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Obituary: Ryder Cup legend Dave Thomas | 1934-2013

The four time Ryder Cup player and renowned course designer Dave Thomas has passed away
Dave Thomas | 1934-2013
Dave Thomas | 1934-2013
Former Ryder Cup player and twice Open Championship runner up Dave Thomas has died aged 79. 

Thomas was also responsible for the design of over 100 courses across the world, with many of his designs forming some of the best layouts in Britain.

European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady, who presented Thomas with honorary life membership of The European Tour earlier this year, led the tributes. 

“Dave became a household name in the 1950s and 1960s when he helped to build the game in Britain and all over the world. He was a larger than life character, a truly great guy, and our condolences are with his partner Carol and Dave’s sons Michael and Paul," he said.

“Wherever The Tour has travelled from Britain to the Continent to the Rest of the World we have played on courses designed by Dave and both as a player and an architect he leaves a lasting legacy to the game he truly loved.”

Sandy Jones, Chief Executive of the Professional Golfers’ Association, said: “I am very sad to learn of the passing of Dave Thomas. He was the proud captain of the PGA in our centenary year in 2001 and everyone would agree that he was a legend of the professional game. He was always great company and a kind and gentle man.

“I feel a great privilege to have shared many enjoyable times in his company when he would enthral me with great stories from his life in golf as we enjoyed a glass of red. He will be very sadly missed by me and all who knew him.”

Born and raised in Newcastle, Thomas turned professional in 1949 when he watched some of the game’s great champions including Fred Daly, Max Faulkner and the legendary Sam Snead competing in The Ryder Cup at Ganton. 

Ten years later Thomas made his Ryder Cup debut at Eldorado Country Club in California against Cary Middlecoff and Snead himself.

He would play in three more Ryder Cups, with the last coming in 1967 at the Champions Golf Club in Texas. On that occasion he partnered a young Tony Jacklin in all four fourballs and foursomes, earning 2 ½ points, before halving his match with Gene Littler in the singles.
Peter Alliss: He leaves behind a big footprint which I’ve always been delighted to walk alongside.
Thomas, who was elected to the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame (WSHF) in 2002, represented Wales 11 times in the World Cup of Golf between 1957 and 1970 and captured more than 20 titles including the Belgian Open (1955), the Dutch Open (1958), the French Open (1959) and the PGA Match Play (1963).

Thomas tied the Australian Peter Thomson for the 1958 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes but lost in a play-off, and in 1966 he finished tied second at Muirfield with Doug Sanders, one stroke behind Jack Nicklaus.

Thomas was recognised throughout his career for his long, straight driving. During a practice round for the 1968 Open  at Hoylake, he hit a drive onto the green at the 420-yard second hole.

Together with Peter Alliss, he designed The Belfry’s famous Brabazon Course on which The Ryder Cup was played in 1985, 1989, 1993 and 2002.

His CV also includes De Vere Slaley Hall, 2015 Solheim Cup venue St Leon Rot, the Roxburgh, San Roque in Spain, Cannes Mougins, La Baule and Terre Blanche in France and courses in Africa, China, Japan, South America and Taiwan. 

Alliss said: “The death of David Thomas saw the closing of a major chapter of my life, both on and off the golf course.

“We met in the mid 1950s and remained friends until his passing.  We played hundreds of rounds together in exhibition matches and tournaments throughout the length and breadth of the world.  We travelled together.  Dare I say, we knew each other’s innermost secrets.  We designed over 50 golf courses together, though perhaps our partnership was rather forgotten over the latter years. 

“He was good company and over indulged, certainly on good food and good wine.   How he lived to be 79 is a miracle of the human spirit.

“My thoughts are with Carol and boys at this sad time.   He leaves behind a big footprint which I’ve always been delighted to walk alongside.

“Rest easy old friend.”



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