The world of golf said goodbye to host of legends and icons in 2021.
The game of golf touches so many and those who contribute to its success come from all over.
The list includes a famous golf-course architect, a key figure in the USGA, Tiger Woods’ coach at Stanford, a pioneer of the game who finally got to participate in the ceremonial Masters tee shot as well as innovators, coaches, and a comedian, as well as golf writers and broadcasters.
As we prepare to turn the calendar to 2022, let’s not forget those who have left their mark on the game.
Lauren Yankee with her motorcycle. Photo courtesy the Lauren Yankee family
Lauren Yankee bought a motorcycle during the pandemic lockdown. Mom said she got that bug from her father, and she worried every time Lauren left the house. Looking back now, Cari Yankee’s heart swells at the memory of how happy that bike made her eldest daughter, how she’d come back beaming from a long ride in the Michigan countryside. Lauren always did have an adventurous, fearless spirit.
Lonnie Nielsen at the 2009 Dick’s Sporting Goods Open.
Lonnie Nielsen learned golf on sand green courses in Iowa and was an All-American golfer at the University of Iowa. Despite his success, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to play golf for a living or use his business degree. “I’d like to turn pro,” Nielsen said at the time, “but I don’t want to do it if I don’t think I can do it well.”
Jimmy Powell, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour Champions, died Jan. 16, 2021, the day before his 86th birthday.
When the Senior PGA Tour began as an actual sanctioned tour in 1980, it was seen by most golf fans as a chance to watch old favorites play against each other. And it was a chance for players who might have drifted away from competitiveness in their later 40s to feel like rookies again the minute they turned 50. It happened for players like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Lee Trevino. But the Senior PGA Tour, now called the PGA Tour Champions, was also a chance for strong golfers who never did much on the PGA Tour to get a second chance at being winners in big-time professional events. Such a player was California’s Jimmy Powell.
Longtime golf writer Larry Bush.
The longtime West Palm Beach resident started working for the Palm Beach Post Times in 1958. Larry Bush also worked for newspapers in Tampa, Fort Pierce and Cocoa before becoming a freelance writer in 1981. If there was a local golf tournament in the county, Bush was invariably there covering it. His knowledge, history and perspective of the game made him a favorite among golfers, from legends such as Jack Nicklaus to the average amateur or PGA Professional.
Frank Thomas, Technical Director of the United States Golf Association, in 1985. Photo by John B. Carnett/Bonnier Corp. via Getty Images
The next time you reach into your bag, pull out your driver and hit a good one down the fairway, stop for a moment and thank Frank Thomas. Without him, your driver would still have a steel shaft on it. Thomas invented the graphite shaft before becoming the United States Golf Association’s senior technical director from 1974 to 2000.
Marion Heck played in 125 events combined on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions.
Marion Heck’s last name was simply fitting. He was a heck of a guy. And a heck of a golfer to those who knew him. The Fort Myers Beach, Florida, resident had a varied career that included 56 events on the PGA Tour, 69 more on the PGA Tour Champions, and so many others.
John Mascatello was the head of the Wasserman Golf Group, one of the more prominent marketing and talent management companies in sports, with representation across all major sports including the PGA Tour, the NFL, MLB, NHL as well as national media personalities. Mascatello represented more than 30 players on the PGA Tour.
Pete Dye, right, with his son Perry on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort.
Perry Dye began working on courses for his father at age 12. He later formed his own course architecture firm, Dye Designs, in 1984. Perry was known as an early “green” builder, plotting courses with smaller footprints that were more environmentally sensitive. He built more than 80 courses in all, including more than 20 in Japan, and his course legacy stretches to 15 countries.
Wally Goodwin with former Stanford player Patrick Rodgers. Photo by NCCGA
Hall of Fame golf coach Wally Goodwin started the college golf programs at Northwestern (1981-87) and Northern Colorado (2003-07) but he was best known for his 13-year stint at Stanford, during which time he returned the program to national prominence.
Former Fordham men’s golf coach and MGA president Paul Dillon (center) surrounded by recipients of the MGA’s Golfworks program. (Courtesy MGA)
Paul Dillon was a past president of the Metropolitan Golf Association and former men’s golf coach at Fordham. More importantly, he was the father to actors Matt and Kevin. He had six children in all. Paul came to golf late in life before becoming an advocate of the game as a leader, coach and artist. His service on behalf of the MGA and Westchester Golf Association made him one of the most recognizable faces in New York-New Jersey-Connecticut golf during the last 30 years.
Jocelyne Bourassa is photographed in Toronto on June 18, 1975. Photo by Boris Spremo/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Before Brooke Henderson, Jocelyne Bourassa was a star player for Canadian women’s golf. “She would give you the shirt off her back,” Danielle Nadon, head pro and general manager at Ottawa’s Loch March Golf and Country Club, told the Toronto Sun. “She was such a great friend. Anything you needed, anything you wanted, she would get it done. She absolutely did so much for women and golf in Canada.”
CBS commentator Ben Wright watches the play at the LPGA Championship in the TV tower on the 17th green at DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Delaware, on May 11, 1995. (Photo: Susan L. Gregg/News Journal)
Ben Wright, who worked for CBS Sports for 23 years, died Aug. 29 from complications following surgery. Golf Digest reports that he had two broken vertebrae.
Wright was caught up in multiple controversies over comments he made about women golfers and lesbians.
Wright was born in England. He served as a Russian interpreter in the British Army before becoming a sportswriter in 1954. He wrote for the Daily Dispatch and the Daily Mirror in London before becoming a freelance writer and broadcaster in 1961. He contributed to Time Magazine, Sports Illustrated and founded Golf World (UK). He started with CBS Sports in 1972 and worked 23 consecutive Masters Tournaments, with his final CBS telecast at Augusta National coming in 1995.
Gary Player, the International team captain, and wife Vivienne applaud during the foursome matches of The Presidents Cup on Sept. 27, 2007, at The Royal Montreal Golf Club in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Photo by S. Greenwood/US PGA Tour
Vivienne Player was the wife of Hall of Fame golfer Gary Player. The couple’s 64-year marriage produced six children, 22 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Billy Maxwell in the 1987 Senior Players Championship at the Sawgrass Country Club. (Photo: Times-Union File)
Billy Maxwell was a feisty, gritty competitor who won seven PGA Tour titles with the help of a lethal 4-wood and precise short game. In addition to a golf career that included eight top-10s and 19 top-25s in major championships and a 4-0 record in the 1963 Ryder Cup, Maxwell also owned the Hyde Park Golf Club, long considered one of the top public-golf experiences in the area.
Norm Macdonald during The Match: Tiger vs Phil at Shadow Creek Golf Course on November 23, 2018 in Las Vegas. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images for The Match
“Saturday Night Live” Norm Macdonald was a passionate fan of the game of golf, following it with unmatched passion. He once had an idea for a TV show from Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas, where he’d interview a fellow celebrity or athlete over 18 holes – an actual interview where he could really pick someone’s brain, get at something meaningful. Figure out what makes them tick.
Bruce Fleisher holds the championship trophy on Saturday, Aug. 31, 1968 in Columbus, Ohio after winning the U.S. Amateur.
Few golfers enjoyed the second-chance nature of the PGA Tour Champions more than Fleisher. After winning just once on the PGA Tour in more than 400 tries, he won his first two starts on the 50-and-older circuit in 1999 and claimed 18 total titles, including the 2001 U.S. Senior Open.
Renton Laidlaw, President of the AGW, and Roddy Williams, European Tour Press Officer, present Peter Alliss the Michael Williams Outstanding Services to Golf Award at the 137th Open Championship on July 15, 2008 at Royal Birkdale Golf Club, Southport, England. Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Renton Laidlaw was a true voice of the game across the mediums and his tireless dedication and distinctive style brought acclaim and accolades throughout a career of revered longevity. Laidlaw covered his first British Open back in 1959 while he would become the first non-American reporter to reach the milestone of 40 Masters tournaments in 2013.
Fredrik Andersson Hed
Fredrik Andersson Hed poses with the trophy after winning the Italian Open.
Sweden’s Fredrik Andersson Hed played in 358 Euro Tour events following an outstanding amateur career where he won the European Young Masters and Swedish Junior Stroke Play Championship. He also competed in the Eisenhower Trophy before turning pro in 1992. He won twice on the Challenge Tour before spending the next decade on the European Tour. Six times in his career he kept his status via qualifying school.
Orrin Vincent, founder of OB Sports Golf Management (Courtesy of Troon)
Orrin Vincent was the founder of OB Sports Golf Management. Troon golf management company acquired OB in 2019. Vincent founded the company in 1972 and grew it into a powerful management group with more than 70 courses in its portfolio at the time Troon acquired it.
Lee Elder at Augusta National during the 1975 Masters. Photo by The Augusta Chronicle
Lee Elder earned his way to the Masters Tournament by holing an 18-foot birdie putt at Pensacola Country Club in Florida, at the same course where a few years earlier he had been refused entrance into the clubhouse and changed his shoes in the parking lot.
Howard Ward was a respected golf writer from North Carolina. He died at the age of 84. (Contributed photo)
Howard Ward spent 41 years working at the Charlotte Observer, with 27 of them as spent as sports editor. He covered the Masters Tournament 22 times. Ward is one of few writers inducted into the Carolinas Golf Association Hall of Fame.
Penta B. Love
Davis Love III and his caddie/brother Mark Love at the 90th PGA Championship on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2008 at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township, Michigan. Photo by Michael Conroy/Associated Press
Penta B. Love, the mother of PGA Tour veteran Davis Love III and his brother Mark, died on December 13, 2021.