Bob Betley passes away at age 80
April 29, 2020
By Laury Livsey, PGATOUR.COM
- Bob Betley played on the PGA TOUR Champions from 1990 to 2002. (PGA TOUR)
Bob Betley holds a unique distinction: He was the first—and still only—former motorcycle police officer to win a PGA TOUR Champions tournament.
In the 1960s, Betley patrolled the streets of Ogden, Utah, for the Ogden Police Department. But by 1968, having grown weary of that grind, he decided to give professional golf a try after picking up the game in his mid-20s. It turned out to be a good decision, although it may not have seemed like it at the time.
In his first 22 years as a professional golfer, Betley, who died April 28 at age 80, had enough victories and made enough money to justify getting off the motorcycle and turning in his service revolver and badge to play golf for a living.
Even if success didn’t necessarily come quickly for the Butte, Mont., native, he was successful enough playing—and winning—PGA sectional tournaments and state opens, mainly in Utah, Arizona, Idaho and Colorado, that he kept his dream alive. Betley finally broke through with a big victory in 1976, capturing the first of two Arizona Open titles. The second came in 1978. The following year, Betley had his first taste of big-time golf, playing in six PGA TOUR events, making four cuts in six starts. His best finish was a tie for 43rd at the San Antonio Texas Open. In 1980, he made it to the weekend three times in 13 appearances, a tie for 36th at the Phoenix Open his best showing.
In 1986, at age 46, Betley finished second to Bob Lendzion at the PGA Professional Championship in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and he added a Colorado Open title in 1990 right after he had turned 50. Earlier in the year, Betley took advantage of PGA TOUR Champions status he earned at the Qualifying Tournament and let the stars of the day know he was a serious player. He tied for 12th at the Vantage at The Dominion in San Antonio in his Tour debut and closed the year 50th on the money list, with three top-10s, two of them top-fives.
Although he won the 1993 Bank of Boston Classic for his lone PGA TOUR Champions win, it was his playoff loss at the 1992 Franklin Quest Championship in Park City, Utah, that put his name in the record book. At the rain shortened event, Betley finished regulation tied with Orville Moody, and the two players then played Jeremy Ranch’s 18th hole eight times until Moody eventually prevailed. The Betley-Moody head-to-head, sudden-death battle set a PGA TOUR Champions record at the time for the Tour’s longest playoff. Despite the win, which turned out to be the last of his 11 titles, Moody sounded downright depressed following the victory.
“This is one of my saddest (victories) because it would have meant so much to Bob. I wouldn’t have been at all unhappy if he had won. I was pulling as much for him as I was for me,” said Moody, who died in 2008.
Following the playoff defeat, Betley added, “I would have liked to have won, but second place isn’t too bad. I guess I’ll have to go out and do a little better next time.”
Although it wasn’t literally the “next time,” Betley’s victory a year later outside Boston was sweet redemption, the triumph coming via scores of 66-69-69 at Nashawtuc Country Club—good enough to edge Bob Murphy by a stroke. That victory came the week after he tied for second in Long Island, and it preceded back-to-back ties for fourth in Utah and Washington. He made $198,500 in that four-week stretch, almost half of his $407,300 haul for the season.
Betley played PGA TOUR Champions full-time until 1997 then curtailed his play as he approached his 60th birthday. His last appearance came in 2002. He was the long-time head professional and manager of Bear Lake West Golf and Country Club in Fish Haven, Idaho.
In 2007, the Utah Golf Hall of Fame inducted Betley in a class that included PGA TOUR winner and former BYU golfer Mike Reid.
Betley is survived by his wife Jane. Funeral services are pending.