“Unfortunately, Dave Thomas’ Ryder Cup era unfolded in the decade before my first appearance in 1969, but his legacy within the Ryder Cup and the game itself had been secured and followed him for many years.
“Dave was also a major factor in championship golf. I remember in 1966 at Muirfield, as I was trying to win my first Open Championship, Dave was someone I was very much concerned about going into the final day. He was without question Europe’s longest and straightest driver of the golf ball. In fact, I called him ‘Big Dave.’ Yet he was a gentle giant, whose warm and engaging personality made him enormously popular with the fans.
“So when Dave tied for the low final round with a 69, he gave fans reason to cheer and me reasons to be concerned again. I had heard about his 69 as I walked to the 15th tee, and knew I had to par in just to force a playoff. Had I not been fortunate to reach the par-5 17th in two and two-putt for birdie, Dave Thomas could have very well been the Open Champion and a very deserving one.
“Dave Thomas and I shared a unique kinship in that we were blessed to have parallel careers as golfers and then course designers. In many ways, Dave was an inspiration for me and many other players who followed in his footsteps. I think Dave would agree that the 150 or so golf courses he designed and left for generations to enjoy—to allow everyone to enjoy a game that has given so much to both of us—is a legacy that will likely be remembered far more than the golf we played.
“Barbara and I send our most heartfelt thoughts and ongoing prayers to his family and enormous circle of friends in the game of golf.”
Donations in memory of Dave Thomas should be sent to the PGA Benevolent Fund c/o David Wright, The PGA, Centenary House, The Belfry, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands B76 9PT United Kingdom.