs Trophies coming in consecutive years from 1996-1999, alongside his first in 1993.
Poignantly, he died on Thursday night, on the eve of the Senior Tour’s season-ending MCB Tour Championship, when the 2017 John Jacobs Trophy winner will be crowned, and on the same day the Senior Tour entered a new era with Staysure becoming the Senior Tour’s first title partner.
Horton’s pivotal role in the early development of the Senior Tour, which led to a Tour which in 2018 will have 19 tournaments, cannot be underestimated, particularly as part of the Senior Tour Committee from 1992-2006, serving as Chairman from December 1996 onwards.
Prior to that, he was appointed to the Board of Directors of The European Tour on December 4 1984 and remained there until May 1993.
Horton was also Honorary Captain at three consecutive Junior Ryder Cups from 2008, helping to nurture a new generation of players.
His immeasurable contribution to the game was recognised in 2000, when he was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list, and the world of golf today paid tribute to one of its most respected figures.
Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, said: “Tommy Horton was an incredibly influential and respected figure in the world of golf, as a wonderful player and coach and as someone who was central to the development of the European Tour and the European Senior Tour.
“After the passing of John Jacobs in January, we have lost two of the true gentlemen of the game in 2017. The thoughts of everybody at the European Tour are with Tommy’s family.”
Ken Schofield, Chief Executive of the European Tour from 1975 to 2005, said: “Tommy Horton was a great player in his own right and also a great gentleman. Together with John Jacobs and Neil Coles, he really was someone who cared for and set up today’s European Tour. He gave so much to his peers and will be remembered as much for his victories, including the Dunlop Masters, and his two Ryder Cup appearances, as he will for the role he played in setting up and paving the way for today’s European Tour.
“We started the year with the loss of John Jacobs and end it with the loss of Tommy, two pioneers of the game. Indeed, they were inseparable during the graduate training weeks when coaching the latest rookies on Tour and many players competing today will remember those clinics. He will be remembered with great fondness and the legacy of Tommy Horton will always live in the European Tour.”
George O’Grady, Chief Executive of the European Tour from 2005 to 2015, said: “Tommy was an outstanding member of the Tour who did so much on all different fronts to contribute to the success of the Tour – from Committee Member, to Board Member, founding father, administrator, ambassador and leader.
“He was an absolute rock at the Tour’s annual graduate training week and a wizard with his short game, passing on his extensive knowledge to benefit countless other players. He will be sadly missed and our thoughts are with Helen.”
David MacLaren, Head of the European Senior Tour, said: “Tommy was not just a giant of the European Senior Tour but one of the most important figures in the development of the modern professional game in Europe.
“His record of five John Jacobs Trophies is an achievement that is unlikely to be bettered and stands as a testament to his stature as one of the Senior Tour’s most notable players.
“Both Tommy’s personality and ability were key elements in the growth of senior golf in Europe, and we will remain immensely grateful for his many and lasting contributions.”
David J Russell, the current Chairman of the Senior Tour Committee, said: “Tommy was an absolute gentleman during his excellent career, and he found the time to help all the players across the spectrum of the European Tour with many years on the Board of Directors and as Senior Tour Chairman.
“He played a major role in the creation of the Senior Tour, on which he had a wonderful extension to his playing career, winning 23 times.
“My thoughts are with Helen and the Horton family.”