The European Tour has lost a man who arguably did more for the development of players in its history with the death of Tommy Horton at the age of 76.
The two-time Ryder Cup player won eight times on the European circuit and 23 times on the Senior Tour. He played in the 1975 and 1977 Ryder Cups. He was fourth in the 1976 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, and recorded three more top 10s in the Championship.
More importantly, he left a lasting legacy for many players through his efforts to improve their well-being. The Englishman was a strong believer in making sure young players were given the best possible start to their professional careers. With that in mind, he set up an annual developmental week early in the season for Qualifying School and Challenge Tour graduates.
Horton, who spent most of his life on the island of Jersey, persuaded the Tour to gather experts to give players an intensive week on every aspect needed to succeed. Chief referee John Paramor conducted rules classes, sports psychologist Alan Fine gave lectures, John Jacobs and Bob Torrance were on hand to hone long games, former Irish Open winner John O’Leary advised on course management while representatives from management groups dealt with the financial aspect of tour life.
Horton held short game clinics each day. He was well qualified. He would challenge young pros to closest to the hole competitions, using a 3-iron while they used sand wedges!
“Many players competing today will remember those clinics,” former European Tour chief executive Ken Schofield said.
“He was an absolute rock of the Tour’s annual graduate training week and a wizard with the short game,” said George O’Grady, who succeeded Schofield as CEO.
Not only was Horton a model professional on the golf course and practice area, he was a gentleman off it. He was great company over a bottle of wine and a meal whether that was with a tour rookie, major champion, an official, tour sponsor or even a young journalist.
Let’s hope heaven has an abundant supply of good Rioja for one of the nicest gentlemen this journalist has had the pleasure to spend time with.