Farewell: Honoring the Lives Led by Golf Icons Lost in 2015

January 5, 2016
derr_courtesy johnderrsportscom.jpg

From daring African-American golf pioneers to graceful writers who chronicled the ancient game, several beloved figures across the golf world passed away in 2015.

Billy Casper, 83

Only six golfers have more wins on the PGA Tour than his 51, but Casper’s serious on-course demeanor hid a warm, tender personality — he and his wife, Shirley, adopted six children — and led to his being overshadowed by Nicklaus, Palmer and Player. “There should never have been just the Big Three,” said pro turned broadcaster Johnny Miller. “It should’ve been the Big Four.” — Mark Bechtel

Calvin Peete, 71

Peete was flashy. He drove a Caddy that he claimed was maroon but others swore was pink. He played in boots with spikes. And safe to say, he was the first PGA golfer who had diamond chips in his front teeth. Peete had a good reason for getting them: As a teenager in Florida he worked peddling clothes to migrant farmworkers, and he wanted to stand out to his clientele. Peete eventually had the chips taken out after a few years on the PGA Tour, which he joined in 1975 at age 32 — just nine years after taking up the game. A broken left arm as a child prevented him from straightening it on his swing, but Peete was still the most accurate player of his day. He won 12 times, including the 1985 Tournament Players Championship. — Mark Bechtel

Charlie Sifford, 92

After successfully challenging the PGA Tour’s whites-only clause in 1961, Sifford faced abuse ranging from annoying (his golf balls kicked into traps) to abusive. Through it all, Sifford persevered, winning two tournaments — and constantly taking the high road. “I just wanted to show that a black man could play this game and be a gentleman,” he said in 2009. “I did that.” — Mark Bechtel

Louise Suggs, 91

Called Miss Slugs by Bob Hope for her ability to clobber the ball, Suggs (left, with LPGA Tour star Stacy Lewis in 2013) was one of the 13 founders of the LPGA Tour, in 1950. She won 61 pro tournaments over 12 years, including 11 major titles, and in ’57 became the first female to achieve the career Grand Slam. Suggs was also a respected teacher, regularly contributing to SI’s TIP FROM THE TOP column in the 1950s. — Mark Bechtel

Dan Halldorson, 63

Dan Halldorson was a Canadian who won the 1980 Pensacola Open for his lone PGA Tour title and played on two World Cup championship teams, teaming with Jim Nelford in 1980 in Bogota, Colombia, and Dave Barr in 1985 in La Quinta, California. Halldorson won seven times on the Canadian tour and later served as the circuit’s deputy director. He was elected to the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. — Associated Press

Sandra Spuzich, 78

Sandra Spuzich was the 1966 U.S. Women’s Open champion who won six other LPGA Tour titles. Spuzich won the Women’s Open at Hazeltine in Minnesota for her first tour title, beating Carol Mann by a stroke. In 1982, Spuzich won the Corning Classic and Mary Kay Classic at age 45 to became the oldest player in LPGA Tour history to win twice in a season, a record that still stands. — Associated Press

Martin Roy, 59

Martin Roy was a legendary caddie and the first non-American to be inducted into the Professional Caddie Association of America Hall of Fame. Roy, was Carnoustie’s caddie master and was named Caddiemaster of the Year by Golf Tourism Scotland in 2008 and 2011. He won similar awards from the SIGTOA from 1999 to 2004 as well as in 2006. Roy caddied for several high-profile figures, including astronaut Neil Armstrong and President George H.W. Bush. — Josh Berhow

SIGN UP: Get the latest golf news, tips and insider analysis

Nick Rangos, 86

Nick Rangos was the creator of the famous pimento cheese at Augusta National Golf Club. Rangos’ recipe was used in creating the pimento cheese sandwiches — enjoyed by Masters patrons and players alike — for more than four decades. The Aiken, S.C., man was a mainstay in the catering business, but lauded by his family as an “entrepreneur.” — Golf.com Staff

John Derr, 97

Longtime golf journalist John Derr reported from the Masters a record 62 times and broadcast from the 15th green for CBS when it first was on television in 1956. Derr was there for so many big moments, starting with his first Masters in 1935, the year Gene Sarazen made his famous albatross on the par-5 15th hole, a shot that put the Masters on the map. He was working for CBS Radio went he went to Carnoustie in 1953 as Ben Hogan won his only British Open to complete the Grand Slam. Along the way, he forged relationships with some of golf’s giants – Hogan, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson – along with running into the likes of Mahatma Ghandi, Albert Einstein and Henry Ford. He wrote about his encounters his third book, ”My Place at the Table.” — Associated Press

Pete Brown, 80

Pete Brown was the first black player to win a PGA Tour event. A native of Port Gibson, Mississippi, Brown survived polio as a child and learned to play golf in Jackson, Mississippi, after first working as a caddie. Brown joined the tour in 1963, two years after Charlie Sifford broke the color barrier, and played until 1978. Brown won the 1964 Waco Turner Open in Burneyville, Oklahoma, and the 1970 Andy Williams-San Diego Open. — Associated Press

Jim Finegan, 85

Legendary golf authority Jim Finegan was an extraordinary voice in the game, both as a speaker and writer. He shaped the lives of an incalculable number of caddies, golfers and American pilgrims looking to discover golf in Great Britain, and he was a beloved figure in the game wherever golf took him. He wrote seven books on golf and scores of magazine and newspaper pieces. Alongside Herbert Warren Wind, no other American writer captured the windblown, rugged beauty of golf in the British Isles with such wild enthusiasm. — Michael Bamberger

Jay Morrish, 78

Jay Morrish (right) was an acclaimed designer whose notable course credits range from solo projects to collaborations with a number of golf’s biggest names. A job on the construction team at Robert Trent Jones-designed Spyglass Hill turned out to be the start of a career that would span five decades and bring Morrish into partnerships with several of the best-known figures in the field, including George Fazio, Desmond Muirhead, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf, a partnership that lasted 12 years and produced more than two dozen courses, including Loch Lomond in Scotland and TPC Las Colinas in Irving, Texas. Other notable Morrish designs include TPC Scottsdale, Troon Golf and Country Club in Scottsdale, and Forest Highlands in Flagstaff. — Josh Sens

Rhonda Glenn, 68

Rhonda Glenn was the first female anchor on ESPN who became a USGA historian and tireless promoter of women’s golf. With an engaging smile and happy disposition, Glenn became the first woman to be a fulltime sportscaster for a national network when she sat behind the desk at Sports Center in 1981 just two years after the network was launched. Chris Berman, who worked with her in the early days, recalled her as having a gentle way that made everybody feel at home. Glenn later worked 17 years at the USGA as a historian and author. — Associated Press

Kel Nagle, 94

Kel Nagle was a British Open winner, U.S. Open runner-up and a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. The Australian golfer, who won a tournament every year for 26 years after turning professional in 1946, collected 61 victories on the PGA Tour of Australasia and two on the U.S. tour. His win at St. Andrews came by one stroke over Arnold Palmer, who was attempting to win his third consecutive major that year after taking the Masters and U.S. Open. Nagle also won the Australian PGA championship a record six times and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2007. — Associated Press