Today is the start of the British Open Golf Championship. What is now referred to as the Open Championship is the oldest of the four major golf championships. First played in 1860, in Scotland; the 147th edition of this championship will return to Scotland's Carnoustie.
Almost all the all-time great players have won multiple Open titles. Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino have won twice. Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo and Gary Player have three wins each. However, they aren't the leading winners of Open titles during the modern era (after 1900). Tom Watson had five wins in the 1970's-80's. He is joined by a name not many are familiar with, Peter Thomson.
Thomson had four of this five Open wins in the 1950's. It was at a time where Golf was rarely on television so the players weren't household names. That started during the Palmer era and grew with rise of Nicklaus and Player. But Thomson wasn't a one-trick pony. Although the Open was the only major he won, he had eighty-four professional wins worldwide.
Among the highlights of his career was coming to play in the United States, at age 55, and winning eleven Senior PGA tour events, including a major, in thirteen months.
After proving he could compete at an advanced age, Thomson walked away from Golf. He lived his life out of the limelight and tended to downplay his achievements. A few years ago, he looked back at his career and in an interview with The Guardian, admitted he was a little in awe of his career and life.
“For the last 40 years I’ve been ignoring them, but I’m now beginning to be a bit more proud of myself. If I had won all of my Opens in the 60s, I think my name would have been much bigger. If I had won five times on television it would have been different. That’s what happened to Tom Watson, and he became a household name. I didn’t want to be a public star. I had a very joyful time, playing a game that I loved for the sheer pleasure of it. I don’t think I did a real day’s work in the whole of my life.”
There are two reasons for featuring him today. Besides the start of the Open Championship, Peter Thomson died last month of Parkinson's Disease. He was age eighty-eight.
Thomson was diagnosed with PD at age eighty-four and spent the last four years of his life dealing with and fighting the disease. It's hard enough dealing with the changes Parkinson's puts your body through at a younger age, so I can only imagine how much harder it is when you reach your eighty's.
Thomson was among of the dozen of athletes who have been diagnosed with Parkinson's. One thing this shows is no matter how you lead your life, how active you were or whatever your profession is, Parkinson's does not discriminate. It plays no favorites.
Peter Thomson dealt with his disease in the same manner as his golf career. Quiet and classy. It didn't become public that he had Parkinson's until his death on June 20th. That's the way most people with the disease live their lives. They just keep living out of the limelight.
For Peter Thomson and the Parkinson's community, it's just moving forward one day at a time....one golf swing at a time.
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