Mason Rudolph, 1959 Rookie of the Year, passes away

Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
Five-time PGA TOUR winner Mason Rudolph passed away Monday at the age of 76.
April 18, 2011
Staff and wire reports

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Mason Rudolph, a five-time winner on the PGA TOUR, died Monday at a Tuscaloosa, Ala. hospice. Rudolph had suffered heart problems recently. He was 76.

Rudolph had an outstanding amateur career in Tennessee before joining the professional ranks. He qualified for the 1950 U.S. Open at the age of 16 and was the 1959 PGA TOUR rookie of the year.

Rudolph became the first 16-year-old to win the USGA National Junior Amateur Championship. He helped the United States win the 1957 Walker Cup, and Golf World magazine named him one of the 20th century's top 10 best junior boys in 1999.

As a professional, he finished fourth in the 1965 Masters Tournament behind winner Jack Nicklaus and was a member of the victorious 1971 Ryder Cup team.

His death came during the opening round of the Demaret Division competition of the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, a tournament he contested eight times. His best finish was a tie for 14th with partner Tommy Bolt in 1985.

Gibby Gilbert, a fellow Champions Tour player also from Tennessee, always looked up to Rudolph.

"He was great for golf, everyone loved him and he will be missed," said Gilbert. "He had some heartache in his life, losing his son in a helicopter accident, but he was a survivor. He always got the job done and he was a great person to look up to."

Rudolph's son Craig was killed in a helicopter crash in 1998.

Bob Goalby, the 1968 Masters Champion, was also a good friend of Rudolph's.

"He had three boys and I had three boys," said Goalby. "We fished and hung out together quite a bit. He was a good guy and liked everybody. He was a good player, a straight driver of the ball. You couldn't find a better guy to be around than Mason Rudolph. He was a gentleman and a wonderful player."

Rudolph played a total of 44 Champions Tour events in his career.

McReynolds-Nave & Larson Funeral Home in Clarksville, Tenn., is handling the funeral arrangements.