Roberto De Vicenzo, Argentinian golf great, dies at 94
DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) -- Roberto De Vicenzo, known as much for his scorecard error at the Masters as his British Open victory that made him Argentina's first major golf champion, died Thursday afternoon at his home in Buenos Aires.
He was 94. The Argentina Golf Association, which confirmed the death on its website, said De Vicenzo broke his hip last month in an accident at home and his health had been deteriorating since then.
"He was a god in Argentina," said Jack Nicklaus, who last saw him a few years ago during a trip to Buenos Aires. "Roberto was 'Mr. Golf' in Argentina, no question about that. He was very, very well thought of and liked and respected in Argentina, and around the world of golf."
De Vicenzo amassed 230 titles worldwide, mostly in South America, but he achieved fame on the biggest stages in golf. He outlasted Jack Nicklaus at Hoylake to win the 1967 British Open by two shots for his only major.
But even De Vicenzo could not forget the 1968 Masters.
After a birdie on the 17th hole to lead, he made bogey on the final hole for a 7-under 65 to share the lead with Bob Goalby and presumably face a playoff the next day. Except those scores were not on his card kept by Tommy Aaron. The birdie 3 on the 17th hole had been marked as a 4, and De Vicenzo signed it. Under the Rules of Golf, he had to keep the 4. The 65 became a 66, and instead of a playoff, De Vicenzo was a runner-up to Goalby.
That led to one of the most famous lines in golf when De Vicenzo lamented, "What a stupid I am."
Nicklaus said he was still talking about that blunder when he saw him three or four years ago in Argentina.
"He always talked about how he said, 'I'm stupid,' because what he did at the Masters that one year. Forty years later, he still talked about it," Nicklaus said. "I think he always dwelled on the fact that he screwed up. He had the Masters in his hand."
De Vicenzo became the pioneer of golf in Argentina, which eventually produced Masters and U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera, Fabian Gomez, Andres Romero, Eduardo Romero and Emiliano Grillo.
Even as De Vicenzo celebrated Cabrera's first major in 2007 in the U.S. Open at Oakmont, the Masters was on his mind.
"He gave me a frame where he has in his hand a green jacket, and he says, 'I hope this gives you luck so someday you can bring back a green jacket for yourself,'" Cabrera said after his playoff victory at Augusta National in 2009.
De Vicenzo contributed so much even without that Masters title.
Born in 1923 in Villa Ballester, a suburb north of Buenos Aires, he learned golf as a caddie and honed his game at the Ranelagh Golf Club. He won his first tournament in 1942 at the Litoral Open. His greatest victory was at Royal Liverpool, where he won at age 44 and denied Nicklaus back-to-back titles.
"Roberto De Vicenzo was not only a great golfer, but he was a great friend," Nicklaus said. "I just always enjoyed his company. He was a nice man, and you always miss the nice guys."
Nicklaus first saw him at Inverness for the 1957 U.S. Open. Nicklaus missed the cut in his first Open as a 17-year-old. He recalls scrambling up a steep hill to the 15th tee and peering between the legs of a spectator to see De Vicenzo swing.
"I remember crawling on my hands and knees up through people to watch De Vicenzo take his 3-wood, bang it on the ground, put the ball on it, and drive," Nicklaus said.
De Vicenzo delivered Argentina its first World Cup title in golf in 1953. He won eight times on the PGA Tour and nine times on the European Tour. He received the Bob Jones Award, the USGA's highest honor, in 1970 for his distinguished sportsmanship in golf. And he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1989.