|Associated PressGolfer Tommy Bolt won the US Open Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., in 1958. (Associated Press)|
Tommy Bolt, US Open champ, hall of fame golfer; at age 92
CHEROKEE VILLAGE, Ark. - Tommy Bolt, the 1958 US Open champion who had one of golf's sweetest swings and most explosive tempers, has died. He was 92.
His wife, Mary Lou, said he died Saturday after "his liver shut down."
"He was the best man I ever knew," she said yesterday.
Mr. Bolt won 15 times on the PGA Tour, with his lone major victory at Southern Hills in the 1958 US Open by four shots over Gary Player. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2002, which he called the highlight of his career.
But it was temper that gained him the most notoriety. Mr. Bolt was called "Terrible Tommy" and "Thunder," and he was often fined and suspended by the PGA Tour for slamming clubs and using abusive language. He set up a special fund to pay the fines.
"That's been ballooned out of proportion a little bit," Mr. Bolt said after he was selected for the Hall of Fame. "Now, I threw a couple of clubs. I'm human, just like the other guys. But I threw them at the most opportune time, it seemed like. They always had the camera on me when I was throwing one."
During his induction in 2002, Mr. Bolt regaled the crowd with his favorite story about breaking or throwing clubs. He was playing the Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach one year when he had 135 yards left to the 16th.
Mr. Bolt turned to his caddie and asked for a 7-iron, and the caddied replied, "It's either a 3-iron or a 3-wood. Those are the only clubs you have left."
Mr. Bolt was born in Haworth, Okla. He served in the Army during World War II and turned professional in 1946, joining the tour four years later. His first victory was the 1951 North and South Open, and he won at least one time each year through 1955.
His last PGA Tour victory was the Pensacola Open in 1961, although he continued to play the senior circuits and won the 1969 Senior PGA Championship.
"Today's players owe a debt of gratitude to Tommy Bolt and his fellow pioneers," Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. "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."