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- Tom Weiskopf
Tom Weiskopf was a pupil at Benedictine High School in Cleveland, Ohio before attending Ohio State University in Columbus, where he played for the university state team. He won the Western Amateur in 1963 – an event won by Jack Nicklaus two years previously – then turned professional the following year.
He didn’t claim his first PGA Tour title until he won the Andy Williams-San Diego Open Invitational at Torrey Pines in 1968, the first year that the tournament was held there. During the next fourteen seasons, he won twenty-four events around the world, including The Open at Troon in 1973.
Another two of Tom’s professional victories were achieved on British soil when he won the Piccadilly World Match Play Championship at Wentworth in 1972 and the Benson & Hedges International Open at Fulford in 1981. He also captured four tournament titles during a 3-year spell on the Senior PGA Tour, including the US Senior Open at Congressional in 1995.
Weiskopf was a member of the United States squad in both the 1973 and 1975 Ryder Cup matches and he qualified for the 1977 event but he shocked many by deciding to go big-game hunting instead. “Golf was never the most important thing,” he’s been quoted as saying. “It was an avenue to get me to the things I really enjoyed. Customized shotguns and rifles, the finest scopes – golf led me there.”
Nicknamed 'The Towering Inferno' for his displays of temper on the golf course, he refutes negative perceptions of his persona: “My reactions weren't from temper – just absolute frustration. Sure, I threw clubs. I threw them in college, too. I stuck my club in the ground plenty of times on Tour. But my frustration was directed internally to me. I'm not a mean guy, not an angry guy. I am a moody person, though. Always have been.”
Within two years of his last win on the PGA Tour in 1982, Tom had teamed up with architect Jay Morrish – who had worked in the past with Robert Trent Jones, George Fazio and Jack Nicklaus – to establish what turned out to be a very successful design partnership, starting at Troon Country Club in Arizona.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Weiskopf and Morrish laid out dozens of courses in the United States of America, mainly in the West region Mountain States, and their association is probably best remembered for the Stadium course at TPC Scottsdale in Arizona. The duo's 1993 creation at Loch Lomond hosted the Scottish Open fifteen times and was the first American-designed course to be built in Scotland.
Tom is also credited with solo designs in several US states, along with a couple of rather random overseas projects at Zimbali in South Africa and The Country Club at Canlubang in The Philippines.
Into the new millennium and Weiskopf forged a new alliance with another architect, Phil Smith, who had previously been on the books of Nicklaus Design, working on new build and renovation assignments in Arizona, California and Florida with Jack and his sons.
The new design duo of Weiskopf and Smith has collaborated on more than twenty commissions, with most of the US-based developments located in Arizona, Colorado or Montana. Out in the Pacific, they’ve produced two well-regarded Hawaiian layouts; Hualai (Ke’olu) in 2002 and Kuku’ula in 2010.
Further afield, the Ocean Club course in The Bahamas was completely renovated and re-opened in 2001, around the same time that both the Desert course at Cabo del Sol and the Weiskopf course at Vista Vallarta were unveiled to Mexican golfers. An 18-hole layout at Puerto Cancun has since been added to their design portfolio in that country.
On mainland Europe, their Castiglion del Bosco course in Tuscany opened without too much of an Italian fanfare during 2011 whilst their 36-hole offering at the Dunes of Shenzhou Peninsula has also largely slipped under the golfing radar since the first of the two courses opened for play in 2010 on Hainan Island, China.
In the pipeline, there are further foreign developments under way at St Andrews in Scotland, Cordoba in Argentina and Soeul in South Korea, along with a number of American projects that are also in the current design mix.
Unfortunately, Tom Weiskopf lost a 2-year long battle with pancreatic cancer when he passed away in August 2022.
His wife Laurie was quoted as saying: "He worked to the end. It was amazing. He had a big life."
In a 2014 interview in GOLF.com, Tom was asked where the idea for his trademark driveable par four design trait had come from. This was his answer:
“I was playing the 1970 British Open at St. Andrews. It occurred to me that under the right conditions, four of the par fours were drivable: 9, 10, 12 and 18. I thought, wow – how is that any different from a reachable par five, like the 13th at Augusta National?
There's so much freedom off the tees at the Old Course, especially at 9, 10 and 18. I thought, if I ever get into the design business, I'm going to have to explore the drivable par four.
I've done 66 courses, and each has at least one of them. Drivable par fours define a Weiskopf design, and they're harder to do than you think. Strategy is involved, both in the full tee shot and the layup.
After 28 years of designing them, I've learned that the simple way is to use the largest, most contoured of the 18 greens, where putting, chipping and pitching all could come into play, depending on the pin placement.
And if you lay up, I look at [the tee shot] almost like a separate par three – say from 180 yards. The layup shot should be as interesting as the tee shot going for the green.”
The Weiskopf profile on PlanetGolf.com: “His course at Cabo del Sol (Desert) is very enjoyable, while Yellowstone Club and Spanish Peaks in Montana are gorgeous courses to look at but without the same level of design sophistication as his best work elsewhere.
Weiskopf is one of those rare ‘signature’ designers who is not only passionate about his courses but hands-on, certainly during the design stage of the project.
The fact that Tom Weiskopf will personally be involved in the design and construction of the layout is very reassuring and has helped Weiskopf develop a good reputation for producing quality work.”
Lorne Rubenstein paid the following tribute to Tom Weiskopf when he died: "Weiskopf played the game beautifully. To conjure his elegant, powerful swing is to feel wistful for a time when golf was more art than science. There he is, 6-3 over the ball in a graceful setup. The shot seems over before he starts his backswing. It can’t help but be a good shot.
Yet Weiskopf always knew he could have and should have accomplished more, given his immense talent. Maybe he was too temperamental to get the most out of his gifts. The game could get to him. Still, Weiskopf compiled quite a winning record in the game, even if he should have won many more tournaments and majors, and that he wasted his talent. A harsh assessment by Weiskopf himself, but that’s how he felt.
Some years later I approached Weiskopf to request some time with him to do a Q&A. I enjoyed chatting with him about the tour, about winning and losing, about his wins in Montreal and at Troon. We also talked about his interest in design.
He had become a creative designer, with an eye to truth and beauty, one might say. By 'truth,' I mean he wanted his courses to reflect what golf should be about -- thinking and shot-making and options. By 'eauty,' I mean he wanted a round at one of his courses to feel like an authentic walk in a park.
'I just have a passion for architecture,' Weiskopf told me after he had stopped competing. 'If I didn’t have that I guess I’d still be playing full time. But you can draw similarities. Every course we play is different, and every site I work on is different. The other thing is that designing courses isn’t self-serving like playing is. You’re working with people. You’re part of a team.'
Now golf has lost a man who contributed so much to the game, and his fellow players. How is it possible that Weiskopf is not in the World Golf Hall of Fame? Weiskopf accomplished so much. He was a towering figure, and he belongs there. But never mind that for now. Anybody fortunate enough to follow Weiskopf when he was competing, and to play his courses, is well aware of his exalted place in the game. In the tower of golf, he was near the top."
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan also commented on Tom's death: "The PGA Tour is saddened at the passing of Tom Weiskopf, a towering figure in the game of golf not only during his playing career, but through his accomplished work in the broadcast booth and golf course design business. Tom is leaving behind a lasting legacy in golf. The beautiful swing he showcased is still being emulated, while his golf courses remain as testaments to his love for the game.”