Peter Thomson won the British Open Championship, the oldest major tournament in all of golf, five times – a feat only beaten by one man in its 160 years.
It is an astonishing exclamation point to his career, but he never felt that it defined him, and his tinder-dry wit never left him.
"As many would know, Dad played 30 Opens in his lifetime," his son Andrew Thomson told a memorial service at the MCG dining room yesterday. "He lost 25 times! That’s the way he’d put it."
A life remembered: Australian golfer Peter Thomson’s memorial at the MCG’s Members’ Dining Room.
Thomson, the laconic, understated Melburnian who became the first Australian to win the most famous tournament in the world in 1954, sent the four-year-old Andrew off to prep with the famous claret jug trophy when he returned from Royal Birkdale in England that year, but the show and tell did not go well. His infant son came home crying.
"What’s wrong?" Thomson said.
"They rubbished me at school," his son replied. "One boy said his father’s got a dozen of those!"
Heyday: Thomson lifts the Claret Jug.
The moment, Andrew said, tickled his father, who kept touch with his roots as a public course player at Royal Park. "Because as much as professional golf, he loved club golf. He said club golf was the plasma of the game, people trying their luck and coming home with a trophy, just like him."
Thomson, a World Golf Hall of Famer, died last week at 88 after a four-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.
In a fitting tribute, Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews in Scotland, flew to Melbourne for yesterday's service and brought with him the fabled claret jug to display out front of the service.
"It was something we least expected and, frankly, left us stunned with awe," Thomson’s wife, Mary, said. "Peter would say it was his greatest honour ever."
More than 1000 people from the sporting world heard Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews describe Thomson as Australia’s greatest male golfer. The golf-loving premier said he had written a paper about Thomson’s career and life while he was at secondary school.
That was dad: Thomson’s son Andrew speaks at yesterday’s celebration.
"His remarkable playing record makes him our best-ever male golfer and a true great of the game," Mr Andrews said. "But he’s no less of a figure as a prolific writer, leader of professionals and course architect. If he were an artist, we would marvel at the breadth of his practice. His body of work is unparalleled."
Thomson is survived by his wife, Mary, four children and 11 grandchildren.
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