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Tommy Bolt dies aged 92

Tommy Bolt, the 1958 U.S. Open champion who had one of golf’s sweetest swings and most explosive tempers, has died. He was 92.

His wife, Mary Lou Bolt, said he died Saturday after “his liver shut down.”

“He was the best man I ever knew,” she said Wednesday.

Bolt won 15 times on the PGA Tour, with his lone major at Southern Hills in the US Open in 1958, won by four shots over Gary Player. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2002, which he called the highlight of his career.

But it was temper that gained him the most notoriety.

Bolt was called “Terrible Tommy” and “Thunder,” and he was often fined and suspended by the PGA Tour for slamming clubs and using abusive language. He set up a special fund from his earnings to pay the fines.

“That’s been ballooned out of proportion a little bit,” Bolt said when he was selected for the Hall of Fame. “Now, I threw a couple of clubs. I’m human, just like the other guys. But I threw them at the most opportune time, it seemed like. They always had the camera on me when I was throwing one.”

Bolt attended the U.S. Open at Southern Hills in 2001, and someone asked if tales of his temper were overblown. “I couldn’t have possibly broken as many clubs I was supposed to have broken. They haven’t made that many,” he said.

During his induction in 2002, Bolt regaled the crowd with his favorite story about breaking or throwing clubs. He was playing the Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach one year when he had 135 yards left to the 16th.

Bolt turned to his caddie and asked for a 7-iron, and the caddied replied, “It’s either a 3-iron or a 3-wood. Those are the only clubs you have left.”

Bolt was born March 31, 1916, in Haworth, Okla. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II and turned professional in 1946, joining the tour four years later. His first victory was the North and South Open, and he won at least one time through 1955, when he captured four titles.

His last PGA Tour victory was the Pensacola Open in 1961, although he continued to play the senior circuits and won the 1969 Senior PGA Championship.

“Today’s players owe a debt of gratitude to Tommy Bolt and his fellow pioneers,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. “His golf prowess was only matched by his formidable and colorful personality, and he helped launch an era of the game’s popularity that has continued for nearly half a century.”

Survivors include a son, Thomas Walker Bolt.

 

September 4, 2008




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