The golf world lost some prominent figures in 2021, 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.
Among the passings that has resonated the loudest from the sport over the last 12 months is that of Lee Elder, a golfing pioneer and trailblazer. The PGA Tour mainstay broke the Masters color barrier in 1975 and also became the first Black player in the Ryder Cup in 1979. Earlier this year, Elder joined Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player at the first tee at Augusta National after being named an Honorary Starter. Although not able to hit an opening shot, Elder received the loudest ovation and called it “one of the most emotional experiences” of his life.
Along with Elder, those mentioned below cared about golf and tried to better the game that we love through hard work, stellar play and thoughtful analysis.
PGA Tour and PGA of America club pro who eventually broke through on PGA Tour Champions and won four times. Helped North Texas State’s dominant golf program win four consecutive NCAA titles from 1949-1952.
Member of PGA Tour from 1978-1983 before becoming a two-time winner on the Champions Tour. The first tour pro to serve as a lead contributor to the GIVE (Golf for Injured Veterans Everywhere) Foundation. Inducted into the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.
Played full-time on the PGA Tour after serving in the army, winning the Orange County Open Invitational (1961) and the Sunset-Camellia Open Invitational (1964). Played for USC golf as an amateur receiving All-American honors from 1956-1958 and became the first player to win the Pac-8 Conference and Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles in consecutive years.
The first African-American to win a USGA event, the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in 1959. Won the 1960 NAIA Men’s Golf Championship individual title while representing the Western Washington College of Education. Played in the 1966 U.S. Open and five U.S. Senior Opens after winning. Served as the golf pro at The Lakes Golf Course in El Segundo, Calif., for 25 years.
A tour pro who played in 611 PGA Tour and Senior Tour events before finally winning a title at the 1991 MONY Syracuse Senior Classic. Won two more senior titles and played in more than 500 events on the senior circuit. Served as mayor of Toco, Texas, (pop. 150) while also playing the Senior Tour in the 1990s.
Technical director of the USGA, overseeing equipment regulations from 1974 to 2000. Known for walking the line between golf innovation and protecting the game's traditions. Inventor of the graphite shaft and played an important role in creating the Slope System for golf course rating.
Frank Thomas, Technical Director of the United States Golf Association
John B. Carnett
A two-time PGA Tour winner (1971 Liggett & Myers Open Match Play Championship and 1972 Southern Open), and one-time Champions Tour winner: Bank One Senior Classic (1991). Held club pro positions at Sea Palms, Sky Valley and Innsbruck golf clubs and ran a golf consulting company, DeWitt Weaver Golf Solutions, with his children. Inducted into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame and the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
Reinstated amateur golfer who finished runner-up in the inaugural U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship in 1981 and two other USGA events. Four-time member of the U.S. Walker Cup team before captained the 2003 and 2005 American squads. Helped the U.S. win the 1982 World Amateur Team Championship title. Inducted into the Ohio Golf Association Hall of Fame.
Bob Lewis (far right) races out with his American Walker Cup team after clinching the winning point in 2005 at Chicago Golf Club.
A four-time PGA Tour winner who was a member of the 1977 American Ryder Cup team. Known for superb play around the greens. Took a club pro job at Oak Tree Country Club in Pennsylvania. McGee’s son, Mike, is married to former LPGA Tour star Annika Sorenstam.
Served in the U.S. Air Force before becoming a professional golfer in 1952. Worked as a club pro under Claude Harmon at Winged Foot while also playing on the PGA Tour. Inducted into the Pacific Northwest Golf Association’s Hall of Fame.
A two-time PGA Tour winner who designed several well-known courses in Arizona and Texas such as the Continental Country Club in Flagstaff, the Legacy Ridge Country Club in Bonham and The Hideout Golf Club in Brownwood. Also a three-time winner of the Arizona Open.
A former landscape contractor who turned his passion for golf into world-renowned course architecture business, building more than 200 golf courses around the world touching every segment of the golf marketplace. Notable courses included Half Moon Bay, G.C. of Georgia, Boyne Highlands, Bighorn G.C., Palmetto Dunes and Palmetto Hall.
Englishman who played in the 1965 Ryder Cup. Competed in every Open Championship from 1961-1977 (best finish: T-12 in 1965).
Won the Schweppes PGA Close Championship (now known as the PGA Championship) in 1961 and was selected to the English Canada Cup team for his stellar play. Became the professional at the Tavistock Golf Club.
A prominent golf agent for 30 years and an executive vice president of the Wasserman Golf Group. Represented John Daly, Roger Maltbie and Scott Verplank over the decades, also worked with Matthew Wolff, Rickie Fowler and Viktor Hovland.
PGA of America member who worked as Director of Golf at Pinetree Country Club in Chamblee, Ga., who was found shot along with two others on the 10th hole of the course. Police later stated he had happened upon a crime taking place at the course.
GCAA Hall of Fame college golf coach at Northwestern, Stanford and Northern Colorado, who famously coached Tiger Woods for two seasons with the Cardinal. A year before Tiger arrived, Goodwin's 1994 squad won the NCAA Championship.
Longtime chairman of Hamilton Tailoring Co., in Avondale, Ohio, who, in 1967, struck a deal with Clifford Roberts, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, for Hamilton Tailoring to take over the manufacturing of the green jackets awarded to winners of the Masters (and also worn by club members). Was faithfully discreet about his company’s relationship with the club, rarely acknowledging it, let alone granting interviews.
Canadian golfer with a distinguished amateur career before joining the LPGA Tour. Two-time winner of the Canadian Women’s Amateur in 1965 and 1971. Won LPGA Rookie of the Year in 1972 and became the first Canadian to win the Canadian Women’s Open (then called the La Canadienne golf championship). Won the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award in 1972 for Canada’s best female athlete and was eventually named to the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
One friend described him as “one of the toughest, baddest men on this planet.” Played in a combined 255 events on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions. Joined the U.S. Army and became a paratrooper three years into his tour career.
Wife of golf legend Gary Player and co-founder of the Player Foundation and the Gary Player Invitational series tournaments, which has raised millions for educational opportunities for underprivileged children.
Gary Player and his wife Vivienne Player chat with Dave Marr of The Golf Channel during the first round of the 2007 MasterCard Championship.
A self-deprecating storyteller who, after a newspaper/magazine career, worked as a golf commentator for CBS for more than 20 years offering memorable call during the network's coverage of the Masters. A longtime member of the Association of Golf Writers. Was taken off the air in 1996 in the wake of controversial comments he made about female golfers to a journalist during an interview the previous May at the LPGA Championship.
Stand-up comedian, “Saturday Night Live” Weekend Update host and golf obsessive. Big Tiger Woods fan and prolific golf tweeter and bettor. "Nobody knows golf more than me. Nobody."
Comedian Norm Macdonald during The Match: Tiger vs Phil at Shadow Creek Golf Course in 2018.
Seven-time PGA Tour winner known for a killer short game that also played on the 1963 Ryder Cup team. Won the 1951 U.S. Amateur and helped North Texas State win four consecutive NCAA team championships from 1949-1952.
Former U.S. Amateur champion (1968) who won the 1991 New England Classic on the PGA Tour and eventually became a dominant presence on the Champions Tour with 18 victories. Winner of the 2001 U.S. Senior Open and became the first player to earn back-to-back victories in his first two Champions Tour events. Was head coach of the USA Open Golf Team at the 1989 Maccabiah Games and the 2013 Maccabiah Games in Israel.
Broadcaster/journalist known as “The Voice of the European Tour.” Covered 165 majors, including 58 Open Championships. Became the first non-American journalist to cover 40 consecutive Masters tournaments in 2014. Also served as president, chairman and secretary of the Association of Golf Writers in the U.K.
Renton Laidlaw of Scotland speaks during the 41st Annual Awards Dinner of the Golf Writers Association of America during the 2013 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club.
The 2010 BMW Italian Open champion and two-time winner on the Challenge Tour. After playing on European Tour, became a golf commentator for Sveriges Television in his native Sweden.
Founder of OB Sports Golf Management, which oversaw operations of several golf facilities around the country. Was twice named the PGA Professional of the Year and a seven-time recipient of the PGA Merchandiser of the Year. Played on the PGA Tour before his work at OB Sports.
Four-time PGA Tour winner who broke the Masters color barrier in 1975 after earning an invite with a win at the 1974 Monsanto Open. Made 448 starts on tour and then became the first Black player in the Ryder Cup in 1979. Developed a scholarship for low-income students seeking money for college and served on the board of Goodwill. Served as an honorary starter at the 2021 Masters along with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player for his contributions to golf.
Longtime golf writer out of Columbus, Ohio, who covered Jack Nicklaus as a junior golfer. Went on to cover 56 Masters tournaments. Was president of the Golf Writers of America and in 1984 was named the Ohio Sportswriter of the Year. Later became the media and player-relations director of The International, a now defunct PGA Tour event at Castle Pines Golf Club in Colorado.
Mother of Ryder Cup winning captain and Hall of Famer Davis Love III and widow of renowned swing coach Davis Love Jr. An accomplished golfer in her own right and a fixture within Georgia’s St. Simons Island community.
Peter Andrews, 90, Dec. 20
A former child actor who, after serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, became a prolific writer with articles running in the New York Times, American Heritage, Playboy, Newsweek and Reader’s Digest. Was a regular contributor to Golf Digest, with stories appearing in the magazine for more than 35 years.