EUROPEAN Tour chief executive George O’Grady has led the tributes to former Ryder Cup player and renowned course designer Dave Thomas, who died on Tuesday, aged 79.
O’Grady, who presented Thomas with honorary life membership of the European Tour earlier this year, said: “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. 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 of 2001 and everyone would agree he was a legend of the professional game. He will be very sadly missed by me and all who knew him.”
Thomas, who was born and raised in Newcastle, turned professional in 1949.
Ten years later, Thomas made his debut in the contest at Eldorado Country Club and he went on to play in three more Ryder Cups, the last in 1967 in Houston where he partnered a young Tony Jacklin in all four fourballs and foursomes, earning two and a half points, before halving with Gene Littler in the singles.
He was elected to the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame in 2002, represented Wales 11 times in the World Cup of Golf and twice finished second in the Open Championship. In 1958 he lost a 36-hole play-off to Australia’s Peter Thomson at Royal Lytham and in 1966 at Muirfield was tied second with Doug Sanders. Together with Peter Alliss, he designed The Belfry’s Brabazon Course on which the Ryder Cup was played in 1985, 1989, 1993 and 2002.