Honoring a golf great

Lisa Paine — Sports Editor

Lisa Paine — Sports Editor

It was good to see that Billy Casper was awarded the 2010 PGA Distinguished Service Award at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisc. this past weekend. Casper, who honored Grand Blanc with his presence in 2008 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Buick Open, is considered one of golf’s greats. That’s an understatement that has been underscored over the decades, as Casper owns three majors among 51 PGA Tour titles.

At 78 years young, Casper was bestowed with the PGA’s highest honor during the 92nd PGA championships at the prestigious course along Lake Michigan.

The charismatic champion of golf for all ages, Casper started his PGA Tour career in 1956, and more than 20 years later in 1978 was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He was said to be speechless upon hearing of his newest honor, said the good folks at the PGA Tour.

“As impressive as Billy Casper was on the golf course, perhaps his greatest talents come from his ability to connect with people, earning the admiration of his peers past and present, and serving as a shining example of how we all can give back to others,” said PGA of America President Jim Remy on Saturday.

Casper turned pro in 1954 and in that first year earned a whopping $18,733, quite a comparison to today’s million dollar prizes. He did get a car, too, a salmon 1959 Buick Invicta that he surprised the media with at the

2008 Buick Open media day when he drove a vintage replica around front from behind the clubhouse parking lot. He and then defending champ Brian Bateman playfully fought over the larger-than-life trophy that Buick bestowed upon its winner. Casper won the inaugural event in 1958 and the Buick that flanked them made for great photos, great conversation, and spoke volumes for Billy’s love of golf, cars and what the game had done for him in his day.

Casper’s 51 titles rank him as No. 7 on the all-time PGA Tour victory list and he’s still the alltime

leading point winner in U.S. Ryder Cup history. Forget about letting Tiger play. Let’s put Billy back in the line up!

You can see the good-natured sense of humor Casper still has today when you learn of the title of his soon-to-bereleased book, The Magnificent Fourth—his own homage to the Greats, Nicklaus, Palmer and Player, the very celebrated Big Three of Golf, whose names were often spoken before his. He simply says that he was not as well known as his counterparts.

Getting back to the Ryder Cup, Casper played on eight straight U.S. squads from 1961-1975, notching a 20- 10-7 overall mark, earning 23-1/2 points, the most by any American. He was captain in 1979, the year he led the U.S. team to a 17-11 win at Greenbrier in West Virg. His final PGA Tour win was the 1975 NBC New Orleans Open. He then switched to the seniors, now called Champions Tour, posting nine more wins.

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