Successful US golfer known for his deadly putting and short game

Billy Casper: January 24th, 1931 - February 7th, 2015

Billy Casper, who has died aged 84, was a two-time US Open victor, a Masters champion and the player with the seventh highest number of wins in PGA Tour history.

A brilliant putter with a superb short game as well, Casper was nonetheless overshadowed in his prime by big names like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.

But he won 51 PGA Tour events from 1956 through to 1975. Only Sam Snead, Tiger Woods, Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Palmer and Byron Nelson have won more PGA tournaments.

Casper played on eight Ryder Cup teams, winning 23.5 points, more than any other American, and he was the captain of the 1979 squad.


He was the PGA Tour player of the year in 1966 and 1970, won the Vardon Trophy for best stroke average five times, and was the tour’s leading money winner twice. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1978.

Billy was a killer on the golf course,” the tour pro Dave Marr said of him. “He just gave you this terrible feeling he was never going to make a mistake, and then of course he’d drive that stake through your heart with that putter.”

William Earl Casper Jr was born in 1931 in San Diego, but his family soon moved to Chula Vista, near the Mexican border.

When he was four, his father put a golf club in his hands on a three-hole course he built on a New Mexico farm where the family was living at the time.

Casper was a chubby child, but an athletic career beckoned nevertheless. He caddied at the San Diego Country Club in Chula Vista. At the end of the day, the caddies played cards, then went to a green and practised putting in the dark.

"On a pitch-black night, when you walk up to the hole just to see where it is, it stamps a very strong image in your mind," Casper told Golf Digest in 2005.

“You develop a feel for everything: the moisture on the grass, the small change in elevation, the exact distance to the hole, all kinds of things your eyes alone can’t tell you.”

Casper turned pro in 1954 and won his first PGA Tour event two years later. Soon he was among the game’s finest golfers, though he lacked charisma. Allergies He seemed to be known as much for his weight swings (he weighed between 180 and 220 pounds in winning his three PGA Tour majors), and his numerous allergies that prompted a diet plentiful in buffalo meat and organic vegetables, and his conversion to Mormonism in 1966.

Casper pondered his place in the sport’s history. “I think people recognise what I did more readily than when it happened,” he said in 1989. “In my best years, everybody was talking about Palmer, Nicklaus and Gary Player.”

Casper won his last senior tournament in 1989. He is survived by his wife of more than 60 years, Shirley Franklin Casper; his sons Billy, Robert, Byron, David, Charlie and Tommy; his daughters Linda, Judi, Jeni, Julia and Sarah, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.