24 Agosto 2022

Tom Weiskopf: 1942-2022

On Saturday, August 20, 2022 the world of golf lost one of its most influential legends. 

Thomas Daniel Weiskopf (Tom) was born to Thomas and Eva Shorb Weiskopf on November 9, 1942 in Massillon OH and died at home in Big Sky, MT. A spark has gone out with his passing: one that brought joy and warmth, love and wit to all who had the good fortune to know him. 

Tom Weiskopf at The Club at Castiglion del Bosco, 2018

Weiskopf began as a caddy at the age of 15. His early influences were his parents, both avid and skilled amateurs. He was a member of the Ohio State University golf team while at college. Those who saw him play, even at a young age, were impressed by his near-perfect swing.

Before turning pro, his most important win was the prestigious Western Amateur in 1963. His first professional victory was the Andy Williams-San Diego Open Invitational in 1968. His last tour win was the Western Open in 1982.

Weiskopf's profile loomed large in the game and business of golf throughout his career. At 6'3" and with perfect posture he stood high above many of his competitors and the large galleries who followed him. Countless golfers, pro and average golfers alike both admired and envied his flawless swing. Even his colleague and sometimes nemesis, Jack Nicklaus, said "Tom was one of the finest strikers of the ball to ever live."

Weiskopf had an impressive tour record with 16 PGA wins. He was listed in the top ten 104 times and listed 12 times in the top five. He was also a four-time runner up in the Masters in ‘69, ‘72, ‘74 and ‘75. His proudest victory was the Open Championship at Troon Golf Club, South Ayrshire, Scotland in 1973. That year, he was also voted top golfer. He won the Canadian Open in ‘73 and ‘75 and the USGA Senior Open at Congressional Country Club in ‘95. Weiskopf also was a member of the US Ryder Cup teams in ‘73 and ‘75.

Throughout his competing days, he thrilled hundreds of thousands of fans live with his swing and overall skill and many millions more who watched him on TV. Often referred to as "The Towering Inferno" he was a fan favorite not just for his talent, but also for his outspoken views and self-directed anger. His was a colorful and dynamic personality and it was exciting to watch him! He was arguably the best-dressed golfer of his era.

For Weiskopf, playing competitive golf was just the beginning. Ultimately, his career in the golf industry was to cover three phases. In 1985 he began designing golf courses, combining his unique perspective as a top-level player with a rare talent to see what the land had to offer. He could see how a tract of land could become a golf course as few others could. His ability to create beautiful, challenging yet playable holes from the land was unequalled. Unlike many designers of his era, Weiskopf took pride in his hands-on approach to each course he built. 

He spent weeks, even months on site supervising the development of his courses as they took shape. He always tried to work with the natural topography and was the artistic visionary of his many outstanding courses.

He once led a bewildered few friends through acres of waist-high weeds on the shores of Scotland's famed Loch Lomond, pointing out how each hole would look and how it would play. And when the weeds were gone, it had become the truly spectacular golf course he had envisioned. But that didn't come without some difficult hours, including several that Weiskopf spent up to his chest in quicksand while he plotted the course alone in the early morning hours.

If Weiskopf's playing career thrilled and entertained millions of fans, his work as a talented golf course architect has delighted millions of players and will continue to do so for generations to come. That is what he considered his real legacy, including especially his popularization of the drivable par four. He always sought to build courses that challenged the very best professionals while offering the opportunity for an enjoyable round for the everyday golfer. Throughout his course-designing career he created 25 with Jay Moorish and in 1999 teamed up with Phil Smith continuing on to over 80 golf courses in 18 states and 10 countries. His first, Troon Country Club in Scottsdale, AZ was honored by Golf Digest as "Best New Course" in 1986.

On January 2, 2000, Tom stopped drinking. With typical self-discipline, he quit “cold turkey” and never took another sip. He often said it was his biggest accomplishment and that it changed his life for the better.

In addition to his contributions to the game as a professional and designer, he provided his informed perspectives and candid views to millions of viewers as he worked for CBS covering the Masters, and ABC Sports and ESPN covering The Open Championship. Again, his strong personality and candor in the broadcast booth sometimes discomforted golf industry insiders. But fans found it a delightful and welcome relief from the "party line."

While golf was his profession, the outdoors and especially hunting were his passions. He began hunting in his youth in Ohio. During the years he lived in Arizona he also expanded his hunting prowess to include large game. He was one of few to earn "The Grand Slam", even missing the 1977 Ryder Cup tournament to try to complete the mission. He traveled to British Columbia and was successful in his final pursuit of The Stone. His Grand Slam is proudly displayed in the Big Horn Bar at Yellowstone Club. Montana bird hunting was his great passion and pleasure with two beloved and highly trained English Setters: Buckshot, who is in dog heaven and Spanky, who loves roaming the Montana expanse. As soon as the season ended Weiskopf waited eagerly for the autumn hunting season.

In 2005 he met his wife, Laurie McMullen at Silverleaf in Scottsdale, AZ. Tom had designed the golf course there and she was opening the 52,000 square foot clubhouse. Never one to be indecisive, Tom proposed and they eloped to Tahoe six months after their first date. The couple made Montana their new home and became residents in 2009. Weiskopf said the best thing about the mountain courses he designed late in his career is the exceptional views and the potential encounters with animals such as elk, big horn sheep, mountain goats, mule deer, bears, wolves...sometimes even up close.

As permanent residents, they contributed mightily to their new community by establishing The Weiskopf Cup. The event is held in late summer each year and has raised over 2 million dollars for the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation. Tom was honored by Spanish Peaks Community Foundation this summer as they created The Tom Weiskopf Scholarship Fund.

After his initial diagnoses with pancreatic cancer and amidst punishing aggressive treatment (he was ever the fighter), he continued work on courses at Black Desert Resort, St George UT, Spanish Peaks Mountain Club Par 3 “The Legacy: Tom's Ten” and Tom’s Tract at Phillip's Preserve in Boise, ID. Tom, alongside Phil Smith, worked tirelessly to create perfection and fun up until his last days.

Weiskopf is succeeded by his wife Laurie McMullen Weiskopf and their fiercely loyal English Setter Spanky Weiskopf, daughter Heidi Weiskopf, grandchildren Hunter and Morgan Weiskopf Hingston, brother Dan (Cyndi) Weiskopf, sister Joie (John) Heutche, 3 sister-in-laws Sue (Tim) Strand, Julie (Terry) Graham, Mary Jo (Mark) Amb, brother-in-law Jim (Sharon) McMullen, 16 nieces and nephews and 29 great nieces and nephews, with a great grand nephew arriving late this Fall and former wife Jeanne Weiskopf.

He is predeceased by his parents and his son Eric.

He led an accomplished and impressive life. He was cherished and admired by his family and multitude of friends. He was fiercely devoted to his principles, his ethics, his friends and his heartbroken wife, Laurie.

A Tribute from The Club at Castiglion del Bosco

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