August 24, 2022

Tom Weiskopf was more than a golfer!

"Tom Weiskopf passed away this past week at age 79. He was one of the superstars of the 70's. He had everything talent wise to be a legendary star with the likes of Hogan, Snead, Palmer, and Nicklaus, but with all his natural gifts it never materialized to what it could have been. Yes, he won the British Open along with 16 PGA Tour titles and a US Senior Open championship, but he still is looked at as an underachiever. He has admitted that he didn't have the commitment that his fellow Ohio State teammate, Jack Nicklaus, had to his golf game. However, his credentials are worthy of being in the Golf's Hall of Fame, which I believe he will be honored with in the near future.

I met Mr. Weiskopf on a couple occasions at Seven Canyons Country Club in Sedona, which he designed and where he had a house. He was gracious to all that he met. But my first encounter with Tom Weiskopf the golfer was in 1975 on the first tee of the Greater Jacksonville Open. I had just qualified for my first PGA Tour event and didn't want to be late for my 1:00 tee time. Weiskopf was in the group ahead and I arrived when that group was being introduced. The first hole was a long par five that doglegged to the right with a bunker guarding the right side of the fairway. I had played a couple of practice rounds and realized I couldn't carry that bunker, nor could any of the other pros that I had played with the past two days. I was longer than average, so I reckoned it could not be carried. Weiskopf was introduced and proceeded drill his tee shot that carried twenty yards over the bunker and ran out to a position that left him with only a five iron or so to the green. I was stunned and I remember to this day thinking to myself. Holy cow! This is who I have to beat!

One of the knocks of Weiskopf the golfer was that he wasn't smart enough to be truly great. Wrong. He did color commentary for television after he retired and was erudite and insightful. He had a very successful golf architecture career where he created masterpieces that include Forest Highlands, Troon North, Loch Lomond in Scotland, TPC Scottsdale, and Silverleaf along with many others.

As a young man, Tom didn't have the discipline to do what Nicklaus could do. At the 1986 Masters, where he was giving commentary, he was asked what Jack Nicklaus was thinking coming down the stretch; his answer was so honest, he said, "If I knew the way he thought, I would have won this tournament." He liked to party and have a good time. He drank too much and admitted to being an alcoholic. He claims that his greatest accomplishment was his over twenty years of sobriety until his death. Golf for him was a means to an end. It was a way to make a good living and provide for his family. His true enjoyment was being outdoors, hunting and fishing. He missed the Ryder Cup one year so he could go hunting for a big horned sheep. In a recent interview, he was asked if he had any regrets. Thoughtfully he said yes, but he still wouldn't change anything. He had a great life and he was content. I think you can't ask for more. RIP


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