Hilary Watson, the wife of five-time Open champion Tom, has died after battling pancreatic cancer. She was 63.
When Watson called time on his competitive career in the UK during the Senior Open at Royal Lytham in July, he talked about wanting to spend more time with his wife.
“I’ve had a good career playing professional golf all these years,” said the eight-time major winner at the time. “I’ve run across so many fine people who have helped me and supported me.
“First of all, my wife who is battling cancer now. It’s going to give me some time to go out and compete with her.”
Former PGA of America president Ted Bishop, the man who persuaded Watson to return as US Ryder Cup captain at Gleneagles in 2014, led the tributes to Hilary, whose first husband was Rhodesian pro Denis Watson.
“Tom will tell you that Hilary was his hero. … and for many reasons. How these two people dealt with the devastation of the worst that cancer can muster up is truly an inspiration to us all,” he wrote on Facebook.
“Hilary was a beautiful woman who was also one of the fiercest competitors who ever lived. Tom is an eight-time major champion golfer, but more so a man who has always dealt with adversity in amazing ways. It’s a sad day, but Hilary’s fight is over and she leaves us with many beautiful memories.”
Paul McGinley, who led Europe in that match at Gleneagles, described the news as “very sad” on Twitter and added: “Ally (his wife) and I really enjoyed hers as well as Tom’s company over the two years leading to Ryder Cup 2014. #RIP”