Passing of oldest living Major champion prompts flood of tributes from players
FORMER Open Champion Paul Lawrie has paid tribute to Australian-born Kel Nagle, golf’s oldest living Major winner who passed away early Thursday morning local time in Sydney.
Nagle turned 94 a month ago and is best remembered for denying Arnold Palmer by capturing the 1960 Centenary Open on the Old Course at St. Andrews, where the 144th Open will be staged later this year.
Nagle also enjoyed an incredible record of winning at least one event a year from 1949 to 1975.
“It is always very sad when one of the greats of the game pass away and more so when it is a former Open Champion,” said Lawrie after his three-under-par 69 on the first day of the Dubai Desert Classic.
“We had a number of Graeme Baxter prints that I was getting all the old Open Champions to sign, and Kel was one who kindly signed the prints.
“His great friend Peter Thomson organised to get them signed, and while I never had the pleasure of meeting Kel, he was a great player and what I’ve learned from Peter he was also one of the greatest guys you could ever meet.
“But while he’s passed on what Kel managed to achieve in that 1960 Open is something that will live on forever in the history of the Open Championship.”
Also paying tribute was the current Open Champion and World No. 1 Rory McIlroy.
“I heard the news this morning before heading out here to the golf course and it’s always very sad when one of the legends of the game passes away,” said McIlroy after shooting a first round six under par 66 in Dubai.
“When I won the Australian Open in Sydney two years ago I was made aware he wasn’t in the best of health as I was hoping to visit him.
“I do know of his Open win at St. Andrews in 1960 when he beat Arnold Palmer so it will be sad occasion this year but then I’m sure there will be a few glasses raised in Mr. Nagle’s memory at the Former Champions Dinner.”
And double Open winner Ernie Els, who battled tiredness in shooting a level par 72 on the Emirates Course, has also expressed his sadness.
“I’m sorry to hear he passed away as Kel was one of the legends of the game and what he achieved at St. Andrews in 1960 was remarkable given Arnold’s reputation at the time,” he said.
“He was a great champion and I’m sure Australian golf, and golf in general, is poorer for his passing.”
FRIENDLY FOES: Kel Nagle, left, watches Arnold Palmer tee off in 1975