Billy Casper, a three-time major winner and captain of the 1979 United States Ryder Cup Team, died of a heart attack Saturday in Utah. He was 83.
Casper, who won 51 PGA Tour events, was never considered equal to the game's "Big Three" of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. However, based on the outpouring of emotion Sunday after learning of his death, Casper was a much-beloved and underrated player, mentor and person.
PGA of America President Derek Sprague issued this statement Sunday:
"The PGA of America is saddened to learn of the passing of PGA Member Billy Casper. He was a true champion, an incredible ambassador for the game and a wonderful gentleman. So much so, that we recognized Billy with our highest honor—the PGA Distinguished Service Award in 2010. We always looked forward to our reunions with Billy at the Ryder Cup. He loved the event which he Captained in 1979 and in which he earned more points than any other American player. We were fortunate to have him in our lives, and we will never forget his contributions to the game."
Other prominent figures took to social media to express their thoughts and gratitude:
My deepest condolences to Shirley & the family of my friend @BillyCasper. A great golfer, family man & gentleman. I will miss you Billy. RIP
— Gary Player (@garyplayer) February 8, 2015
JIM HUBER: Billy Casper's legacy more than golf
RIP Billy Casper. We played 1977 Kenya Open! Can still see his legendary draw land 15 ft right and spin sideways to 5 feet! #Inspiration
— Sir Nick Faldo (@NickFaldo006) February 8, 2015
Billy Casper died Saturday at home in Utah. Only 6 other players won more on PGA Tour. Great man, great player, underappreciated.
— Doug Ferguson (@dougferguson405) February 8, 2015
Farmers Insurance Open to honor its 1966 champion Billy Casper during final round today with an image of him on each tee box.
— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) February 8, 2015
RIP Billy Casper. A great champion and a true gentleman.
— PGA of America (@pgaofamerica) February 8, 2015
The ultimate tribute may have come from Jack Nicklaus, who shared these words on his Facebook account:
“Billy Casper was one of the greatest family men—be it inside the game of golf or out—I have had the fortunate blessing to meet. He had such a wonderful balance to his life. Golf was never the most important thing in Billy’s life—family was. There was always much more to Billy Casper than golf. But as a golfer, Billy was a fantastic player, and I don’t think he gets enough credit for being one. I have said many times that during my career, when I looked up at a leaderboard, I wasn’t just looking to see where a Palmer or a Player or a Trevino was. I was also checking to see where Billy Casper was.
"Billy had tremendous confidence. He just believed in himself. You knew when you played against Billy Casper, Billy would not beat himself. You want to talk about someone who could perform under pressure, if you wanted someone to get up and-down for you, Billy Casper was your man. I think it is fair to say that Billy was probably under-rated by those who didn’t play against him. Those who did compete against him, knew how special he was.
“More important than what Billy Casper gave us inside the ropes, he has been so selfless outside them. He has always been so steadfast and committed to his family, his religion, his community, and his unwavering beliefs. And he never asked for anything in return. It was not even a year ago, someone asked Billy how he wanted to remembered, and he said, ‘I want to be remembered for how I loved my fellow man.’
“Over the last 15 to 20 years, my friendship with Billy blossomed. We had a number of common threads, but the one that truly connected us was our love of family and those shared values. It was a genuine treat every time I saw Billy and that smile on his face. Because I knew I was about to talk to a dear friend. I—we—lost a true friend tonight. Barbara and I send out our most heartfelt prayers and love to Shirley, their kids, and all those loving grandkids and great grandkids who tonight are wrapping their arms around the loving memories of a wonderful man.”
Eagles were landing everywhere at Torrey Pines during a 10-minute stretch Saturday: from bunkers, fairways and greens.
No fewer than three PGA Tour pros found the bottom of the cup on two holes.
Lucas Glover was in the bunker at the 18th, and did this from 46 feet away:
Daniel Berger had a pretty tough time of it Saturday, but finished with two shots he'll remember longer than his score:
Then Jason Day stepped up from 143 yards out on No. 17 and did this:
Day couldn't believe the shot actually went in the cup, as you can see from his reaction.
Chad Campbell had no trouble getting himself off to a tremendous start in Saturday's third round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.
ONE WEEK AGO: Francesco Molinari's ace at TPC Scottsdale
Facing a 143-yard downhill shot from an elevated tee on the par-3 third hole, Campbell took aim and proceeded to do this:
It was Campbell's third ace on the PGA Tour.
Thanks to today's technology -- and a tip of the hat to the folks at CinePost via YouTube -- we have the opportunity to view Bobby Jones' incredible golf swing in slow motion, a feat that had to have been state-of-the-art back in 1930.
According to the original introduction cards on the 16 millimeter print, the swings were filmed at East Lake Country Club in Atlanta, Jones' home course. The action is approximately 200 times slower than normal speed -- the camera was able to capture 3,200 images per second. The PGA of America commissioned cameraman C. Francis Jenkins to film Jones in action, apparently for later use as a teaching tool.
Watch as Jones hits a driver and long iron:
Today's golfers could learn a thing or two from Jones' balance and rhythmic swing, captured 85 years ago.
PGA of America Championships
Benton Harbor, Mich.
Sahalee Country Club
Baltusrol Golf Club
Hazeltine National Golf Club