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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Remembering a golfing legend ... Tommy Bolt

Thursday, September 11, 2008

On the golf course, he was called "Thunder," "Tempestuous" and even "Terrible."

But off the golf course, Tommy Bolt was called "Charitable," "Genuine" and even "Caring."

Bolt, 92, passed away Aug. 30 at White River Medical Center in Batesville.

A member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and Arkansas Golf Hall of Fame, Bolt won 15 Professional Golf Association events and earned worldwide fame with his victory in the 1958 U.S. Open at Tulsa's Southern Hills on his home turf of Oklahoma.

At the time of his passing, he was the oldest living winner of a major event on the PGA Tour, with 2008 marking the 50th anniversary of his U.S. Open championship.

He led wire-to-wire in his conquest at the U.S. Open, finishing with a final round of 71 for a four-day total of 283, four strokes ahead of Gary Player. Bolt started off with a birdie on the first hole on the first day and then topped that by birding the tough 12th hole three straight times in the event.

Bolt was also a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup Team in 1955 and 1957.

In addition to his 15 first-place finishes on the PGA Tour, he finished second 11 times and third 19 times. He also took top honors in five senior events. Playing in 392 PGA Tour events, Bolt made the cut an amazing 383 times.

The Cherokee Village resident was born March 31, 1916, in Haworth, Okla., and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. His first introduction to golf was through caddying and he did not become an active golfer until he was 34 years old.

His passion for the sport often led to fiery outbursts on the course and his legendary temper often resulted in golf clubs being thrown with forceful purpose, and on a regular basis.

Revered golfing legend Ben Hogan once said of Bolt, "If we could've screwed another head on his shoulders, Tommy Bolt could have been the greatest who ever played."

A disciple of Hogan, Bolt kind of bridged the transition from the Hogan-era to the Jack Nicklaus-era. Bolt's influence even stretched to a young Arnold Palmer, who it is said Bolt told to "always throw clubs ahead of you, that way you won't waste any energy going back to pick them up."

But Bolt also understood the value of showmanship and once said of his attention-grabbing behavior on the links, "I launched far more (clubs) because they expected me to than I did because I was mad at anything that had gone wrong with my golf. After a while, it became showmanship, plain and simple,"

Also an author, Bolt penned a book called "The Hole Truth" about his days on the PGA Tour.

Bolt never slowed down, playing golf into his 90s and playing it well into his late 80s.

"Today's players owe a debt of gratitude to Tommy Bolt and his fellow pioneers. His golf prowess was only matched by his formidable and colorful personality and he helped launch an era of the game's popularity that has continued for nearly half a century," said PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem. "We, along with his family, mourn his passing, yet he will forever be a part of golf's enduring legacy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family."

He is survived by wife Mary Lou, one son, Tommy W. Bolt of Evening Shade, and grandchildren Tracy and Taylor.

Memorials in Bolt's name may be made to Highland High School Golf Team Scholarship Fund at FNBC in Ash Flat.

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