Billy Casper R.I.P.
Billy Casper died a few days ago at age 83. Casper was about the same age as Arnold Palmer and always stayed in Arnie’s shadow. Ironically, his biggest victory was beating Arnie in the 1966 US Open – he came back from 7 shots down during the last round, and then beat Palmer the next day in a playoff.
Casper wasn’t sexy like Arnie. He was very likable and a great player … but he wasn’t Arnold Palmer. Casper grew up in San Diego. I just read an article in the San Diego Union Tribune memorializing Casper – it only had a big picture of Palmer.
But don’t feel sorry for Casper – he had a great life. He was known for his warmth and kindness, and was a devoted family man. Casper also won 51 times on the PGA Tour and is 7th on the all time list of victories.
He struggled with his weight and was an early advocate of unusual health foods. It might have helped because he lost 60 pounds before he won the 1966 US Open. But, I’m not sure it was necessary – I saw him win the 1983 US Senior Open at Hazeltine … and he was big – very big.
Everyone talks about how important the “core” is to playing good golf. I’m not sold. Look at Casper, Craig Stadler, Kevin Stadler, John Daly, and the young Jack Nicklaus. I’ve heard that Jackie Gleason and WC Fields were great golfers – none of those guys had good “cores”.
Now I’m not advocating big bellies … but I’m skeptical about the need to have a flat belly to play good golf. I think golf is more about hand-eye coordination, feel, and good footwork. Very often big guys are good dancers. Golf swings should be more like dancing than frozen tag.
Billy Casper was one of golf’s greatest players – and one of its nicest guys. But, he wasn’t sexy … so he flew under the radar.
GM and Head Golf Professional