Billy Casper

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Billy Casper is also the name of the protagonist of A Kestrel for a Knave.
Billy Casper
— Golfer —
Billy Casper 2010.jpg
Casper golfing at a Georgian golf course in April 2010
Personal information
Full name William Earl Casper, Jr.
Nickname Buffalo Bill
Born (1931-06-24)June 24, 1931
San Diego, California
Died February 7, 2015(2015-02-07) (aged 83)
Springville, Utah
Height 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight 195 lb (88 kg; 13.9 st)
Nationality  United States
Spouse Shirley Casper (m. 1952–2015; his death)
Children 11
Career
College University of Notre Dame
Turned professional 1954
Former tour(s) PGA Tour
Champions Tour
Professional wins 69
Number of wins by tour
PGA Tour 51 (7th all time)
European Tour 1
Champions Tour 9
Other 7 (regular)
1 (senior)
Best results in major championships
(Wins: 3)
Masters Tournament Won: 1970
U.S. Open Won: 1959, 1966
The Open Championship 4th: 1968
PGA Championship 2nd/T2: 1958, 1965, 1971
Achievements and awards
World Golf Hall of Fame 1978 (member page)
PGA Player of the Year 1966, 1970
PGA Tour
leading money winner
1966, 1968
Vardon Trophy 1960, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968

William Earl Casper, Jr. (June 24, 1931 – February 7, 2015) was an American professional golfer. He was one of the most prolific tournament winners on the PGA Tour from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s.

Casper started as a caddie in his youth, and emerged from the junior golf hotbed of San Diego, where golf could be played year-round, to rank seventh all-time in career Tour wins with 51, across a 20-year period between 1956 and 1975. Fellow San Diegan great Gene Littler was a friend and rival from teenager to senior. Casper won three major championships, represented the United States on a then-record eight Ryder Cup teams, and holds the U.S. record for career Ryder Cup points won. After reaching age 50, Casper regularly played the Senior PGA Tour and was a winner there until 1989. In his later years, Casper successfully developed businesses in golf course design and management of golf facilities.

Casper served as Ryder Cup captain in 1979, was twice PGA Player of the Year (1966 and 1970), was twice leading money winner, and won five Vardon Trophy awards for the lowest seasonal scoring average on the Tour.

Respected for his extraordinary putting and short-game skills, Casper was a superior strategist who overcame his distance disadvantages against longer-hitting competitors such as Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus with moxie, creative shot-making, and clever golf-course management abilities. Never a flashy gallery favorite, Casper developed his own self-contained style, relying on solid technique, determination, concentration, and perseverance.[1]

He converted to the LDS Church in 1966. Casper was inducted to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1978.

Early years[edit]

Casper was born in San Diego, California.[2] His father started him in golf at age five.[3] Casper caddied during his youth at San Diego Country Club to earn money for golf, and spent one semester at the University of Notre Dame on a golf scholarship, after graduating from high school. He returned to San Diego to marry his wife Shirley in 1952. Casper competed frequently as an amateur against fellow San Diegan Gene Littler.[4] He turned professional in 1954.[5]

Professional career[edit]

Casper had 51 PGA Tour wins in his career, with his first coming in 1956. This total places him seventh on the all-time list. His victories helped him finish third in McCormack's World Golf Rankings in 1968, 1969 and 1970, the first three years they were published. He won three major championships: the 1959 and 1966 U.S. Opens, and the 1970 Masters Tournament.

He was the PGA Tour Money Winner in 1966 and 1968. He was PGA Player of the Year in 1966 and 1970. Casper won the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average five times: 1960, 1963, 1965, 1966, and 1968.

Casper was a member of the United States team in the Ryder Cup eight times: 1961, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1975, and a non-playing captain in 1979. Casper has scored the most points in the Ryder Cup by an American player.

Casper won at least one PGA Tour event for 16 straight seasons, from 1956 to 1971 inclusive, and this is the third-longest streak, trailing only Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, who each won on Tour in 17 straight years.

On the senior circuit, Casper earned nine Senior PGA Tour (now the Champions Tour) wins from 1982 to 1989, including two senior majors.

Legacy[edit]

Much has been written in the annals of golf that Casper was the most underrated star in golf history, and the best modern golfer who never received the accolades he deserved. He was not considered one of the "Big Three" — Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player — who are widely credited with popularizing and bringing enormous commercial success to the sport around the world; however, between 1964 and 1970, Casper won 27 tournaments on the PGA Tour, two more than Nicklaus and six more than Palmer and Player combined, during that time period. He is considered to have been the best putter of his era by many.[6]

Casper's 20-year period of winning on the PGA Tour—between 1956 and 1975—was an era of extraordinary growth in tournament purses, television coverage and depth of competition. Casper faced legends such as Palmer, Nicklaus, Sam Snead, Cary Middlecoff, Gary Player and Lee Trevino when they were all at or near their peaks.

Casper was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1978. In 2000, he was ranked as the 15th greatest golfer of all time by Golf Digest magazine.[7]

Casper's grandson, Mason Casper, is on the Utah Valley University golf team. Mason qualified for NCAA post-season play in 2012.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Casper was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Casper joined the LDS Church in his mid 30s at the height of his golfing career.[9]

Casper died at his home in Springville, Utah of a heart attack on February 7, 2015, aged 83.[10] Casper was survived by his wife of more than 60 years, Shirley Franklin Casper, 11 children, six of whom are adopted, 71 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren.[11]

Other ventures[edit]

Golf course design and management[edit]

After his professional career, Casper was a designer for many golf courses, such as The Highlands, The Palm and Eagle Crest in Sun City Summerlin, Nevada. As of 2011, his management company, Billy Casper Golf, was the second-largest operator of golf courses in the United States, and managed more than 140 golf facilities.[12]

Acting[edit]

Casper had a cameo appearance in the movie, Now You See Him, Now You Don't.

Billy's Kids[edit]

Casper was active in charitable work for children and hosted fundraisers, including an annual tournament at San Diego Country Club for "Billy's Kids".

Books[edit]

Professional wins (69)[edit]

PGA Tour wins (51)[edit]

No. Date Tournament Winning score Margin of
victory
Runner(s)-up
1 Jul 15, 1956 Labatt Open −14 (68-68-67-71=274) 2 strokes Jimmy Demaret
2 Feb 3, 1957 Phoenix Open Invitational −9 (68-71-65-67=271) 3 strokes Cary Middlecoff, Mike Souchak
3 Apr 28, 1957 Kentucky Derby Open Invitational −7 (68-68-71-70=277) 1 stroke Peter Thomson
4 Jan 12, 1958 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am
Golf Championship
−11 (71-66-69-71=277) 4 strokes Dave Marr
5 Mar 11, 1958 Greater New Orleans Open Invitational −10 (69-70-70-69=278) Playoff Ken Venturi
6 Jun 23, 1958 Buick Open Invitational −3 (70-73-71-71=285) 1 stroke Ted Kroll, Arnold Palmer
7 Jun 13, 1959 U.S. Open +2 (71-68-69-74=282) 1 stroke Bob Rosburg
8 Oct 4, 1959 Portland Centennial Open Invitational −19 (69-64-67-69=269) 3 strokes Bob Duden, Dave Ragan
9 Nov 15, 1959 Lafayette Open Invitational −11 (69-64-71-69=273) 4 strokes George Bayer
10 Nov 22, 1959 Mobile Sertoma Open Invitational −8 (71-68-68-73=280) 2 strokes Wes Ellis, Dave Ragan
11 Sep 25, 1960 Portland Open Invitational −22 (68-67-66-65=266) 2 strokes Paul Harney
12 Oct 3, 1960 Hesperia Open Invitational −13 (70-68-67-70=275) 5 strokes Bob Rosburg
13 Oct 16, 1960 Orange County Open Invitational −8 (70-68-69-69=276) 1 stroke Charlie Sifford
14 Sep 24, 1961 Portland Open Invitational −15 (68-71-67-67=273) 1 stroke Dave Hill
15 Mar 25, 1962 Doral C.C. Open Invitational −5 (70-67-75-71=283) 1 stroke Pete Bondeson
16 Apr 15, 1962 Greater Greensboro Open −5 (69-70-68-68=275) 1 stroke Mike Souchak
17 May 27, 1962 500 Festival Open Invitation −20 (66-67-67-64=264) 1 stroke George Bayer, Jerry Steelsmith
18 Oct 14, 1962 Bakersfield Open Invitational −16 (69-71-65-67=272) 4 strokes Tony Lema
19 Jan 20, 1963 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am −3 (73-65-73-74=285) 1 stroke Dave Hill, Jack Nicklaus,
Gary Player, Bob Rosburg,
Art Wall, Jr.
20 Aug 18, 1963 Insurance City Open Invitational −13 (67-68-71-65=271) 1 stroke George Bayer
21 Mar 22, 1964 Doral Open Invitational −11 (70-70-67-70=277) 1 stroke Jack Nicklaus
22 May 10, 1964 Colonial National Invitation −1 (72-67-70-7=279) 4 strokes Tommy Jacobs
23 Sep 27, 1964 Greater Seattle Open Invitational −15 (68-67-66-64=265) 2 strokes Mason Rudolph
24 Nov 1, 1964 Almaden Open Invitational −9 (68-70-73-68=279) Playoff Pete Brown, Jerry Steelsmith
25 Feb 7, 1965 Bob Hope Desert Classic −12 (70-70-69-67-72=348) 1 stroke Tommy Aaron, Arnold Palmer
26 Jul 4, 1965 Western Open −14 (70-66-70-64=270) 2 strokes Jack McGowan, Chi Chi Rodriguez
27 Jul 25, 1965 Insurance City Open Invitational −10 (70-72-66-66=274) Playoff Johnny Pott
28 Oct 23, 1965 Sahara Invitational −15 (66-66-68-69=269) 3 strokes Billy Martindale
29 Jan 16, 1966 San Diego Open Invitational −16 (70-66-68-64=268) 4 strokes Tommy Aaron, Tom Weiskopf
30 Jun 20, 1966 U.S. Open −2 (69-68-73-68=278) Playoff Arnold Palmer
31 Jun 26, 1966 Western Open −1 (69-72-72-70=283) 3 strokes Gay Brewer
32 Jul 31, 1966 500 Festival Open Invitation −11 (69-70-68-70=277) 3 strokes R. H. Sikes
33 Jul 3, 1967 Canadian Open −5 (69-70-71-69=279) Playoff Art Wall, Jr.
34 Sep 4, 1967 Carling World Open −3 (74-68-70-69=281) Playoff Al Geiberger
35 Jan 28, 1968 Los Angeles Open −10 (70-67-68-69=274) 3 strokes Arnold Palmer
36 Apr 8, 1968 Greater Greensboro Open −17 (65-67-69-66=267) 4 strokes George Archer, Gene Littler,
Bobby Nichols
37 May 19, 1968 Colonial National Invitation −5 (68-71-68-68=275) 5 strokes Gene Littler
38 Jun 9, 1968 500 Festival Open Invitation −8 (70-71-69-70=280) 1 stroke Frank Beard, Mike Hill
39 Sep 8, 1968 Greater Hartford Open Invitational −18 (68-65-67-66=266) 3 strokes Bruce Crampton
40 Nov 4, 1968 Lucky International Open −15 (68-65-70-66=269) 4 strokes Raymond Floyd, Don Massengale
41 Feb 9, 1969 Bob Hope Desert Classic −15 (71-68-71-69-66=345) 3 strokes Dave Hill
42 Jun 8, 1969 Western Open −8 (72-69-68-67=276) 4 strokes Rocky Thompson
43 Sep 28, 1969 Alcan Open −12 (70-68-70-66=274) 1 stroke Lee Trevino
44 Jan 11, 1970 Los Angeles Open −8 (68-68-68-72=276) Playoff Hale Irwin
45 Apr 12, 1970 Masters Tournament −9 (72-68-68-71-69=279) Playoff Gene Littler
46 Jul 19, 1970 IVB-Philadelphia Golf Classic −14 (68-67-71-68=274) 3 strokes Terry Wilcox
47 Aug 24, 1970 AVCO Golf Classic −12 (64-70-71-71=276) 1 stroke Bruce Crampton, Tom Weiskopf
48 Oct 24, 1971 Kaiser International Open Invitational −19 (67-65-69-68=269) 4 strokes Fred Marti
49 Jul 1, 1973 Western Open −12 (67-69-67-69=272) 1 stroke Larry Hinson, Hale Irwin
50 Sep 3, 1973 Sammy Davis Jr.-Greater Hartford Open −20 (67-65-68-64=264) 1 stroke Bruce Devlin
51 May 18, 1975 First NBC New Orleans Open −17 (67-68-66-70=271) 2 strokes Peter Oosterhuis

Source[13]

PGA Tour playoff record (8–8)

No. Year Tournament Opponent(s) Result
1 1958 Greater New Orleans Open Invitational Ken Venturi Won with eagle on second extra hole
2 1961 Buick Open Jack Burke, Jr., Johnny Pott Lost an 18-hole playoff (Burke:71, Casper:74, Pott:74)
3 1964 Almaden Open Invitational Pete Brown, Jerry Steelsmith Won with birdie on third sudden death playoff hole
Steelsmith eliminated in 18-hole playoff (Casper:68, Brown:68, Steelsmith:73)
4 1965 San Diego Open Invitational Wes Ellis Lost on first extra hole
5 1965 Insurance City Open Invitational Johnny Pott Won with birdie on first extra hole
6 1966 U.S. Open Arnold Palmer Won an 18-hole playoff (Casper:69, Palmer:73)
7 1967 Canadian Open Art Wall, Jr. Won an 18-hole playoff (Casper:65, Wall, Jr.:69)
8 1967 Carling World Open Al Geiberger Won with par on first extra hole
9 1967 Hawaiian Open Dudley Wysong Lost to par on first extra hole
10 1968 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am Bruce Devlin, Johnny Pott Pott won with birdie on first extra hole
11 1969 Kaiser International Open Invitational George Archer, Don January, Jack Nicklaus Nicklaus won with birdie on second extra hole
January eliminated with par on first hole
12 1970 Los Angeles Open Hale Irwin Won with birdie on first extra hole
13 1970 Masters Tournament Gene Littler Won an 18-hole playoff (Casper:69, Littler:74)
14 1971 Glen Campbell-Los Angeles Open Bob Lunn Lost to birdie on fourth extra hole
15 1972 Byron Nelson Golf Classic Chi Chi Rodriguez Lost to birdie on first extra hole
16 1975 World Open Golf Championship Jack Nicklaus Lost to par on first extra hole

European Tour wins (1)[edit]

Other wins (7)[edit]

This list is incomplete.

Senior PGA Tour wins (9)[edit]

No. Date Tournament Winning score Margin of
victory
Runner(s)-up
1 Aug 28, 1982 Shootout at Jeremy Ranch −9 (74-71-69-65=279) 1 stroke Miller Barber, Don January
2 Sep 19, 1982 Merrill Lynch/Golf Digest Commemorative Pro-Am −10 (68-7-68=206) Playoff Bob Toski
3 Jul 25, 1983 U.S. Senior Open +4 (73-73-69-73=288) Playoff Rod Funseth
4 Apr 22, 1984 Senior PGA Tour Roundup −14 (68-69-65=202) 2 strokes Bob Stone
5 Mar 15, 1987 Del E. Webb Arizona Classic −15 (68-65-68=201) 5 strokes Bob Charles, Dale Douglass
6 Jun 28, 1987 Greater Grand Rapids Open −13 (69-68-63=200) 3 strokes Miller Barber
7 May 8, 1988 Vantage at The Dominion −14 (70-68-67=205) 1 stroke Chi-Chi Rodríguez
8 Jun 12, 1988 Mazda Senior Tournament Players Championship −10 (69-68-74-67=278) 2 strokes Al Geiberger
9 Oct 22, 1989 Transamerica Senior Golf Championship −9 (69-70-68=207) 3 strokes Al Geiberger

Senior PGA Tour playoff record (2–3)

No. Year Tournament Opponent(s) Result
1 1981 U.S. Senior Open Arnold Palmer, Bob Stone Lost 18-hole playoff (Palmer 70, Stone:74, Casper:77)
2 1982 Merrill Lynch/Golf Digest Commemorative Pro-Am Bob Toski Won with birdie on fourth extra hole
3 1983 Gatlin Brothers Seniors Golf Classic Don January Lost to par on fifth extra hole
4 1983 U.S. Senior Open Rod Funseth Won with birdie on first extra hole after 18-hole playoff (Casper:75, Funseth:75)
5 1988 United Hospitals Classic Bruce Crampton Lost to birdie on first extra hole

Senior major championships are shown in bold.

Other senior wins (1)[edit]

Major championships[edit]

Wins (3)[edit]

Year Championship 54 holes Winning score Margin Runner-up
1959 U.S. Open 3 shot lead −2 (71-68-69-74=282) 1 stroke Bob Rosburg
1966 U.S. Open (2) 3 shot deficit −2 (69-68-73-68=278) Playoff 1 Arnold Palmer
1970 Masters Tournament 1 shot lead −9 (72-68-68-71=279) Playoff 2 Gene Littler

1 Defeated Palmer in an 18-hole playoff: Casper 69 (−1), Palmer 73 (+3).
2 Defeated Littler in an 18-hole playoff: Casper 69 (−3), Littler 74 (+2).

Results timeline[edit]

Tournament 1956 1957 1958 1959
Masters Tournament DNP T16 T20 CUT
U.S. Open T14 CUT T13 1
The Open Championship DNP DNP DNP DNP
PGA Championship DNP DNP 2 T17
Tournament 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
Masters Tournament 4 T7 T15 T11 T5 T35 T10 T24 T16 T2
U.S. Open T12 T17 CUT DNP 4 T17 1 4 T9 T40
The Open Championship DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 4 T25
PGA Championship T24 T15 T51 DNP T9 T2 T3 19 T6 T35
Tournament 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979
Masters Tournament 1 T13 T17 T17 T37 6 8 T14 CUT 43
U.S. Open T8 CUT T11 CUT CUT DNP CUT DNP T30 DNP
The Open Championship T17 T7 T40 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
PGA Championship T18 2 T4 T35 T63 T5 T51 T31 CUT CUT
Tournament 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
Masters Tournament CUT CUT CUT CUT CUT T57 CUT T50 CUT CUT
U.S. Open DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
The Open Championship DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
PGA Championship CUT DNP T67 CUT DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Tournament 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
Masters Tournament CUT CUT DNP CUT CUT CUT CUT CUT CUT WD
U.S. Open DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
The Open Championship DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
PGA Championship DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Tournament 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
Masters Tournament WD CUT DNP DNP DNP WD
U.S. Open DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
The Open Championship DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
PGA Championship DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP

DNP = Did not play
WD = Withdrew
CUT = missed the half-way cut
"T" indicates a tie for a place
Green background for wins. Yellow background for top-10

Summary[edit]

Tournament Wins 2nd 3rd Top-5 Top-10 Top-25 Events Cuts made
Masters Tournament 1 1 0 4 8 18 45 23
U.S. Open 2 0 0 4 6 12 20 14
The Open Championship 0 0 0 1 2 4 5 5
PGA Championship 0 3 1 6 8 13 24 20
Totals 3 4 1 15 24 47 94 62
  • Most consecutive cuts made – 27 (1962 PGA – 1971 Masters)
  • Longest streak of top-10s – 4 (twice)

Champions Tour major championships[edit]

Wins (2)[edit]

Year Championship Winning score Margin Runner-up
1983 United States Senior Open +4 (73-69-73-73=288) Playoff1 Rod Funseth
1988 Mazda Senior Tournament Players Championship −10 (69-68-74-67=278) 2 strokes Al Geiberger

1 18-hole playoff finished in a tie, Casper (75) to Funseth (75), Casper won with a birdie on the first sudden-death hole.

U.S. national team appearances[edit]

Professional

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Diaz, Jaime (June 2012). "Out Of The Darkness". Golf Digest. 
  2. ^ "PGA Tour profile – Billy Casper". PGA Tour. Retrieved January 16, 2014. 
  3. ^ "PGA Tour Media Guide – Billy Casper". Retrieved January 16, 2014. 
  4. ^ Peery, Paul D. (1969). Billy Casper: Winner. Prentice-Hall. ISBN 978-0130762818. 
  5. ^ "Casper Tops Million Mark". The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). UPI. January 12, 1970. p. 62. Retrieved January 31, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Billy Casper profile". World Golf Hall of Fame. Retrieved January 16, 2014. 
  7. ^ Yocom, Guy (July 2000). "50 Greatest Golfers of All Time: And What They Taught Us". Golf Digest. Retrieved December 5, 2007. 
  8. ^ "Golf: Utah Valley golfer receives NCAA Tournament bid". The Salt Lake Tribune. May 7, 2012. 
  9. ^ Haws, J. B. (2013). The Mormon Image in the American Mind: Fifty Years of Public Perception. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-19-989764-3. 
  10. ^ "Billy Casper passes away at age 83". PGA Tour. February 8, 2015. 
  11. ^ Goldstein, Richard (February 7, 2015). "Billy Casper, Overlooked Titan of Golf, Dies at 83". The New York Times. 
  12. ^ "Billy Casper Golf". Retrieved August 15, 2011. 
  13. ^ Barkow, Al (1989). The History of the PGA TOUR. Doubleday. pp. 262–3. ISBN 0-385-26145-4. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]