Peter Alliss, who became the eccentric “Voice of Golf” on British television after a playing career in which he competed in eight Ryder Cups and was Europe’s best golfer for two seasons, has died. He was 89.
“Peter’s death was unexpected but peaceful," the family said in a statement through the BBC, where he worked. It did not provide a cause of death.
Alliss won 23 tournaments worldwide in a professional career that ended in 1974 and was the Vardon Trophy winner — for the leading player on the British PGA, the forerunner to the European Tour — in 1964 and ’66. He played for Britain and Ireland in his first Ryder Cup in 1953 and then in every match from 1957-1969, and represented England 10 times in golf’s World Cup.
Alliss became of member of golf’s Hall of Fame in 2012.
“Peter made an indelible mark on everything he did in our game," European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said, "but especially as a player and a broadcaster, and he leaves a remarkable legacy. Our thoughts are with his wife Jackie and the Alliss family.”
With his deep and soothing voice, warm humor and passion for golf, Alliss may have been more renowned as a commentator than a player. Golf Digest once called Alliss “the greatest golf commentator ever.”
Alliss made his broadcasting debut in 1961 as part of the BBC team covering the British Open at Royal Birkdale and became the British channel’s main commentator in 1978. He also called big tournaments in the United States, Canada and Australia.
Among his many witty one-liners was this classic from 2002 when Tiger Woods shot 81 in the British Open: “It’s like turning up to hear Pavarotti sing and finding out he has laryngitis.”
Alliss wrote many books and co-designed more than 50 courses, including The Belfry, which hosted the Ryder Cup in 1985, 1989, 1993 and 2002.
Born in Berlin in 1931, Alliss was the son of British professional golfer Percy Alliss, who was one of Britain's top players in the 1920s and ’30s. The Allisses are one of only two father-son duos to play in the Ryder Cup, along with Antonio and Ignacio Garrido of Spain.
“No one told the story of golf quite like Peter Alliss," BBC director general Tim Davie said. "He captured golf’s drama with insight, wisdom, and humanity. He was a legendary commentator who brought the game to life for millions of us.”