Date: November 19, 2009

Thomson celebrated in bronze

Victoria Golf Club has honoured its most famous member by unveiling a bronze statue of five-time British Open champion Peter Thomson AO, CBE . Thomson, who celebrated his 80th birthday in August, joined the club as a 16-year-old in 1946 and played pennant until he turned professional in 1949. Another member of the pennant team was Doug Bachli and together they put Victoria GC on the world golfing map in 1954 when they became the first Australians to win the British Open and British Amateur titles in the space of a few weeks. Thomson&aposs five British Open wins between 1954 and 1965 rank him second to Harry Vardon who won the title six times between 1896 and 1914. In the 20th Century only American Tom Watson equalled his tally of five and no one matched his streak of three in a row from 1954. To put this achievement in perspective, it is instructive to list the players who were on a hat-trick but fell short: James Braid, who also won five times, Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Bobby Locke, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Watson, Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington. Such was his dominance of the title in the 1950s that in the years that he did not win between 1952 and 1958 he was runner-up. Golfing greatness is measured by major championships won and longevity in the game. Thomson&aposs first victory of note was his club championship at Royal Park in Melbourne at the age of 16 in 1946. His last win came in the 1988 Seniors British PGA Championship and he won somewhere in the world at least once every year from 1950 until 1973. In 1985 he dominated the US PGA Senior Tour with an unprecedented nine victories. His brilliant playing career, with victories spanning five decades, was capped in 1998 when he led the International Team to its only success against the might of United States in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne. Along the way he found time to design and build more than 100 golf courses around the world, serve as chairman of the Australian Professional Golfers Association for 32 years, run for Parliament in Victoria and pioneer the professional golf circuit in Asia. Among the memorabilia in the Bachli Thomson Room in the clubhouse are three silver tankards won by P.W. Thomson in club competitions in March and October 1947 and May 1948 which he donated back to the club more than 50 years later. Club rules at the time did not allow professionals to be members so the connection was kept by making him the Victoria&aposs “playing professional” for the princely sum of 5 ($10) per year. The unveiling was attended by Thomson, wife Mary, daughter Deirdre, members celebrating the club&aposs Foundation Day, MPs Andrew Robb and Murray Thomson, Bayside Mayor James Long, and the CEOs of Golf Australia and the PGA, respectively Stephen Pitt and Max Garske. Acclaimed Melbourne sculptor Louis Lauman took six months to produce the work, drawing his subject in charcoal and using Thomson family scrapbooks to capture the swing and accurately portray the clothes and equipment of the era. Lauman&aposs other work includes the 10 legends of Australian sport surrounding the Melbourne Cricket Ground, W.G. Grace at the Marylebone Cricket Club in London, Thomas More in Parliament House in Sydney, Saints Francis of Assissi and Catherine of Sienna at St Patrick&aposs Cathedral in Melbourne and the characters of Norman Lindsay&aposs Magic Pudding in Melbourne&aposs Royal Botanic Gardens. The statue is 1.1 times (110%) life size, sculpted in clay and cast in silicon bronze at the Fundere Fine Art Foundry in West Footscray.