Peter Thomson remembered as golfing great

Peter Thomson of Australia shown with the trophy after winning the British Open Golf Championship at Hoylake, Liverpool, on July 6, 1956. Photo: AP Photo
Peter Thomson of Australia shown with the trophy after winning the British Open Golf Championship at Hoylake, Liverpool, on July 6, 1956. Photo: AP Photo

Tributes are flowing for Australian golfing great Peter Thomson after the five-times British Open champion lost his long battle with Parkinson's disease.

Thomson, who was 88, died at his home in Melbourne surrounded by his family on Wednesday morning.

He is being remembered as arguably Australia's greatest golfer, with seven-times major winner Karrie Webb the country's only more successful player.

"I am so saddened to hear of the passing of our Aussie legend and true gentleman of the game, Peter Thomson," Webb tweeted.

"My heart goes out to his wife Mary and the rest of the Thomson family. So honoured to have been able to call Peter my friend. RIP Peter."

A pioneer on the course and off, Thomson was the first Australian to raise the famous Claret Jug in 1954 before winning again in 1955, 1956, 1958 and finally in 1965 against a field featuring Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

His tally was matched by American Tom Watson and Scotsman James Braid in the 20th century, with all-time record holder Harry Vardon with six Open triumphs between 1896 and 1914 the only man to better Thomson's feat.

Thomson also tied for fourth at the 1956 US Open and placed fifth in the 1957 Masters. He never played the PGA Championship, golf's fourth major of the year.

In 1998, he captained the International side to its only win over the United States at the Presidents Cup.

"He was, without doubt, a very fine golfer," Australian golfing aficionado Jack Newton told AAP.

"He had quite a bit to do with the players' association after he finished and he was a very respectable bloke."

Fellow countryman Ian Baker-Finch, the 1991 Open champion and one of only three other Australians along with Greg Norman and Kel Nagle to hoist the sport's most prestigious trophy, hailed Thomson as his "hero".

"Australia has lost a golfing legend and my hero," Baker-Finch tweeted.

"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."

Thomson also tasted success in America, winning nine times on the US senior circuit in 1985.

In retirement, Thomson served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world.

He also helped establish the Asian Tour and worked behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organisation where he was chairman for five years.

In 1979, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

He is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, his 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Australian Associated Press

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