Sunday 22 September 2019

Obituary: Peter Thomson

Peter Thomson of Australia. Photo: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
Peter Thomson of Australia. Photo: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Dermot Gilleece

On the Tuesday of Open Championship week in 2008, the Association of Golf Writers held their annual dinner in the R and A marquee at Royal Birkdale, where Pádraig Harrington became only the fourth Irish recipient of their annual award.

As it happened, the man chosen to present it was Peter Thomson, who had captured his fifth Open title on that splendid links 43 years previously. Now, having once been a regular visitor to these shores, the great Australian is gone from us.

I met him at Rathsallagh GC on June 26, 1996, a date burned into the memory by the drive back to the city, when traffic on the Naas dual carriageway was halted by a momentous event - the murder of Veronica Guerin.

Thomson had talked of Ben Hogan as the best player he'd ever seen. "I played a lot with Hogan and after studying him at close quarters, I concluded he had a level of skill slightly higher than Nicklaus," he said. Naturally, he also talked of Christy O'Connor, who was tied second behind him in that '65 Open.

They shared fairways for the last time in September 1983, to mark the official opening of Stackstown GC, where Himself beat his old rival by 75 to 82, not that the score mattered. O'Connor later told me: "As we get older, the two things a golfer loses are concentration and power in the legs. It was Peter's magnificent concentration that made him such a great champion."

Though Thomson won only a modest $64,941 on the regular US Tour, he made up for lost time when returning there as a senior in 1982. Between 1984 and 1985 he captured 11 tournaments and on quitting in 1990, had amassed prize money of $1,061,118.

He was an engaging, intelligent man with whom I was fortunate to have had a number of lengthy conversations. Golf will remember him as a real credit to his craft.

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