Peter Thomson, CBE, AO, the five-time Open Champion and one of Australia’s greatest golfers, has died at the age of 88.
Thomson won 89 professional titles around the world in an impressive career and was also a successful golf course designer and author.
He won the Open Championship in 1954, 1955 and 1956, becoming the only player to claim the Claret Jug in three consecutive years in the 20th century. He went on to lift the Claret Jug twice more, in 1958 and 1965, and along with Harry Vardon (six), James Braid, JH Taylor and Tom Watson, he is one of only five players to have won The Open on five or more occasions.
We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Open legend, Peter Thomson CBE. Our deepest sympathies are with his family.— The Open (@TheOpen) June 20, 2018
Peter was a five time Champion Golfer of the Year first winning at Royal Birkdale in 1954. pic.twitter.com/tZizuKAM1A
Thomson also made a huge contribution to the game outside the ropes, serving as Chairman of the PGA of Australia for 32 years – the longest tenure in the organisation’s history.
His legacy to the golfing industry and charitable work was recognised over the years through numerous accolades, including being made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (1957), Commander of the Order of the British Empire (1979), and an Officer of the Order of Australia (2001). He was also inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1988.
Figures from the world of golf today paid tribute to the legendary Australian, who is survived by his wife, Mary, four children, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said: “It is with great sadness that we have awoken to the news of the passing of Peter Thomson.
“Peter was a true gentleman and will be forever remembered throughout the world of golf as one of the great champions of our wonderful sport. He was a distinguished Honorary Member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and will be sorely missed by all of us at The R&A. Our thoughts are with his family at this very sad time.
"Peter gave me a number of very interesting and valuable thoughts on the game, how it has developed and where it is going which demonstrated his genuine interest and love of golf.
“He was one of the most decorated and celebrated Champion Golfers in the history of The Open, winning the Championship five times in total and becoming the only golfer of the 20th century to lift the Claret Jug on three consecutive occasions between 1954 and 1956.
“Our deepest condolences go out to Peter’s wife, Mary, and his four children, Diana, Peta-Ann, Fiona and Andrew.”
Former Chief Executive of the European Tour, George O’Grady CBE, said: “Peter Thompson’s record, especially in the Open Championship, is well chronicled but in all the times he played, especially in the growth in what was to become the European Tour.
“He was a tremendous inspiration, competitor, and colleague to all that met him. His achievements were only matched by his modesty, and he was an incredible help and advisor to me personally when I was a fledgling tournament administrator so many years ago.
“I valued his council enormously and the Open Championship will not be the same again without our regular meetings. My sincere condolences to his family.”
Australia has lost a golfing legend and my hero. My heart felt condolences to his lovely wife Mary, also Deirdre, Andrew, Pan, Fiona and families. Peter - my friend and mentor R.I.P. Australian golf thanks you for your iconic presence & valuable guidance over the years.— Ian Baker-Finch (@IBFinchy) June 20, 2018
Gary Player said: "Peter Thompson probably has the best record – five Major Championships, five Open Championships. He won tournaments all over the world and he was one of the straightest hitters I ever played against as straighter hitter as I every saw. He had great course management and his record proves it. What a golfer, unbelievable.
"One of the greatest games I had with him was in Melbourne and it was hard to beat him in Melbourne as the was his home town. We played in the final of the PGA and honestly, we played a 36-hole final. We went down shot for shot for shot for shot and I beat him on the last hole of our 36, so when I think of Peter Thompson I don’t think of his five Majors I think of this unusual match that we had, which we played shot after shot without hitting bad shots and took it to the very last hole and he was a good loser, which you can’t say about a lot of people. I admire the man.
"His family at this time need a bit of comfort and I’m sure they will receive it."
Wade Ormbsy said: "Peter was a massive part of Australian golf. I think he was president of the Australian PGA for 30 years and was instrumental in starting up the Asian Tour, which has been a big part of my life and my golfing career. It’s terrible day and my thoughts go out to his family.
"His record with the Open Championship and three of them won consecutively – you just can’t see that ever being beaten. Then when he went and played on the US seniors, I think he won nine events in one year. It’s hard enough to win one event in your career let alone nine in one year, so he was obviously a hell of a player.
"I didn’t get to see him play live but you see the footage of his golf swing and It was one of the most balance and pure actions that we’ve ever seen in our lifetime. It’s definitely a sad day for Australian golf."
Scott Hend added: "A pioneer in Australian golf and without doubt the best record in Major golf from Australia. He is one of those guys who is going to be missed forever and his record is going to be very tough to equal, if not beat.
"You’ve got to think back in the day when Peter was doing it when transport was an absolute nightmare. So, for him to do that back-to-back three times, and I think it was nine times New Zealand Open champion, and possibly six time Australian Open champion is a record that is phenomenal.
"He was a great champion and he’ll be sorely missed by all Australians."
Gavin Kirkman, CEO of the PGA of Australia, said: “The PGA is deeply saddened by the passing of Peter Thomson AO, CBE.
“A gentleman of the game, a legend of Australian sport and an Immortal of the PGA of Australia, Mr Thomson’s contribution to golf and our Association was immense and will live forever in our hearts and the pages of history.
“This is a sad day for Australian golf but we reflect on the life of Peter Thomson with respect and pride knowing that it was a great privilege to have a man of his talent, passion, wisdom and grace be such an integral part of the PGA of Australia and our sport.
“Our condolences are extended to the Thomson family and to all those close to the wonderful Peter Thomson AO, CBE.”
Sam Brazel added: "Condolences to his family and friends on the passing of an Australian sporting icon.
"I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves. His Open Championship record is phenomenal, and I doubt anyone will achieve what he achieved in the Open – three in a row is amazing."