Born: December 12, 1949
Height: 5 ft 9 in
Birthplace: McKinney, Texas
College: University of Texas
Turned Pro: 1972
Texan Tom Kite parlayed incredible short-iron play into nearly 40 professional wins, millions of dollars and a U.S. Open Championship during his four decade-plus career.
Kite’s parents put the first golf club in young Tom’s hands at age six. While many golf fans are familiar with Ben Crenshaw’s relationship with instructor Harvey Penick, not as many know that Kite, too, enjoyed the tutelage of the legendary Texan. The similarities with Crenshaw don’t end there, Kite and Crenshaw tied for the 1972 NCAA Individual Championship.
The less flashy Kite, with his thick glasses that would eventually become unnecessary after Lasik eye surgery, never received the fanfare reserved for Crenshaw despite a golf resume that in many respects is just as good as Gentle Ben’s body of work.
It took Kite four years to capture his first win on the PGA Tour and he only won twice in the 1970’s. In 1981, Kite started a twelve year span that saw him win 17 tour titles and multiple season-end accolades. Along the way, he’d contend in multiple Major championships – including three runner-up finishes at Augusta National in 1983, 1986 and 1987.
In 1992 the United States Open was held at Pebble Beach. Kite’s steady play over the first three days had him in contention for that elusive first Major title. On a day that saw strong winds and lightning fast greens humiliate some of the best players in the world, Kite’s workmanlike round proved good enough for an even par 72 and a two-shot win over Jeff Sluman. The average score that Sunday at Pebble Beach was 77.3, the third highest scoring average in history to that date.
Kite was considered an innovator among players. He was the first tour player to employ a third wedge in his bag.
Kite joined the Champions Tour after turning 50. He added the Tradition, a Champions Tour Major, to his resume in 2000. In 2012, Kite shot a 28 on the first nine holes of the U.S. Senior Open Championship – the lowest score for nine holes ever recorded in a USGA event.