Friends, work colleagues, golfers and family have paid tribute to the great Peter Thomson, who died last week aged 88.
More than 1000 people attended a memorial service at the MCG dining room in Melbourne to farewell the man who is among Australia’s greatest-ever golfers, as well as a long-time administrator, writer, broadcaster and architect within the game.
Thomson had battled Parkinson’s Disease for the past four years. He died at home in Toorak last week, surrounded by most of his family – his wife Mary, four children, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
The five-time British Open champion is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and the Sport Australia hall of fame.
His son Andrew observed that he never lost his dry wit. "As many would know, Dad played 30 Opens in his lifetime," Andrew Thomson told the service. "He lost 25 times! That’s the way he’d put it."
Andrew Thomson also told the audience that when his father won the 1954 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in England, he sent the then four-year-old to prep school with the famous claret jug upon his return from Europe, but the show-and-tell did not go well. The infant returned from school in tears.
"What’s wrong?" Peter Thomson said.
"They rubbished me at school," his son replied. "One boy said his father’s got a dozen of those!"
Andrew Thomson told the service that the moment resonated with his father, “because as much as professional golf, he loved club golf. He said club golf was the plasma of the game, people trying their luck and coming home with a trophy, just like him."
The Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, a noted golf-lover, admitted that he wrote a long paper about Thomson’s career and life when he was in secondary school.
"His remarkable playing record makes him our best-ever male golfer and a true great of the game," Andrews said. "But he’s no less of a figure as a prolific writer, leader of professionals and course architect. If he were an artist, we would marvel at the breadth of his practice. His body of work is unparalleled."
Other tributes were delivered by touring professional Peter Senior, former business partner Michael Wolveridge, close friend and former R and A secretary Sandy Dawson, friend Ranald Macdonald and a cluster of Thomson’s grandchildren, who referred to him as “Tuey’’, a Fijian reference to chiefdom.
The R and A chief executive Martin Slumbers flew to Melbourne for the service and brought with him the claret jug which Thomson won five times to display at the front of the service, a gesture that Mary Thomson said was “something we least expected and frankly, left us stunned with awe. Peter would say it was his greatest honour, ever.’’