Former USGA president, Masters competitions chair Nicholson dies at 87

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Former USGA president Will Nicholson, Jr. died on Saturday. He was 87.

Nicholson served as the head of the USGA from 1980-81. He was also on the USGA Executive Committee for 11 years and chaired the Rules of Golf Committee from 1978-79.

“Will was the consummate volunteer,” said USGA president Diana Murphy. “He was a gentle gentleman and, at the same time, a firm enforcer of the Rules of Golf. He led the USGA with distinction and mentored generations of presidents, including myself.” 

Nicholson was also well known for his role at Augusta National Golf Club. The Denver, Colo., native served 17 years on the Masters Rules Committee and chaired the Competitions Committee for 15 years, beginning in 1992.

His most famous Masters ruling occurred in 2004, when he granted Ernie Els relief from behind a pile of branches in the rough. Nicholson, who overruled two other rules officials, said the branches had been placed there following an ice storm the previous winter.

Els, a 2013 recipient of the Nicholson Award for “a lifetime commitment and dedication to the game of golf,” tweeted his respect for Nicholson.

Nicholson served in several golf capacities in Colorado, before and after his roles at the USGA and Augusta National, and is a member of the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame, along with his father, Will Nicholson, Sr., a Denver mayor from 1955-59.