Roberto De Vicenzo dies at 94
June 01, 2017
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
- June 01, 2017
- Roberto De Vicenzo won more than 230 tournaments worldwide. (PGA TOUR Archives)
Roberto De Vicenzo was arguably the most prolific winner in golf history. The Argentinian won more than 230 tournaments around the world during a World Golf Hall of Fame career, and included in that victory total is the 1967 Open Championship he won in England for his lone major championship title. De Vicenzo died June 1 in Ranelagh, Argentina, not far from Buenos Aires. He was 94. De Vicenzo suffered a hip fracture after a fall at his home on March 21. Although he underwent surgery, he had remained bed-ridden since.
“This is a sad day, especially for golf in South America, where no player contributed more to the growth of the sport in that part of the world than Roberto De Vicenzo,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. “Roberto was a tremendous champion who, as amazing as it may seem, won at least one tournament every year between 1942 and 1980 and was one of our sport’s great ambassadors. When we were deciding what to name PGA TOUR Latinoamerica’s Player of the Year Award, there was really no discussion. Calling it the Roberto De Vicenzo Award was our small way of honoring a man who did so many things in golf that it’s difficult to even attempt to mention. We will dearly miss him.”
Born April 14, 1923 in Villa Ballester, a western suburb of Buenos Aires, Argentina, De Vicenzo initially learned the game as a caddie and continued to develop his skills at the Ranelagh Golf Club.
He turned pro at age 15 and didn’t stop playing the PGA TOUR until 1986 and PGA TOUR Champions in 1994. De Vicenzo broke onto the golf scene in 1942 by winning the Abierto del Litoral (Coast Open), the first of 131 Argentine Tour titles he would eventually take home. He played in the World Cup of Golf 19 times and led Argentina to victory in the inaugural event in Canada in 1953. He won the World Cup’s individual titles in 1962 and 1970. He also won the Palm Beach Round Robin and the Inverness Invitational Four-Ball in 1951, unofficial PGA TOUR tournaments.
His most-significant title came at the 1967 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England. De Vicenzo and Jack Nicklaus were the only two players in the field to record four under-par rounds that week, with De Vicenzo taking a three-shot lead over Nicklaus into the final round, eventually winning the claret jug by two strokes.
“Roberto De Vicenzo was not only a great golfer, but he was a great friend. I think the last time I was with Roberto we were in Argentina, and it was only about three or four years ago, I think. Roberto was Mr. Golf in Argentina, no question about that. He represented the game of golf. He was one of the really good guys,” said Nicklaus from Dublin, Ohio, site of this week’s Memorial, a tournament that made De Vicenzo its 1986 Honoree for his many contributions to golf.
“I probably played with [De Vicenzo], I suppose, a dozen times. And we played a few tournaments. We played a few practice rounds. I just always enjoyed his company. He was a nice man, and you always miss nice guys,” Nicklaus added.
Nicklaus recalled the first time he saw De Vicenzo play. At the 1957 U.S. Open, Nicklaus, in his PGA TOUR debut as a 17-year-old amateur, had missed the cut at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. However he stayed around so he could go out on the course to see “De Vicenzo take his 3-wood, bang it on the ground, put the ball on and drive off.”
Besides his Open Championship victory, De Vicenzo also won 15 other national opens a total of 43 times, while capturing an additional four PGA TOUR tournament wins. His national open titles came in his native Argentina, as well as Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, Holland, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela.
“Roberto was a huge inspiration for all of us involved in the development of the game of golf in Latin America, and he was a big part in our outreach to develop PGA TOUR Latinoamérica. With our Player of the Year Award and a tournament named after him, Roberto will remain an ever-present figure across our Tour,” said Jack Warfield, PGA TOUR Latinoamerica president. “Despite his great accomplishments, Roberto stayed a very humble and approachable man who focused so much more on the youth who were coming up as the future of the game. His legacy will live on, and he will certainly remain an inspiration for all the rising stars of Latin America.”
Despite his great triumphs, De Vicenzo also suffered disappointment, none more heartbreaking than his scoring mistake at the 1968 Masters that cost him a chance at a playoff with Bob Goalby at the end of regulation of that year’s tournament at Augusta National.
Following his round, De Vicenzo signed for an incorrect score on his scorecard, showing a par-4 on No. 17 instead of the birdie-3 he actually had. According to the Rules of Golf, the higher score had to stand and be counted. His quote to the media afterward became legendary for its poignancy: “What a stupid I am!”
Even with that setback, De Vicenzo was an accomplished PGA TOUR player, hoisting five champion’s trophies. His best season came in 1957, when he made only six starts but won twice—at the Colonial National Invitation in Fort Worth and at Chicago’s All American Open. He won one TOUR title every year from 1966 to 1968, with that Open Championship win his most significant victory.
After turning 50, De Vicenzo went on to a successful career in the early days of the PGA TOUR Champions, winning the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf twice and the inaugural U.S. Senior Open in 1980, defeating legendary amateur William Campbell by four strokes at Winged Foot Golf Club’s East Course. He also added a victory at the 1974 PGA Seniors’ Championship.
In 1970, De Vicenzo received the Bob Jones Award from the United States Golf Association, that organization’s highest honor recognizing distinguished sportsmanship in golf.
De Vicenzo earned additional career validation when the World Golf Hall of Fame inducted him into its Class of 1989 along with James Barnes, Raymond Floyd and Nancy Lopez. Seve Ballesteros, who died in 2011, recognized the international impact De Vicenzo had on young golfers in general and him specifically. As a tribute to the role model De Vicenzo was to Ballesteros, the Spaniard invited De Vicenzo to introduce him at his World Golf Hall of Fame induction in 1997.
“I met Roberto back in 1976 during The Open Championship week of that year,” said Ballesteros. “I felt very honored to play a few practice rounds with him as I had admired him since childhood. During The Open Championship he treated me with the same fondness and affection as a father would treat his own son. Furthermore, he gave me several pieces of advice which proved very useful later on during my career.”
De Vicenzo officially retired from competitive golf on November 12, 2006. The Museum of Golf in Berazategui, Argentina, was organized on his initiative and named in his honor on its opening that same year.
De Vicenzo is survived by his wife, Delia Ester, and sons Roberto and Eduardo. He he will be cremated Friday at 1 pm.Vicenzo during his Open Championship victory in 1967, and with past Open champions Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson on the Swilken Bridge in 2000. (Photos by Getty Images)