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World Golf Icon Billy Casper Passes Away in Mapleton
Billy Casper, one of the world’s greatest golfers of all time, passed away peacefully Saturday at his home in Springville after a decline in health during the past year. His wife Shirley was with him when he passed away.
He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1978 and was one of the original inductees in the Utah Golf Hall of Fame in 1990. He was born and raised in San Diego and lived there during his rise to fame. After joining the Mormon Church he moved to Utah and has been a Utahn for more than a quarter of a century.
His son Bobby is a prominent golf radio voice in Utah, and his grandson Ashton was recently a Boatright Intern at the Utah Golf Association.
“Billy has been very supportive of Utah golf activities and he elevated the game in our state through his legacy and his willingness to share his time at various golf functions whenever asked,” said UGA Executive Director Bill Walker.
Billy passed out in the clubhouse at the Masters last year and since then he has suffered from heart problems and had a bout with pneumonia in November. He had been doing cardio rehab for the past four months.
The highlight of his career was when he won the 1966 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in one of golf’s most memorable comeback victories. In the final round he was seven strokes behind Arnold Palmer, but he rallied to tie him and force an 18-hole playoff the next day which Casper won.
He won 51 times on the PGA Tour and in addition to his 1966 U.S. Open win he also won the 1959 U.S. Open at Winged Foot and the 1970 Masters.
Casper also won the 1959 U.S. Open at Winged Foot and the 1970 Masters. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1978.
Billy Casper has been at the forefront of two golfing booms-one in the 1950s that catapulted golf into a major sport, and one in the 1980s that put senior golf on the sporting map.
From 1955 to 1975-a span of 20 years-Casper was one of golf's Big Four. Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Billy Casper were the key personalities who ushered in a boom in golf brought into our living rooms via television. Casper is known world wide for his proficiency around the greens, his famous diet, for winning 50 PGA tournaments, nine PGA Senior Tour events, and over $3 million in career earnings.
The inscription on the Billy Casper plaque in the Utah Golf Hall of Fame is as follows:
Today, Billy Casper is being inducted into the Utah Golf Hall of Fame, having lived here from 1972 through 1987, raised his children here, played golf here, rediscovered his golf game here, and won tournaments here.
Casper won the U.S. Open in 1959 at Winged Foot, New York, over-came a seven stroke deficit to win again at the Olympic Club in San Francisco in 1966 over Arnold Palmer, and captured the Masters in a playoff victory in 1970.
Of all the accolades, none are as high as being honored by your peers. I 1978 Casper was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame and in 1982 into the PGA Hall of Fame.
In 1981, when it looked as though professionals his age would have to find another line of work, along came the sponsors, money, and PGA backing for the Senior Tour. In the past ten years Casper has won another nine tournaments and $1.5 million.
What Casper has brought to the game of golf can easily be measured in stats, but it's his consistency that stands out in the record books.
Including unofficial events Casper has averaged two wins a season sine he took that first swing as a pro in 1954. He was the tour's Player of the Year in 1966 and 1970 and a member of the Ryder Cup team in 1961, '6: '67, '69, '71, '73, and '75.
He won the Vardon Trophy for scoring average in 1960, '63, '65, '66, and' 68 and was the second player in golf history to attain the million dollar mark in winnings.
But statistics aside, Casper's involvement in Utah golf, BYU golf, and junior golf has meant the difference in more than one player's career.
As BYU coach Karl Tucker said, “from 1966-69 there was no better player in the world. He's always been a great supporter of golf, a great ambassador for golf, and one of the greatest ball strikers to ever play the game.”
Billy was born in San Diego, California on June 24, 1931. He and his wife Shirley have 11 children, Linda, Billy Jr., Robert, Byron, twins Judi and Jeni, Charles, David, Julia, Sarah, and Tommy.