Player & designer, Thomas, spread game worldwide

Dave Thomas (center) with George O'Grady (left) and John O'Leary

Dave Thomas (center) with George O'Grady (left) and John O'Leary

Dave Thomas, a Welshman who played on four British Ryder Cup teams before designing more than 100 courses, died Aug. 27 at his home in Spain, according to the European Tour. He was 79.

Thomas, who won more than 20 titles in Europe, narrowly missed claiming two Open Championships. He finished runner-up to Peter Thomson in a 36-hole playoff in 1958 and to Jack Nicklaus by a stroke in 1966.

Foremost among his course architecture, The Belfry’s Brabazon Course, which Thomas co-designed with Peter Alliss, played host to the Ryder Cup in 1985, ’89, ’93 and 2002.

“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 George O'Grady, chief executive of the European Tour. "He was a larger-than-life character."

In Thomas' final Ryder Cup, the 1967 match at Champions Golf Club in Houston, he partnered with a young Tony Jacklin in all four four-balls and foursomes, earning 2 1/2 points, before halving his singles match with Gene Littler.

Thomas represented Wales 11 times in the World Cup of Golf, from 1957 to 1970. His worldwide victories included the Belgian Open (1955), Dutch Open (1958), French Open (1959) and PGA Match Play (1963). Arthritis brought a premature end to his playing career but led him to another chapter in course architecture. His St. Leon-Rot course in Germany will be the site of the 2015 Solheim Cup. In addition to his many European designs, Thomas has conceived courses in African, Asian and South American countries.

“The death of David Thomas saw the closing of a major chapter of my life, both on and off the golf course," Alliss said. "He leaves behind a big footprint, which I’ve always been delighted to walk alongside."

Thomas is survived by his partner, Carol, and sons Michael and Paul. His wife, Robbie, and another son, Philip, predeceased him.

A funeral service is scheduled for Sept. 2 at the San Roque Club in Sotogrande, Spain.

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