Height: 5 ft 8 in
Born: June 24, 1931
Died: February 7, 2015
College: Notre Dame
Turned Pro: 1954
Overshadowed by contemporaries Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, Billy Casper was an unbelievable player in his own right – winning 51 PGA Tour stops in a career that spanned three decades.
Born in San Diego, California, Casper got his start as a caddie and became friends with Gene Littler, who would go on to become his friend and rival for the rest of their careers. Casper picked up his first golf club as a five year old. It was the beginning of a lifelong relationship. Casper attended Notre Dame on a golf scholarship for a single semester before returning to San Diego, marrying his girlfriend Shirley and turning professional in 1954.
Casper won his first PGA tournament in 1956 and his final one in 1975. In between he won 49 other times. He twice won our national championship – the United States Open (1959 and 1966). The ’66 US Open Championship was particularly memorable as he defeated Arnold Palmer in an 18-hole playoff. Casper won a Green Jacket at Augusta National in 1970 in another playoff – defeating his boyhood friend Gene Littler.
A lot of the attention of this era was paid to Palmer, Player and Nicklaus which, of course, is understandable. People tend to forget that Billy Casper won five Vardon Trophies – awarded to the player with the lowest scoring average each year. Casper had a six year run, from 1964-1970, where he won 27 titles – more than anybody else on tour during that span.
Billy relied on his incredible ability on and around the greens to compete with longer hitters of his generation, including Palmer and Nicklaus.
When Casper turned 50 he turned his attention to the PGA Senior Tour (now called the Champions Tour). He won nine times including another USGA Major, the 1983 Senior U.S. Open, a title he earned by winning yet another playoff.