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 on Wednesday morning, surrounded by his family.
He is being remembered as arguably Australia’s greatest golfer; seven-time major winner Karrie Webb is 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. He won it again in 1955, 1956, 1958 and 1965.
His tally was matched by American Tom Watson and Scotsman James Braid in the 20th century. All-time record-holder Harry Vardon – with six Open triumphs – is the only man to better Thomson’s feat.
“He was, without doubt, a very fine golfer,” Australian golfing aficionado Jack Newton said.
“He had quite a bit to do with the players’ association after he finished and he was a very respectable bloke.”
Vale Peter Thomson AO CBE, a legend of Australian sport and an Immortal of the PGA of Australia
— PGA of Australia (@PGAofAustralia) June 20, 2018
Fellow countryman Ian Baker-Finch, the 1991 Open champion and one of only three other Australians (along with Greg Norman and Kel Nagle) to win 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, he was 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, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.