Tom Watson


“No other game combines the wonder of nature with the discipline of sport in such carefully planned ways.
A great golf course both frees and challenges a golfer’s mind.”
—Tom Watson

Tom Watson is one of the most successful golfers of all time, and he hails from right here in the Show Me State. He has won dozens of PGA tournaments, including several majors. He has dominated the sport for four decades and continues to win tournaments on the Champions Tour today. He has proven himself one of the greatest golfers in history and one of the most famous athletes to call Missouri his home.


Thomas Sturges Watson was born on September 4, 1949, in Kansas City. He won the Kansas City match play championship at the age of fourteen and decided from that time on that he wanted to be a professional golfer. He graduated from Pembroke Hill High School, where he was an outstanding student and athlete. That combination catapulted him to one of the top colleges in the country, both for academics and golf, Stanford University.


At Stanford, Watson was good but certainly not a dominating golfer. He graduated from Stanford in 1971 with a degree in psychology but decided to pursue a career in professional golf. He turned pro the same year he graduated, but it took a few years before he was making enough money on the pro tour to earn a living. He was still a young man when he burst onto the scene at the 1974 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. The twenty-five-year-old golfer took a one-stroke lead into the final round, only to shoot a 79 that dropped him to fifth. The frustration and lack of a tournament win early in his career turned out to be a motivator, as he used those disappointments to become a dominating force on the tour.


Nineteen seventy five turned out to be a turning point in Watson’s career. His first win came at the British Open, where he holed a twenty-foot putt to force a playoff, which he later won. Over the next eight years, he won the British Open a total of five times. He built on that success over the next decade, as he was named the PGA Tour Player of the Year six times by the time he was thirty-five years old. He was also the tour’s leading money winner five of those years. In addition to the five British Open wins, he racked up three other major titles including two wins at the Masters and the 1982 U.S. Open.

Watson was forever immortalized in the game of golf when he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1988. His impressive total of 39 career PGA Tour victories places him as one of the best of all time. He transitioned into the Champions Tour when he was age eligible, where he has won six tournaments through 2005. He continues to be one of the most successful players on tour, and one of the most popular of all time.


*In 1999, Tom became one of only five Americans to be inducted as an honorary member of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. The other Americans were Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, President George H. W. Bush, and Gene Sarazen.

*Watson played the final round with Jack Nicklaus during the Golden Bear’s last professional tournament.

*His fierce competitiveness, coupled with his innocent looks, earned him the nickname “Huckleberry Dillinger.”


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Famous People From the Show Me State