Three-time major winner Billy Casper died in Utah on Saturday. He was 83.
Casper had been ailing for months with several health problems, including heart, lung and circulatory issues. He passed out at the Masters last April and battled pneumonia over Thanksgiving.
Casper was one of golf’s most prolific champions, winning 51 times on the PGA Tour, ranking seventh all-time in PGA Tour victories. He won at least once every year from 1956-71. The 16-year streak trails Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, who each won in 17 consecutive seasons. Casper won three major championships — the 1959 and 1966 U.S. Opens and 1970 Masters. Casper finished runner-up three times in the PGA Championship and in the 1969 Masters.
He won the PGA Tour’s money title 1966 and ’68, was PGA Player of the Year in 1966 and 1970 and won five Vardon trophies for lowest scoring average. Later, Casper won nine Champions Tour titles, including two senior majors.
Casper is the winningest American in Ryder Cup history. A part of eight consecutive Ryder Cup teams from 1961-75, Casper held a 20-10-7 record, amassing 23-and-a-half points. He was the victorious captain in the 1979 matches.
He was inducted in the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1978.
In 1989, Casper lent his name to the formation of golf course management firm Billy Casper Golf. The company, headquartered in Virginia, now owns or operates some 170 golf courses in the United States.
Born June 24, 1931 in San Diego, Casper was introduced to golf by his father when he was four. His parents divorced when he was 12.
Golf turned into a refuge for Casper, who developed one of the greatest short games in golf history. He credits deciding to caddie at San Diego Country Club at the age of 11 as his “most important decision.”
Casper met his wife Shirley when the two were in high school, she a sophomore and he a senior. They were married after Casper dropped out at Notre Dame after just one semester.They were married in 1952 just weeks after she graduated from high school.
Before turning pro in 1954, Casper spent four years in the Navy, stationed in San Diego, relishing in the structure the military provided. He would later perform often for military members.
In their 62 years together, Billy and Shirley Casper had five children together, adopting another six. Casper became a Mormon in his 30s, remaining a devoted member of the church throughout his life.
Despite his achievements, Casper largely lived in the shadow of the Big Three — Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. In fact, he titled his autobiography “The Big Three and Me.”
Nicklaus didn’t see Casper that way. On Saturday night, Nicklaus said on his Facebook page: “I have said many times that during my career, when I looked up at a leaderboard, I wasn’t just looking to see where a Palmer or a Player or a Trevino was. I was also checking to see where Billy Casper was.”