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Bob Goalby, who won 11 PGA Tour titles, including the 1968 Masters, and was a pioneer in the formation of the PGA Tour Champions, has died at age 92 in Belleville, Illinois.
Goalby was born in Belleville, on March 14, 1929. At age 8, Goalby, the son of a coal miner, crossed the railroad tracks between his home and St. Clair Country Club a mere 50 yards away. He won the caddie championship at the age of 13 and became good enough to shoot par by the time he started his freshman year at Belleville West High.
Goalby was drafted into the Army in 1950 and he served until 1952. Afterwards, Goalby began playing professionally and was named PGA Tour Rookie of the Year in 1958. He also played in the 1963 Ryder Cup Matches.
But it was the 1968 Masters that was his signature triumph. Goalby’s heroics down the stretch often have been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding the tournament. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Goalby birdied Nos. 13 and 14, then made eagle at No. 15, drilling a 3-iron from 200 yards to 6 feet. He shot 66 and posted 11-under 277 at Augusta National.
Goalby’s win never received the respect it deserved because it was marred by Argentina’s Roberto De Vicenzo signing a scorecard incorrectly. De Vicenzo signed for a par at No. 17 when he actually had made birdie, giving him a 66 and 278 total. Instead of a playoff to decide the title, Goalby was named the winner.
“I had no say in it,” Goalby told PGA Tour.com. “I told Roberto, ‘I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.’ But it wasn’t up to me to change the rules.”
In the aftermath, Goalby received hate mail, as if he had had anything to do with the decision. Nevertheless, he played in the Masters 27 times until 1986 and returned to the Champions Dinner for years.
Bob Goalby, Ben Crenshaw and Jay Haas share some time before the second round of the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. (Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
“Winning the Masters, it’s helped me live a good life and lifted me into that upper echelon of golf,” he once said. “… For a guy who came from a small town with not many golf courses at that time, that was something special they can’t take away.”
Goalby later became a member at St. Clair Country Club, where he learned his craft, and passed on a love of the game to his nephew, Jay Haas. When Jay was 5, Goalby wrapped a leather grip around a cut-down 4-wood and out they went to the backyard to hit whiffle balls.
“Obviously, I owe a lot to him,” Haas told the Belleview News-Democrat. “I looked up to him. He certainly gave me golf lessons, but he also gave me a lot of life lessons. My dad took me out to play, and gave me the opportunity. But Bob was my teacher, in a lot of other things than just swing theories.”
Master Champion Bob Goalby, left, and Bobby Nichols enjoy a light moment at a free golf clinic before the Music City U.S.A. Pro-Am on Oct. 11, 1968, at the Harpeth Hills Golf Course in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo: Jack Corn/The Tennessean)
Goalby later became a television commentator and analyst for NBC’s golf coverage for 14 years. He also played a pivotal role in the formation of the PGA Tour Champions.
“In the beginning, it was magic,” Goalby said of the senior circuit, in Deane Beman: Golf’s Driving Force. “For about 10 years we were just trying to keep up with the growth.”
Goalby teamed with De Vincenzo in the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf in 1981 and 1982, the tournament that gave birth to senior golf, and won twice on the 50-and-older circuit. His nephew, Jay, went on to win 18 Champions tour titles. Another nephew, Jerry Haas, is the men’s golf coach at Wake Forest. One of Goalby’s three sons, Kye, is a golf course architect and shaper.
KSDK Channel 5, the NBC affiliate in St. Louis, citing a family member as his source, was the first to report Goalby’s death through Twitter.