Orville Moody, the U.S. Army veteran who won the 1969 U.S. Open for his only PGA Tour title, died Friday. He was 74.
Moody, a part Choctaw Indian from Chickasha, Okla., died in Texas from complications related to a stroke he suffered earlier this year, according to Lee Trevino, a longtime friend. Trevino said he visited Moody in an assisted living center outside Dallas in June.
“He could not speak, and he had a sly smile which meant he remembered us,” said Trevino, who was a marine stationed in Japan in 1966 when he met Moody, who was also stationed there. They both ended up in El Paso in 1967, Trevino as a club pro and Moody as the pin-setter at the Fort Bliss bowling alley.
“I talked him into quitting the army and joining the PGA Tour, and that was a great decision,” Trevino said. “He had a great heart for people and will be greatly missed”
Called “Sarge” because of his 14 years in the service, Moody was the last player to win the U.S. Open after going through local and sectional qualifying. He shot a 72 in the final round at Champions Golf Club in Houston for a one-shot victory over Deane Beman, Al Geiberger and Bob Rosburg.
“We are all going to miss Sarge, who was a patriot first and a professional golfer second,” PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said. “He embodied a bit of golf’s everyman whom we all could identify with.”
Moody was a five-time runner-up on the PGA Tour and won tournaments in Hong Kong, Morocco and Australia. A long putter helped revive his career when he joined the 50-and-over Senior PGA Tour in 1984, and his 11 victories included the 1989 U.S. Senior Open.
“The USGA was proud to call Orville Moody an Open and Senior Open champion,” USGA executive director David Fay said. “While his victory in the 1969 Open at The Champions was a surprise, Orville’s superb ball-striking talents were, thankfully, showcased over the next quarter century, both on the regular and senior tour.
“The expression, ‘He could golf his ball,’ certainly applied to Orville.”
Moody made the last of his 513 Champions Tour starts in the 2003 Constellation Energy Classic. He last played in the unofficial Demaret Division for players 70 and older at the 2007 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, teaming with Jimmy Powell.
Memorial services are pending.