Billy Casper celebrates his 80th birthday

June 24, 2011
Champions Tour staff

World Golf Hall of Fame member Billy Casper turns 80 today. The San Diego native is one of the most decorated players in the history of the PGA TOUR and we wanted to share a few career accomplishments of his, as well as some things you may not have known about him.

• He has 51 PGA TOUR victories, 31 runner-up finishes, and 21 third-place finishes.

• He ranks 7th on the list of players with most PGA TOUR wins (51). The nearest active player is Phil Mickelson with 39.

• Won the U.S. Open in 1959 and 1966, as well as the 1970 Masters. His Masters title came when he defeated Gene Littler in a playoff, the last 18-hole playoff at Augusta National.

• In the 1966 U.S. Open at Olympic Club he came back from a seven shot deficit to Arnold Palmer on the final nine holes of the tournament to tie and eventually beat Palmer in a playoff.

• Won nine Champions Tour titles, and had 10 runner-up finishes, from 1981-1989.

• His last Champions Tour victory came at the 1989 Transamerica Senior Golf Championship at Silverado CC, California, during the week of the World Series earthquake in San Francisco.

• His PGA TOUR playoff record was 8-8.

• He played on eight Ryder Cup teams and was the captain of the 1979 U.S. Ryder Cup team.

• Nicknamed "Buffalo Bill" but was called "The Gorilla" for a short time after Bo Wininger thought his ball bounced like a gorilla on the run. He wishes "The Gorilla" had stuck.

• Billy was the first player in Champions Tour history to play a tournament without making a bogey (1987 Del E. Webb Arizona Classic). His effort is one of just 23 times this has occurred through 2010.

• He is an only child.

• Billy earned a golf scholarship to the University of Notre Dame but left after a semester to join the Navy. He later made visits to Vietnam to lift troop morale.

• He is a devout Mormon.

• Was considered one of the best putters in the game. Ben Hogan once whispered to him "Billy, tell me: How do you putt?"

• Has designed or had a hand in operating 125 golf courses around the United States since retiring from competitive golf.

• Played golf for 25 years before scoring a hole-in-one but eventually made 21 aces, with two coming on the Champions Tour.

• Was "No.1 most under-rated player in history" on Golf Channel's "Top-10" show.

• Billy and his wife Shirley have 11 children, six of whom are adopted.

• Once, during a practice round at the Masters Tournament, he stopped and took a seat with the patrons behind the 12th tee. Tiger Woods and Mark O'Meara appeared a little later and invited him to join them but he declined saying, "I'm exactly where I want to be, sitting here with all the people."

• Shot 106 in the first round of the 2005 Masters before withdrawing. "I just wanted to do it one more time before I got to be old," he said. "To me, Augusta represents something special. It's our best tournament because it never stands still; it's always trying to improve. We all need to do that in our lives."

• Appeared in the movie Now you see him, Now you don't.

• Was ranked the 15th greatest golfer of all time by Golf Digest in 2000.

• Is one of only two World Golf Hall of Fame members to win the Vardon Trophy five times for the lowest scoring average; Lee Trevino is the other.

• Made a double eagle in the 1971 Swiss Open.

• Started caddying at San Diego Country Club at age 11 and developed a self-taught swing.

• Earned just under $1.7 million in his PGA TOUR career and a little over $1.7 million during his Champions Tour career.

• Holds a tournament each year at San Diego C.C. to raise money for his own organization, 'Billy's Kids,' benefiting San Diego youth, which has raised over $3 million in 18 years.

• He was great friends with the late King of Morocco, Hassan II, whom he met at a golf outing and stayed friends with until the king passed away in 1999. "I feel like I'm half-Moroccan and half-American," he said.

• Was named GolfWeek's Golf Father of the Year in 1996 and was selected as the Memorial Tournament's honoree that same season.

• Was fortunate to make the cut at the 1971 British Open. If he had missed he planned to depart immediately for Morocco to stay with his friend King Hassan II. A coup was attempted the day he was due to arrive. People were killed and the king's friends were targets. The king eventually prevailed and Casper visited shortly after. "Playing well pays off in a lot of ways," he said.

• Suffered all kinds of allergy problems with certain meats so he tried caribou, venison, hippopotamus, buffalo, bear, elk and moose. "Elk and buffalo are best taste-wise, but hippopotamus, not surprisingly, is very watery," he said.

• In 1968 he became the first PGA TOUR player to earn more than $200,000 in a season.

• Was presented with the Distinguished Service Award by the PGA of America last summer at the PGA Championship, (Whistling Straits) for his lifelong contributions through leadership and humanitarianism.