Sixteen PGA Tour wins set the table, but his more than 80 golf course designs are likely his most lasting legacy
BIG SKY, Montana – Tom Weiskopf, the 1973 Open champion who later became a successful golf course designer, died of pancreatic cancer Saturday at his home here. He was 79.
Weiskopf was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2020. Laurie Weiskopf said her husband was working last week at The Club at Spanish Peaks and attended a legacy luncheon at the signature club where he was designing “The Legacy: Tom’s Ten,” a collection of his 10 favorite par 3s.
“He worked to the end. It was amazing. He had a big life,” Laurie Wesikopf said.
Sixteen times a winner on the PGA Tour, when playing well Weiskopf could look like a golfer who could do nothing wrong. Three of his wins came at the Kemper Open and he had two each at the Canadian Open and the IVB Philadelphia Golf Classic. He also won at the Benson & Hedges International Open on the European Tour in 1981 and captured the U.S. Senior Open in 1995 over Jack Nicklaus by four strokes.
Weiskopf was equally known for the major tournaments he didn’t win. He finished runner-up at the Masters four times — the most for any player who hasn’t won a green jacket. In 1975, he and Johnny Miller watched Nicklaus masterfully sink a 40-foot birdie.
In a Golf Digest interview in 2008, he said of Nicklaus: “Going head to head against Jack in a major was like trying to drain the Pacific Ocean with a teacup. You stand on the first tee knowing that your very best golf might not be good enough.”
He topped Miller, Nicklaus and Neil Coles in 1973 for the British Open win. He was 12-under par for the tournament.
Weiskopf turned to golf design as his playing career wound down, initially working with the late Jay Morrish. The pair designed Troon Country Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 1986, which was named one of the year’s best new courses by Golf Digest. He and Moorish worked on 25 courses together.
“I should have done more,” Weiskopf once told Golf Digest of his career. “But I don’t dwell on it anymore. I will say this, though: if it wasn’t for the fact that I love so much what I’m doing now (golf course design), I would probably be a very unhappy person.”
Weiskopf helped renovate the North Course at Torrey Pines and worked on about 80 courses, including Loch Lomond in Scotland, which is likely his best-known project.
Located right next to Scotland’s largest freshwater lake, Loch Lomond was notoriously wet, and Weiskopf came close to losing his life during construction when he fell into a peat bog, taking several hours to extricate himself. The course held the Scottish Open for many years and has been acclaimed as one of the best modern courses in the United Kingdom.
He split with Morrish in the late 1990s and established his own firm. Architect Phil Smith, previously with Nicklaus Design, came to work with him in 1999, and the two developed a very close relationship. They worked together full time until 2015, when Smith established his own business, but the two of them continued to collaborate.
“He had a reputation for plain-speaking, but in private he was the most gentle person I have met,” Smith told Golf Course Architecture magazine. “He enjoyed design so much. He really found his niche in life, and it brought him a lot of happiness and joy. He wanted to hear everybody’s ideas – he was always very open minded.
“I will remember him for his loyalty and kindness. The man was bigger than life. When he walked into a room, he was a presence, but he was so very easy to talk to. He thought of me as a brother, and I thought of him the same way.”
Weiskopf is also survived by one of his children from his first marriage, Heidi.