The world of golf lost prominent figures in 2021, people who have made lasting contributions to the game and its community. From tour pros to business leaders and international golf ambassadors, everyone could boast of having a unique and significant impact on the sport.
Among the deaths that have resonated the most in the sport over the past 12 months is that of Lee Elder, a golf pioneer and pioneer. The PGA Tour mainstay broke the Masters color barrier in 1975 and also became the first black player in the Ryder Cup in 1979. Earlier that year Elder joined Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player on the first tee at Augusta National after have been named Honorary Starter. Although not able to strike an opening shot, Elder received the loudest standing ovation and called it “one of the most emotional experiences” of his life.
Along with Elder, the people mentioned below cared about golf and tried to improve the game we love through hard work, stellar play, and thoughtful analysis.
PGA Tour and PGA of America pro club who eventually broke through PGA Tour Champions and won four times. Helped North Texas State’s dominant golf program win four straight NCAA titles from 1949 to 1952.
Member of the PGA Tour from 1978 to 1983 before becoming a double winner of the Champions Tour. The first pro on the circuit to be one of the main contributors to the GIVE (Golf for Injured Veterans Everywhere) foundation. Inducted into the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.
Played full time on the PGA Tour after serving in the military, winning the Orange County Open Invitational (1961) and the Sunset-Camellia Open Invitational (1964). Played for USC golf as an amateur receiving All-American honors from 1956 to 1958 and became the first player to win the Pac-8 Conference and Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles during consecutive years.
The first African-American to win a USGA event, the US Amateur Public Links Championship in 1959. Won the individual title of the NAIA Men’s Golf Championship in 1960 while representing the Western Washington College of Education. Played in the 1966 US Open and five US Senior Opens after winning. Served as a golf professional at The Lakes Golf Course in El Segundo, Calif., For 25 years.
A tour pro who competed in 611 PGA Tour and Senior Tour events before eventually winning a 1991 MONY Syracuse Senior Classic title. Won two more senior titles and played in over 500 senior tour events. Served as the mayor of Toco, Texas, (pop. 150) while also playing the Senior Tour in the 1990s.
USGA Technical Director, overseeing equipment regulations from 1974 to 2000. Known for bridging golf innovation with the protection of the traditions of the game. Inventor of the graphite shaft and played an important role in the creation of the Slope System for the evaluation of golf courses.
Twice winner of the PGA Tour (1971 Liggett & Myers Open Match Play Championship and 1972 Southern Open) and once winner of the Champions Tour: Bank One Senior Classic (1991). Has held pro positions at Sea Palms, Sky Valley and Innsbruck golf clubs and has run a golf consultancy firm, DeWitt Weaver Golf Solutions, with his children. Inducted into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame and the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
Reinstated amateur golfer who finished second in the first United States Mid-Amateur Championship in 1981 and two other USGA events. Four times a member of the US Walker Cup squad before becoming captain of the 2003 and 2005 US teams. Helped the United States win the 1982 World Amateur Tag Team title. Inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Ohio Golf Association.
Four-time winner of the PGA Tour, member of the United States Ryder Cup team in 1977. Known for his superb play around the greens. Took a pro position at Oak Tree Country Club in Pennsylvania. McGee’s son Mike is married to former LPGA Tour star Annika Sorenstam.
Served in the US Air Force before becoming a professional golfer in 1952. Worked as a pro club under Claude Harmon at Winged Foot while playing on the PGA Tour. Inducted into the Pacific Northwest Golf Association Hall of Fame.
A two-time PGA Tour winner, he has designed several well-known courses in Arizona and Texas, such as the Continental Country Club in Flagstaff, the Legacy Ridge Country Club in Bonham, and the Hideout Golf Club in Brownwood. Also a three-time winner of the Arizona Open.
A former landscaping contractor who turned his passion for golf into a world-renowned course architecture firm, building over 200 golf courses around the world touching all segments of the golf market. Notable courses included Half Moon Bay, GC of Georgia, Boyne Highlands, Bighorn GC, Palmetto Dunes, and Palmetto Hall.
Englishman who played in the 1965 Ryder Cup. Competed in all open championships from 1961 to 1977 (best result: T-12 in 1965).
Won the Schweppes PGA Close Championship (now known as the PGA Championship) in 1961 and was selected to the English Canada Cup squad for his outstanding play. Become the pro at Tavistock Golf Club.
Leading Golf Agent for 30 years and Executive Vice President of the Wasserman Golf Group. Has represented John Daly, Roger Maltbie and Scott Verplank over the decades, has also worked with Matthew Wolff, Rickie Fowler and Viktor Hovland.
A member of the PGA of America who worked as Director of Golf at the Pinetree Country Club in Chamblee, Ga., Who was found shot down with two other people on the 10th hole of the course. Police later said he came across a crime that had taken place during.
Long-time president of Hamilton Tailoring Co., in Avondale, Ohio, which in 1967 made an agreement with Clifford Roberts, president of Augusta National Golf Club, to have Hamilton Tailoring take over the manufacture of the green jackets awarded to the Masters winners (and also worn by club members). Has been faithfully low-key about his company’s relationship with the club, rarely acknowledging him, let alone granting interviews.
Canadian golfer with a distinguished amateur career before joining the LPGA Tour. Twice winner of the Canadian Women’s Amateur in 1965 and 1971. Won the LPGA Rookie of the Year award in 1972 and became the first Canadian to win the Canadian Women’s Open (then called the La Canadian). Won the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award in 1972 for Canada’s Best Female Athlete and was ultimately named to the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
A friend described him as “one of the toughest, meanest men on this planet”. Played in a total of 255 events on the PGA Tour and the PGA Tour Champions. Joined the US Army and became a paratrooper three years after starting his touring career.
Wife of golf legend Gary Player and co-founder of the Player Foundation and the Gary Player Invitational Series tournaments, which have raised millions for educational opportunities for underprivileged children.
Stand-up comedian, host of the weekend’s Saturday Night Live update and obsessed with golf. Big Tiger Woods fan, tweeter and prolific golf bettor. “Nobody knows golf better than I do. Nobody.”
Seven-time PGA Tour winner known for a short-killing game who also played on the 1963. Ryder Cup team. Won the US Amateur Championship in 1951 and helped North Texas State win four consecutive NCAA Tag Team Championships from 1949 to 1952.
Former United States Amateur Champion (1968) who won the New England Classic in 1991 on the PGA Tour and ultimately became a dominant presence on the Champions Tour with 18 wins. Winner of the 2001 US Senior Open and became the first player to achieve back-to-back wins in his first two Champions Tour events. Head coach of the United States Open golf team at the 1989 Maccabiah Games and the 2013 Maccabiah Games in Israel.
Broadcaster / journalist known as “The Voice of the European Tour”. Covered 165 major tournaments, including 58 open championships. Became the first non-US journalist to cover 40 consecutive Masters tournaments in 2014. Also served as secretary of the Association of Golf Writers in the UK
The 2010 BMW Italian Open champion and two-time Challenge Tour winner. After playing on the European Tour, he became a golf commentator for Sveriges Television in his native Sweden.
Founder of OB Sports Golf Management, which oversaw the operations of several golf facilities across the country. Twice named PGA Professional of the Year and a seven-time recipient of PGA Merchant of the Year. Played on the PGA Tour prior to his work at OB Sports.
Four-time winner of the PGA Tour which broke the Masters color barrier in 1975 after winning an invitation with a win at the 1974 Monsanto Open. Made 448 begins on tour, then becomes the first black player to the Ryder Cup in 1979. Develops scholarship for low-income students seeking college money and serves on the board of Goodwill. Served as an honorary starter at the 2021 Masters with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player for his contributions to golf.
Longtime golf writer from Columbus, Ohio who covered Jack Nicklaus as a junior golfer. Continued to cover 56 Masters tournaments. Was president of the Golf Writers of America and in 1984 was named Ohio Sportswriter of the Year. He later became the director of media and player relations for The International, a now defunct PGA Tour event at Castle Pines Golf Club in Colorado.
Mother of Ryder Cup-winning captain and Hall of Fame member Davis Love III and widow of acclaimed swing trainer Davis Love Jr. An accomplished golfer in her own right and a key figure in the community of St. Simons Island, Georgia.
Peter Andrews, 90, December 20
A former child actor who, after serving in the US Army in the Korean War, became a prolific writer with articles published in the New York Times, American Heritage, Playboy, Newsweek and Reader’s Digest. A regular contributor to Golf Digest, with articles in the magazine for over 35 years.