Tom Watson's wife, Hilary Watson, dies of cancer at 63

Tom Watson's wife, Hilary Watson, dies of cancer at 63

Golf

Tom Watson's wife, Hilary Watson, dies of cancer at 63

By

Hilary Watson, the wife of eight-time major champion Tom Watson, has died after battling pancreatic cancer. She was 63.

Tom Watson’s agent, Barry Hyde, confirmed Hilary Watson died Wednesday night.

Hilary Watson had been shopping for socks with her husband when the couple was told the news of her diagnosis in 2017, according to a report in the Kansas City Star. She received chemotherapy and radiation treatment and underwent surgery at the Mayo Clinic to remove the tumor.

Despite her illness, Hilary was determined to pursue her love of cutting horse, a western type of equestrian that has roots in ranching. After her surgery, she would go on to compete in the sport, finishing fourth in the National Cutting Horse Association amateur rider of the year event.

“Whether I’m feeling good or not, I was going to still get on that horse. And have some fun doing it. That’s been a godsend for me,” she told the Kansas City Star in May 2018.

Her husband expressed his admiration for his wife as she fought the disease. “You think cancer, you think end of life thoughts. The more I see her … around people with this disease, it seems like she could care less about it,” Tom Watson said in a Facebook video posted in December 2017. “She’s just going to carry on with her life and let the doctors take care of her. I know one thing, she’s a lot stronger than I am.”

Hilary Watson is survived by her husband, Tom, and her children, Kyle Charles, Kelly Paige and Ross Donald, her step-children, Meg Carr and Michael Watson, and two sisters, Alicia Korte and Christine Holton. Her brother, Tommy, preceded her in death.

Ted Bishop, former PGA of America president, shared a touching tribute to his friends on Facebook.

“Tom will tell you that Hilary was his hero. … and for many reasons. How these two people dealt with the devastation of the worst that cancer can muster up is truly an inspiration to us all. Hilary was a beautiful woman who was also one of the fiercest competitors who ever lived. Tom is an 8-time major champion golfer, but more so a man who has always dealt with adversity in amazing ways. Its a sad day, but Hilary’s fight is over and she leaves us with many beautiful memories.”

Tom Watson kisses his wife Hilary after finishing his second round of the 2016 Masters, the final round of his major career.

Tom Watson, a five-time British Open champion, played in his final Senior British Open in July at Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s, a few weeks before his 70th birthday. “I’ve had a good career playing professional golf all these years,” he said at the time. “I’ve run across so many fine people who have helped me and supported me. First of all, my wife who is battling cancer now. It’s going to give me some time to go out and compete with her.”

Hilary Watson was born June 19, 1956, in Fort Victoria, Rhodesia, to Charles and Agnes Holton. Her love of horses grew throughout her childhood as she rode for pleasure and in show competitions. She excelled in all sports and qualified in three events (long jump, high jump and hurdles) for the 1976 Olympic team that was barred from competing at the Olympic Games, according to her obituary.

In 1980 she moved from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to Durban, South Africa, and later to Cape Town, where she worked in public relations. She married professional golfer Denis Watson in 1986 and moved to the United States as he continued to play on the PGA Tour. The couple lived in North Carolina, where son Kyle and daughter Paige were born. The family then moved to Orlando, where she gave birth to son Ross.

After divorcing Denis Watson, Hilary married Tom Watson in 1999 and the couple raised her children on their farm outside of Kansas City.  Her love of horses continued to grow as she was introduced to cutting horse and the National Cutting Horse Association. While her daughter, Paige, competed in Kansas high school rodeo, Hilary pursued local and regional events.

In 2004, she helped reinstate cutting in Kansas City’s annual American Royal Horse and Livestock Show. Inspired to expand her competitive schedule, Hilary went on to improve her results and became a highly successful competitor, winning numerous buckles and nearly $400,000 in the sport.

Her passion for cutting eventually led Tom to give it a try, and her earnings did not go unnoticed by her husband.

“It’s unbelievable. In between chemo, operations, radiation, more chemo, she competed all through it last year,” he told the Houston Chronicle in May. “She won $84,000 last year in the amateur division and she beat me by $20,000. I won $65,000 on the Senior Tour last year. So she’s the bread winner in the family, let’s put it that way.”

A memorial service will be held Dec. 4 at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Children’s Bereavement Camp of Crossroads Hospice Kansas or to United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home