Rod Funseth

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Rod Funseth
Personal information
Full name James Rodney Funseth
Born (1933-04-03)April 3, 1933
Spokane, Washington
Died September 9, 1985(1985-09-09) (aged 52)
Napa, California
Height 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Weight 170 lb (77 kg; 12 st)
Nationality  United States
Spouse Sandi (Hawkins) Funseth[1]
(m. 1965–1985, his death)
Children 1 son, 1 daughter
College University of Idaho
(briefly attended)[2][3]
Turned professional 1956
Retired 1985 (illness)
Former tour(s) PGA Tour (1962–79)
Senior PGA Tour (1983–84)
Professional wins 9
Number of wins by tour
PGA Tour 3
PGA Tour Champions 1
Other 5
Best results in major championships
Masters Tournament T2: 1978
U.S. Open T10: 1977
The Open Championship DNP
PGA Championship T8: 1965

James Rodney "Rod" Funseth (April 3, 1933 – September 9, 1985) was an American professional golfer who played on the PGA Tour and the Senior PGA Tour (now PGA Tour Champions).[4]

Amiable and low-key but less than confident,[5] Funseth was one of longest hitters and fastest players of his era,[2] but better known for a pessimistic attitude toward his game,[6][7] He claimed that his "I'll never be able to make that shot" mental attitude of lowered expectations helped motivate him to play better. He was especially self-deprecating on his lack of putting prowess.[8][9]

Early years[edit]

Born and raised in Spokane, Washington,[10] Funseth's father was a men's clothing store operator and salesman, born in Sweden.[2][11] Rod competed with his older brother Carl for city junior titles[12] and graduated from North Central High School in 1951.[13] Funseth briefly attended the University of Idaho in Moscow[3][14] to study civil engineering, but did not graduate.[15] He was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.[16]

Funseth returned to Spokane after a semester and worked in various jobs in Washington while competing as an amateur.[17] One of these brief jobs was as a civilian draftsman at the Bremerton Navy Yard, west of Seattle.[2] He won the British Columbia Amateur in 1956 and turned pro that fall, first in Palm Springs, California.[18] In 1959, Funseth became an assistant pro under Masters champion Claude Harmon back east at Winged Foot,[19] north of New York City and later at Thunderbird in Palm Springs.[20] Funseth entered a handful of tour events in 1962, and received sponsorship of $800 per month from Spokane's Athletic Round Table (ART) in 1963 to allow him to play full-time. He played out of Esmeralda, a municipal course in east Spokane built in the mid-1950s. It was initially funded by ART (land and clubhouse) and was named for the group's mascot, a grinning cartoon mare.[20][21] Funseth had the smiling horse insignia on his tour bag for several years, which invited frequent inquisitions.[22] Keeping meticulous records of all his earnings, he reimbursed the ART to the last dollar.[23][24]

PGA Tour[edit]

Funseth played full-time on the PGA Tour from 1963 through 1979 and won three tour events. The first was the Phoenix Open Invitational in 1965 at the Arizona Country Club, which came a week after losing a final round lead at the Bob Hope Classic in Palm Springs.[25] Funseth's second win came eight years later at the Glen Campbell-Los Angeles Open, the season-opener in 1973 at Riviera.[26] His final PGA Tour win came at age 45 in 1978 at the Sammy Davis Jr.-Greater Hartford Open,[10] which paid for his horse barn.[27][28]

His best finish in a major championship was just months earlier, a tie for second at the Masters, one stroke behind Gary Player.[29] Funseth was in the last pairing on Sunday and had a three-under 69, but Player carded a record-tying 64 (−8) for his third green jacket. Funseth birdied the par-5 15th hole, but parred the last three, with a putt left on the lip at the 16th and another narrowly missing on the final hole to force a playoff.[30]

Funseth was known on tour as an avid fisherman,[3][14] a passion shared by Johnny Miller,[31] his next-door neighbor in Napa,[1] and Jack Nicklaus.[22] The three played in an exhibition golf match in Spokane in 1975,[32] a rarity for Nicklaus at the time.[33]

Senior Tour[edit]

Funseth became eligible to play on the Senior PGA Tour after reaching age 50 in April 1983. He had a great deal of immediate success, winning the unofficial Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf (team event with Roberto De Vicenzo) in early May,[34] and a nine-stroke victory at his tour debut at the Hall of Fame Tournament three weeks later in North Carolina at Pinehurst No. 2.[5][35] Funseth also finished second to Billy Casper in a sudden-death playoff at the U.S. Senior Open in July.[36]


His career on the over-50 tour was cut short by terminal cancer, attributed to exposure to asbestos at the navy yard in Bremerton in his late teens.[10][37] Told by physicians in January 1984 that he had four months to live, Funseth continued to play well on tour,[38] and returned to defend his team title at the Liberty Mutual Legends in late April.[39] He competed in 17 events in 1984, with three runner-up finishes and nine in the top-10, despite losing weight and strength. Funseth won a match play event in October in Maine, besting Bob Toski 2-up in the final for a winner's share of $30,000. Although a non-tour event, it included most of the top senior players of the day.[40][41]


Funseth's condition declined in 1985 as his body weight was reduced to 100 lb (45 kg) by September and his breathing assisted with oxygen.[24] He died at age 52 at his home in Napa, California, beside the 12th hole of the Silverado Country Club,[4] next door to friend Johnny Miller.[1] In 1999, he was inducted posthumously into the State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame.[42]


Funseth was survived by his wife Sandi (née Hawkins), a former competitive water skier from San Diego,[1] and their two children, Lisa and Mark, in their late teens.[6][10] He met Sandi during the rainy Crosby event at Pebble Beach in January 1965, when she was a spectator in a long leg cast (from a snow skiing accident) and had been offered shelter in a tournament tent.[2] They were married later that year.

Professional wins (8)[edit]

PGA Tour wins (3)[edit]

No. Date Tournament Winning score To par Margin
of victory
1 Feb 14, 1965 Phoenix Open Invitational 71-68-68-67=274 −14 3 strokes United States Bert Yancey
2 Jan 7, 1973 Glen Campbell-Los Angeles Open 73-69-65-69=276 −8 2 strokes United States Don Bies, Australia David Graham, United States Tom Weiskopf
3 Jul 30, 1978 Sammy Davis Jr.-Greater Hartford Open 65-67-68-64=264 −20 6 strokes United States Dale Douglass, United States Lee Elder, United States Billy Kratzert

PGA Tour playoff record (0–1)

No. Year Tournament Opponents Result
1 1971 Greater Greensboro Open United States Buddy Allin, United States Dave Eichelberger Allin won with birdie on first extra hole

Other wins (3)[edit]

Senior PGA Tour wins (1)[edit]

No. Date Tournament Winning score To par Margin
of victory
1 May 22, 1983 Hall of Fame Tournament 66-67-65=198 −18 9 strokes United States Charlie Sifford

Senior PGA Tour playoff record (0–1)

No. Year Tournament Opponent Result
1 1983 U.S. Senior Open United States Billy Casper Lost to birdie on first extra hole after 18-hole playoff (Casper:75, Funseth:75)

Other senior wins (2)[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d McKenzie, Mike (April 10, 1977). "Rod's clods". Tuscaloosa News. Alabama. p. 2B. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Bingham, Walter (June 12, 1978). "Look for the man early, not late". Sports Illustrated. p. 51. 
  3. ^ a b c Barrows, Bob (August 22, 1975). "Funseth recalls steelhead fishing". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. 1B. 
  4. ^ a b "Professional golfer Rod Funseth dies of cancer at his home in Napa at age 52". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. September 11, 1985. Retrieved June 15, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Brown, Bruce (June 8, 1983). "Rod Funseth: A nice guy once again finishing first". Spokane Chronicle. Washington. p. D2. 
  6. ^ a b "Funseth loses battle with cancer". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. September 10, 1985. p. B1. 
  7. ^ "It's Rod Funseth in a breeze". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. January 8, 1973. p. 8. 
  8. ^ McKenzie, Mike (April 10, 1977). "Rod's clods". Tuscaloosa News. Alabama. p. 2B. 
  9. ^ "Johnny Miller Talks Golf". Golf Digest. October 2005. Archived from the original on November 1, 2006. 
  10. ^ a b c d "Rod Funseth, 52, Pro Golfer Earned More Than $600,000". New York Times. September 11, 1985. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Carl L. Funseth taken by death". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. November 9, 1968. p. 5. 
  12. ^ "Carl Funseth trims brother Rodney, 5 and 4, for city junior title". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. August 16, 1948. p. 9. 
  13. ^ "Rod Funseth, 1951". North Central High School Alumni Association. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b "Sports celebrities tackle LCC". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. August 23, 1975. p. 1B. 
  15. ^ Ashlock, Herb (July 16, 1954). "From the Bench". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. p. 13. 
  16. ^ "Sigma Alpha Epsilon". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1952. p. 284. 
  17. ^ Ashlock, Herb (July 16, 1954). "Young Rod Funseth wants to turn pro this fall". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. p. 13. 
  18. ^ "Funseth joins pro golf ranks". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. September 30, 1956. p. 3, sports. 
  19. ^ "Funseth leads Open test in huge Metropolitan field". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. May 19, 1959. p. 14. 
  20. ^ a b Missildine, Harry (January 8, 1963). "ART backs Rod Funseth". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. 10. 
  21. ^ "Round Table donates $75,000 for Esmeralda golf house". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. March 20, 1954. p. 1. 
  22. ^ a b Missildine, Harry (October 13, 1965). "Pair of charmers meet luncheoneers". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. 16. 
  23. ^ "Rod Funseth set for tour". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. December 16, 1963. p. 19. 
  24. ^ a b Boling, Dave (August 25, 1994). "Funseth gone, but Spokane golfer's spirit lives on". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. C1. 
  25. ^ "Funseth winner". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. Associated Press. February 15, 1965. p. 15. 
  26. ^ "Sandi confident Rod would win". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. Associated Press. January 8, 1973. p. 13. 
  27. ^ "Win by Funseth pays for barn". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. Associated Press. July 31, 1978. p. 17. 
  28. ^ Missildine, Harry (August 2, 1978). "While you were out". Spokesman Review. Spokane, Washington. p. 13. 
  29. ^ "Golf Major Championships". Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Player comes through". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. Associated Press. April 10, 1978. p. 21. 
  31. ^ Missildine, Harry (November 11, 1976). "Miller needs friendly neighbor". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. 12. 
  32. ^ Brown, Bruce (April 30, 1975). "Golf superstars thrill throng at SCC". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. p. 31. 
  33. ^ Brown, Bruce (April 29, 1975). "Nicklaus limits exhibition golf". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. p. 1. 
  34. ^ "De Vicenzo, Funseth take Legends title". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. May 2, 1983. p. 13. 
  35. ^ "Funseth breezes to title". Spokesman Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. May 23, 1983. p. 13. 
  36. ^ "Funseth loses on 19th". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. July 26, 1983. p. 17. 
  37. ^ Blanchette, John (September 11, 1985). "Rod breathed life into golf". Spokane Chronicle. Washington. p. C4. 
  38. ^ "Funseth battles deadly lung cancer". Wilmington Morning Star. North Carolina. April 24, 1984. p. 2D. 
  39. ^ "Funseth still playing despite lung cancer". Gadsden Times. Alabama. Associated Press. April 29, 1984. p. 3C. 
  40. ^ "Funseth holds on to win". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. October 8, 1984. p. 16. 
  41. ^ Barber, Dave (October 8, 1984). "Rod Funseth beats Toski for Unionmutual crown". Bangor Daily News. Maine. p. 19. 
  42. ^ "State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame: Golf". Retrieved January 7, 2013. 

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