The golf world lost some prominent figures in 2019, individuals who made lasting contributions to the game and its community. From tour pros to business leaders and international golf ambassadors, each could boast a unique and important impact on the sport.
Arguably, the one with the closest personal connection to the largest number of golf fans wasn’t someone who played the game for a living, but who wrote about those who did. The entire sports landscape mourned Dan Jenkins when he died in March of natural causes at age 90. Jenkins documented sports with his award-winning prose, keeping athletes in check and charming fans for more than 60 years. For 34 of them, he appeared on Golf Digest’s masthead, often leaving our readers laughing, sometimes crying, and always thinking with each story.
If Jenkins was among the more familiar names to pass away, the loss of a few behind-the-scenes individuals in the industry serves as a reminder of how many selfless figures surround the game. Think of Alice Dye, who partnered with her husband, Pete, to modernize golf course architecture. She rarely took credit for leading projects, or editing her counterpart’s designs. And there was Nick DePaul, who might not be recognizable to the general golf public but was a skilled caddie and quazi-psychologist for prominent golfers such as Seve Ballesteros, Gary Player and Greg Norman. Like the rest mentioned below, they will be long remembered and forever missed.
Other deaths of notable golf figures in 2019 include:
Nick DePaul, 78, Jan. 1:
Career caddie on the bag for Seve Ballesteros’ 1983 Masters and 1984 British Open wins. Also looped for Gary Player, Greg Norman, David Frost and George Archer.
Alice Dye, 91, Feb. 1:
A successful competitive golfer, champion of the women’s game and pioneer in modern golf-course architecture with her husband and business partner, Pete Dye.
Rosemary Thompson, 76, Feb. 1:
An accomplished amateur golfer who won the 1992 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur. According to the Albuquerque Journal, she broke 18 course records from 1972-1997.
Gene Littler, 88, Feb. 16:
Known for an ultra-smooth swing, Littler won 29 times on the PGA Tour, including the 1961 U.S. Open. Nicknamed "Gene the Machine," he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1990.
Dan Jenkins, 90, March 19:
An iconic sportswriter, World Golf Hall of Fame journalist, best-selling novelist and Golf Digest Writer-at-Large. Jenkins wrote honest and entertaining prose infused with energy and wit, covering 68 Masters, 63 U.S. Opens, 56 PGAs and 45 Open Championships in his career spanning six decades.
Arie Irawan, 28, April 7:
A rising star on the PGA Tour China circuit. The Malaysian golfer won two events on the Asian Development Tour and two on the Professional Golf of Malaysia Tour.
Marilynn Smith, 89, April 9:
One of the 13 founders of the LPGA, Smith won 21 times on the tour she helped build and was the first female commentator to work on a men’s golf telecast.
Alan Murray, 78, May 24:
Australian professional golfer who co-founded the Singapore Professional Golfers Association (SPGA) in 1973. He won a French Open and Australian PGA Championship before relocating to Singapore.
Keith Kleven, 76, May 30:
Physical therapist for Tiger Woods in the early 2000s. He was an avid golfer who worked with tour pros Mark O’Meara and Jonathan Byrd, the UNLV golf teams and boxers Mike Tyson and Larry Holmes.
Mark Parsinen, 70, June 3:
Worked with Gil Hanse on the design of Castle Stuart Golf Links in Scotland and was managing director at Kingsbarn Golf Links (St. Andrews).
Peter Toogood, 89, June 5:
Australian who was a member of his country’s winning team at the inaugural World Amateur Team Championship at St. Andrews in 1958.
Mario Gonzalez, 96, July 29:
Known as the Father of Golf in Brazil, Gonzalez won the country’s Open eight times. A successful amateur, he defeated Billy Casper in a made-for-television event in 1961 and played Bobby Jones to a draw in a 1941 exhibition match.
Gordon Brand Jr., 60, July 31:
An eight-time European Tour winner and two-time Ryder Cup player, the Scottish golfer contributed 1½ points when Europe won the Ryder Cup for the first time in the United States in 1987.
Jack Whitaker, 95, Aug. 18:
A Hall-of-Fame broadcaster who covered several majors in golf and bought poetic-like prose to commentating.
Brian Barnes, 74, Sept. 9:
A two-time Great Britain & Ireland Ryder Cup player remembered for defeating Jack Nicklaus twice in one day at Laurel Valley in 1975. Barnes won 20 times as a professional, including two Senior British Opens.
Kathy Stachura, 56, Oct. 2:
Golf Digest’s esteemed fact-checker and an integral part of the staff for almost 35 years. Stachura worked behind the scenes to ensure every word published was honest and factual, catching errors without judgement and becoming every writer’s warmhearted secret weapon.
Dave Bennett, 84, Oct. 2:
Renowned course architect and one-time partner of Lee Trevino. Bennett was known for working on the Prestonwood Country Club (The Hills Course) in Plano, Tex.; Cimarron Country Club in Mission, Tex., and Desert Hills Country Club in Green Valley, Ariz.
Barry Frank, 87, Oct. 29:
Sports agent and network executive who developed shows like “The Skins Game” where top golfers—including Tiger Woods—competed in big-money matches. He also managed top sportscasters like Bob Costas, Jim Nantz, Robin Roberts and Mike Tirico.
Terry Galvin, 79, Nov. 3:
Former Golf World editor from 1989-2000 who oversaw the weekly magazine after three decades of skillfully running sports departments at various newspapers across the country.
Patricia O’Sullivan Lucey, 93, Nov. 6:
One of five women to win an LPGA Tour event as an amateur with her victory at the 1951 Titleholders. She was a member of the 1952 U.S. Curtis Cup team and won three North & South Women’s Amateur Championships.
Minoru Yoneyama, 95, Nov. 11:
Founder and former president of Japanese sporting-goods manufacturer Yonex. The company was an early innovator in using graphite shafts for golf clubs after using the material in its tennis and badminton racquets.
Hilary Watson, 63, Nov. 27:
Wife of eight-time major winner Tom Watson. She was passionate about horses and continued competing in horse-cutting competitions through her two-year fight with pancreatic cancer.
Jo Ann Washam, 69, Dec. 6:
A three-time winner on the LPGA Tour, the Auburn, Ala., native is remembered for making two holes-in-one during the Women’s Kemper Open in 1979.