Dave Thomas: Golf pays tribute to Welsh Ryder Cup great

Tributes have been paid to former Ryder Cup player and renowned course designer Dave Thomas.

Thomas, who died on Tuesday aged 79, played in four Ryder Cups and represented Wales 11 times in the World Cup of Golf.

He twice finished second in the Open Championship and was elected to the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.

"He was a larger-than-life character, a truly great guy," said George O'Grady, the European Tour chief executive.

O'Grady, who presented Thomas with honorary life membership of the European Tour earlier this year, paid tribute to his career and his impact on golf.

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Dave became a household name in the 1950s and 1960s when he helped to build the game in Britain and all over the world

George O'Grady European Tour chief executive

"Dave became a household name in the 1950s and 1960s when he helped to build the game in Britain and all over the world," said O'Grady.

"Our condolences are with his partner Carol and Dave's sons Michael and Paul.

"Wherever the Tour has travelled, from Britain to the Continent to the rest of the world, we have played on courses designed by Dave. Both as a player and an architect, he leaves a lasting legacy to the game he truly loved."

Sandy Jones, chief executive of the Professional Golfers' Association, said: "I am very sad to learn of the passing of Dave Thomas.

"He was the proud captain of the PGA in our centenary year of 2001 and everyone would agree he was a legend of the professional game. He was always great company and a kind and gentle man.

"I feel a great privilege to have shared many enjoyable times in his company when he would enthrall me with great stories from his life in golf as we enjoyed a glass of red. He will be very sadly missed by me and all who knew him."

Thomas turned professional in 1949 when he watched some of the game's great champions, including Fred Daly, Max Faulkner and the legendary Sam Snead, competing in the Ryder Cup at Ganton.

He made his debut 10 years later in the contest at Eldorado Country Club and went on to play in three more Ryder Cups, the last in 1967 in Houston where he partnered a young Tony Jacklin in all four fourballs and foursomes, earning two-and-a-half points, before halving his match with Gene Littler in the singles.

In 1958 he lost a 36-hole play-off to Australia's Peter Thomson in the Open at Royal Lytham and in the 1966 tournament at Muirfield he finished tied second with Doug Sanders, one stroke behind Jack Nicklaus.

After arthritis brought a premature end to his playing career, Thomas became a course designer.

He and Peter Alliss - now a BBC commentator - designed The Belfry's famous Brabazon Course which hosted the Ryder Cup in 1985, 1989, 1993 and 2002.