Peter William Thomson was Inducted into The Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985 as an Athlete Member for his contribution to the sport of golf and was Elevated to “Legend of Australian Sport” in 2001.
Thomson was the thinking man’s golfer. His clean, brisk game was based on cold logic and a gift for reducing things to their simplest essentials. His style was free of the extraneous, so that the path he would take to victory seemed a remarkably straight line. Thomson seemed pressure-proof. His grip was light, his manner brisk and his motion through the ball graceful and devoid of much physical effort. He was a reliable and occasionally brilliant putter. “There were no frills,” said Norman von Nida, “so virtually nothing could go wrong.”
Thomson’s first experiences of golf were brief interludes on the Royal Park course, sneaking on for a quick few holes. His natural talent was soon spotted, official membership arranged and the way cleared for him to become club champion just after his 16th birthday. He studied to be an industrial chemist and took a job with Spalding, but gave it up in 1949 to become a professional golfer.
From there it was only three years to winning the Victorian Amateur Championship, and a further two before beginning his professional career in 1949 and winning his first of nine New Zealand Opens in 1950.
Between 1954 and 1965, Thomson won the British Open five times. During one stretch, from 1952 to 1958, Thomson finished no worse than second, winning four times. He finished second in 1952 and 1953, then won in 1954, 1955, and 1956 – the only golfer in the 20th century to win the British Open three straight years. He added another win in 1958.
His final British Open title came in 1965, and it is considered his most important. In the ’50s, only a handful of America’s best players travelled to play the Open, and then only occasionally. By 1965, all the world’s best were there, and Thomson held off Palmer, Nicklaus, Player and defending champ Tony Lema for the victory.
Thomson won 26 times in Europe, 19 times in Australia and New Zealand and 11 more times in Asia and Japan. He played only a few seasons in America, resulting in one victory in the US, the 1956 Texas Open, where he closed with a 63 and defeated Cary Middlecoff and Gene Littler in a playoff.
Thomson was best on fast-running courses where judging the bounce and run of the ball was more important than long hitting. Mostly for that reason, he did not excel when playing on the well-watered and longer courses in the United States. Other than his victory in Texas, Thomson’s best showing in a US event was a fourth place in the 1956 US Open and a fifth in the 1957 Masters. He never played in the PGA Championship.
Thomson played a full season on the Senior PGA Tour in 1985. His results were outstanding, winning nine tournaments, a record he shares with Hale Irwin.
Thomson captained the international team at the 1996 and 2000 President’s Cup played at the Robert Trent Jones course and also the successful team which defeated the USA in the 1998 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.
In 1970 he joined with John Harris and Michael Wolveridge to form the golf design firm South Pacific Golf, now known as Thomson, Wolveridge & Perrett. As a designer he has worked on golf course projects all around the world, focusing on Japan, South East Asia, and more recently Europe.
He served as president of the Australian PGA from 1962 to 1994 and was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1988.
In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1979 for his service to golf and in 2001, was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his service to golf as a player and administrator, and to the community.