Roberto de Vicenzo, the Champion Golfer of the Year in 1967 and one of the sport’s most popular figures has died. He was 94.
The flamboyant Argentinian enjoyed a long and successful career which reached its apex when he lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Liverpool. Ever popular with the British galleries, de Vicenzo was just as renowned for his warm and engaging personality as he was for his sublime golf which saw him win more than 230 tournaments around the world.
De Vicenzo first got into golf as a caddie in Buenos Aires, retrieving balls from ponds but he rose from these humble beginnings to become the greatest golfer to emerge from South America.
He first played in The Open in 1948, was a runner-up once and was third no less than six times. By 1967 he was a sentimental favourite, always a quality ball-striker, his putting not always reliable. Aged 44 he became the second oldest Champion ever, after Old Tom Morris who was 46 in 1867.
In a tense finale, he held off the challenge of defending Champion Jack Nicklaus, helped by a birdie at the par-5 16th – now the 18th for Royal Liverpool’s recent Opens – when he struck a superb 3-wood over the corner of the out-of-bounds to the heart of the green.
De Vicenzo’s victory was a joyous occasion and he was a hugely popular Champion. The crowd’s “sustained warmth and affection,” wrote Pat Ward-Thomas, “were tribute to a fine human being as well as a great golfer and a victory nobly won.”
De Vicenzo was an Honorary Member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.