In the 1970s when the tournament was held at Charlotte, N.C., he virtually owned first place. He won for the first time in 1971, prevailing in a star-studded playoff with Gary Player, Lee Trevino and Dale Douglass. He had an easier time in 1973, winning a three-stroke victory over Lanny Wadkins. In 1976, he finished second, one stroke behind Joe Inman. And in 1977, he once again was the winner, this time by two over Bill Rogers and George Burns.
Weiskopf was the hottest golfer on the planet save Jack Nicklaus in the 15-year stretch between 1968 and 1982. He won 15 times, and during a three-month stretch in 1973 he won five times in eight starts, including the British Open. He finished second in the Masters four times, and at the U.S. Open between 1976 and 79, he finished second, third, fourth and fourth.
It was in 1984, after the Kemper had moved to Congressional Country Club near Washington, D.C., that Weiskopf realized he had had enough.
I remember it very well, Weiskopf said. I walked off the golf course. That was the last year I competed on the regular tour. I was extremely frustrated when I played in that Kemper. And I later, about two months later, quit playing just because I was so frustrated with myself.
It had all started with a boy who was the son of a mother and father who were both outstanding golfers, with plus-2 handicaps. Despite the golfing prowess of mom and pop, Weiskopf didnt begin playing until he was 15 years old and a caddie in Massilon, Ohio. But when he finally played, he shot a 92 the first time out and he was hooked. He shot in the 70s within three months and accepted a golf scholarship to Ohio State in 1960.
At Ohio State, they had another pretty good golfer ' a fellow named Jack Nicklaus. He was an upperclassman, almost three years older than Weiskopf, but he was an invaluable friend to the young freshman.
He was very nice to me, Weiskopf said in a Golf World magazine interview. He showed me a few things, but mostly I just watched this guy. I had never seen anybody play like that.
Weiskopf, unfortunately, would be compared to Nicklaus throughout his career. Both were from Ohio, both went to Ohio State, both had awesome physical abilities. But whereas Nicklaus had a mental game second to none, Weiskopf was more or less an angry young man in his years on the tour. Weiskopf appreciated a challenge, but once he had met the challenge, he wasnt interested in doing it again. It eventually drove him away from being an active player.
It was a British Open victory over Johnny Miller in his banner year of 73 that first planted the seeds of retirement. I think it kind of ended my career, to tell you the truth, said Weiskopf. It was like, Finally I won a major. Its all over and I won the best.
He carried on, though, and in 1983 won the Western Open playing the best Ive ever played from tee to green for four straight days. After that, he knew he couldnt do any better. I knew I was through, he admitted.
When it finally ended in 84, Weiskopf hung em up and set his mind to designing golf courses. He and partner Jay Morrish have been hugely successful, culminating in the creation of Loch Lomond golf course near Glasgow, Scotland. A big European Tour event has been held annually at Loch Lomand leading up to the British Open.
Once again, though, he is eyeing his golf clubs and starting to think about playing some Senior Tour events. Who is this Tom Weiskopf, anyway?
My wife said it best about 20 years ago, said Weiskopf in 1995 at the U.S. Senior Open at Congressional. She said, Who is this guy that I am reading about in the paper, because that is not my Tom.
I think I was always a little bit of a misunderstood person I would hope that I am a different player than I was when I played here in 1984.
I never was one to blame the course or blame the situation or whatever. I always blamed myself, and sure, we do things that we are not very ' no, I wont say that. But yeah, I am a different person today. I would hope that I am. But I wasnt quite the individual that I think people portrayed me as.