Dave Thomas, a four-time Ryder Cup player who went on to design more than 100 golf courses, died Tuesday at the age of 79 at his home in Spain.
''Dave became a household name in the 1950s and 1960s when he helped to build the game in Britain and all over the world,'' said European Tour Chief Executive George O'Grady, who awarded Thomas with Honorary Life Membership in the European Tour earlier this year. ''He was a larger-than-life character, a truly great guy, and our condolences are with his partner Carol and Dave's sons Michael and Paul.
''Wherever the Tour has travelled, from Britain to the Continent to the Rest of the World, we have played on courses designed by Dave and both as a player and an architect he leaves a lasting legacy to the game he truly loved.''
Thomas, born and raised in Newcastle, England, turned professional in 1949 at the age of 15, about the time he watched Sam Snead and several other golf greats in the Ryder Cup at Ganton Golf Club. Ten years later, Thomas made his Ryder Cup debut at Eldorado Country Club in Palm Springs, Calif., against Snead – Thomas and partner Harry Weetman halved their foursomes match with Snead and three-time major winner Cary Middlecoff.
Thomas went on to play in three more Ryder Cups, the last in 1967 at the Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas, where he partnered with a young Tony Jacklin in all four four-balls and foursomes. After halving his singles match with Gene Littler, Thomas went home with 2 ½ points.
In 1958, Thomas lost a 36-hole playoff to Peter Thomson at the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and in 1966 at Muirfield he tied for second with Doug Sanders one stroke behind Jack Nicklaus. He also represented Wales 11 times in the World Cup of Golf between 1957 and 1970 and captured more than 20 European Tour titles including the 1955 Belgian Open, 1958 Dutch Open, 1959 French Open and 1963 PGA Match Play.
Arthritis ended his playing career prematurely, and Thomas immersed himself in course design. He teamed with Peter Alliss to design the Brabazon Course at The Belfry near Birmingham, England, which hosted the Ryder Cup in 1985, 1989, 1993 and 2002. Thomas also designed such layouts as De Vere Slaley Hall in Northumberland, England; St. Leon Rot in Germany, which has hosted European tour events and will host the 2015 Solheim Cup; the Roxburgh in Scotland; San Roque in Spain; Cannes Mougins; La Baule and Terre Blanche in France; and courses in Africa, China, Japan, South America and Taiwan.
Thomas also was Captain of the [British] Professional Golfers' Association during its centenary year in 2001 and five years later he was made an honorary life member of the British PGA.
Thomas is survived by his partner, Carol, and two sons, Michael and Paul. His wife, Robbie, and another son, Philip, predeceased him.
The European Tour contributed to this report.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This item first appeared on PGA.com on August 28, 2013, but we are republishing it today to commemorate the 2014 celebration of the Martin Luther King holiday.
Today is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's ''I Have a Dream'' speech and there is a full day of activities taking place in Washington. D.C., to commemorate the big occasion.
Dr. King's speech remains one of the most noteworthy in American history – and it has a golf connection. Bob Denney, long a media fixture and golf historian at The PGA of America, played a significant role in preserving the actual copy of the speech that King delivered that fateful day.
The story was recounted in detail in a video feature that James Brown did for CBS News recently, and I encourage you to watch it – if you do, you'll get to see a brief glimpse of Denney rocking an excellent '80s mustache.
Here's the short version:
George Raveling, who went on to become a prominent basketball coach at schools like Washington State, Iowa and Southern California, volunteered to assist in the March on Washington back in 1963, and was assigned to help with security on the podium during the speeches. That put him very close to Dr. King and, when King finished speaking, Raveling asked if he could have the speech.
King gave it to him. Raveling took it home, tucked it into an autobiography of Harry S Truman, and eventually forgot about it.
Fast forward a couple of decades to 1984, and Denney – then a newspaper reporter in Iowa – interviewed Raveling on the significance of becoming the first African-American head hoops coach for the Hawkeyes. He asked Raveling whether he'd been involved in the Civil Rights movement, and Raveling told him the story.
Denney asked if he still had the speech. ''And I said, 'Yeah.' And even at that point, it still didn't dawn on me there was anything unusual about it,'' Raveling told Brown. ''And so he got all excited, he said, 'Well, where is it?'''
Raveling retrieved the book out of his basement – and there was the speech, folded in half, slightly discolored but still in good shape.
Denney borrowed the speech, and wrote his article – and, as a gift, had the speech framed for Raveling. It remains in that same frame today.
"It doesn't have a title ... It's not identified as 'I have a dream.' You can simply see the date and the time,'' said Raveling of the speech, which runs a mere three pages on paper. ''You'll see that he pretty much followed the script."
Until, of course, King began speaking extemporaneously, stretching what had been written as four minutes of remarks into a 16-minute tour de force.
Raveling now keeps the speech in a bank vault, and plans to pass it down to his son upon his death – with the condition that it never be sold.
"The speech belongs to America, the speech belongs to black folks," he said. "It doesn't belong to me, and it would be sacrilegious of me to try and sell it to profit from it."
Denney remains circumspect about his role.
"A past chapter of my professional life suddenly turns up in the news, and I am thankful for having met George Raveling,'' he wrote in an email. ''He was beyond a coach; he remains a Renaissance man.''