IN the days and weeks after Peter Thomson passed away, the tributes to the great man flowed.
It seemed like every Australian who has ever picked up a golf club had a ‘Thommo’ story to tell.
One of my favourite yarns dates back to The Open at Royal Birkdale in 1954 and that white jacket he donned for the trophy presentation. Back in those days the championship finished on Saturday with 36 holes played in the day. Thomson carded a 69 in the morning and was locked in a share of the lead with Welshman Dai Rees and Englishman Syd Scott with the afternoon round to play.
While Rees and Scott ate their lunch, Thommo ducked back to his hotel to grab the white jacket and a tie for the trophy presentation at the end of the day. With confidence like that, Rees and Scott didn’t stand a chance. Thomson closed with a 71 to beat the pair, and his close rival Bobby Locke, by a stroke and he hoisted the Claret Jug for the first time and a legend was born.
I had the privilege of playing a round with Mr Thomson in 2004. It’s a rare thing to play in the company of golfing royalty so I was understandably nervous standing over my opening tee shot. I could feel him watching my every twitch before launching into the swing that sent the ball well right of the fairway and into some scrub. The gentleman in Mr Thomson said nothing.
In fact, he made no comment at all about any of my swings or good and bad shots until we reached our 17th hole, a par-3. As we stood by the tee he piped up with: “You would do well to not grip the club so tightly. Relax those hands.”
I walked onto the tee, gripped the club as instructed and swung. Flushed it! The ball bounced once, hit the flagstick about three feet from the ground and finished a foot from the hole. I turned to Mr Thomson and with a broad smile he said: “Well played sir.”
I thought it only fitting our tribute issue to Mr Thomson carried those three words because his life in the game, as a player, administrator, writer and course architect, was certainly well played.
BY BRENDAN JAMES | GOLF AUSTRALIA EDITOR