Peter Oosterhuis obituary

In the gap in the 1970s between the superiority of Tony Jacklin and the rise of Nick FaldoPeter Oosterhuis, who has died aged 75, was Britain’s best and most successful golfer. He was No. 1 in Europe for four consecutive years and compiled one of the best records in the Ryder Cup, winning an unusually high percentage of his matches in an era when the US exerted total dominance. He was also a pioneer in the United States, becoming one of the first Europeans to devote himself full-time to touring there. He joined in 1975 and stayed there until 1986. He later built a successful second career as a golf analyst for the American Golf Analyst. broadcaster CBS.

In total, Oosterhuis won twenty tournaments around the world, including the Italian Open (1974) and two French Opens (1973 and 1974). He dominated the newly formed European tour from 1971 to 1974, finishing as leader of the Order of Merit in each of those years.

He achieved eight top 10 finishes in the majors and finished second in the Open twice – at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1974, where he missed the lead by four strokes due to the brilliance of Gary Playerand then by just one shot to Tom Watson at Royal Troon in 1982. He also came close to winning the 1973 Masters, having led the first three rounds of the competition, but could not quite cross the line on the final day and in the third place ended with Jac Nicklaus. It was the best Masters position by a British player up to that time, and remained so until Sandy Lyle’s victory in 1988.

Oosterhuis’s good showing in the Masters gave him the confidence to move on to the American tour, where British golfers were reluctant to venture in the mid-1970s. He remained in North America for almost twenty years, playing in 314 tournaments and winning the Canadian Open in 1981. Today, European golfers are a relatively common sight on the American circuit, but apart from Jacklin, who had competed in American competitions since the late 1960s Oosterhuis was virtually alone in the 1970s and 1980s. “After Tony, I was really the only man in Europe who thought globally,” he said. “I made the effort to go over it, and I proved to myself that I could compete.”

Oosterhuis, right, made the most of his qualities with a shortened, compact swing and deadly short game. Photo: PA

Perhaps it was his familiarity with golf in the US that helped Oosterhuis to such an impressive record in the Ryder Cup, in which he played six times on the trot from 1971 to 1981. Although he was on the losing side each time, his own performances remained among the best in the event’s history. From 1977 onwards he created a particularly productive combination with Faldo and played in famous victories Arnold PalmerNicklaus and Johnny Miller. In total, he won 14 of his 28 Ryder Cup matches and halved three.

Oosterhuis was born in Dulwich, South East London, to an English mother, Josie (née Frenken), and a Dutch father, Hans, who had escaped to Britain during the Second World War following the German occupation of the Netherlands. When Peter was 12, his parents approached nearby Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Golf Club to see if their son could go onto the course to pick blackberries. The request was granted, but soon the young Oosterhuis became more interested in golf than in harvesting fruit, and he joined the club as a junior, playing ‘all day, every day’ and within two years turned into a scratch golfer.

As an amateur he represented Great Britain in the 1967 Walker Cup and the 1968 Eisenhower Trophy before turning professional at the age of twenty. By then he had shot up to six feet tall. Height isn’t necessarily an advantage in golf, but he made the most of his attributes with a shortened, compact swing and deadly short game.

After twenty years at the top of his profession, Oosterhuis retired from the US tour in 1987 to become golf director at Forsgate country club in New Jersey, later taking on a similar role at Riviera country club in California, where he met his second wife. , Ruth Ann, who was a member there. Back in Britain in 1994, he agreed to help analyze Sky’s coverage of the US tour, and covered two Open Championships for the BBC.

From 1995 to 1997, he was the lead analyst for Golf Channel’s European Tour coverage, having taken the job only on the condition that he could take Ruth Ann with him on his travels. In 1998 he was picked up by CBS, where his calm English voice, dry humor and authoritative delivery proved popular with American audiences for the better part of two decades.

In 2015, at the age of 67 and now permanently based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Oosterhuis announced that he had Alzheimer’s disease and that he therefore resigned from his CBS work. Earlier in his life he had also been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, which had forced him to keep incredibly detailed logs of every shot he made at every tournament, not to mention every type of bird he shot during the saw games – about 500 throughout his career. , all identified through a copy of National Geographic Complete Birds of the World, which he carried in his golf bag. “There was a time when I could remember every course I had ever played in vivid detail, not just the pars for the holes, but even the distances,” he said after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. “I wasn’t an encyclopedia, but I was close. Now it’s just not there.”

He is survived by Ruth Ann and her two children, Byron and Matthew, by two sons, Robert and Richard, from his first marriage to Anne (née Coney), which ended in divorce, and by four grandchildren, Peyton, Turner, Sutton . and Lachlan.

Peter Arthur Oosterhuis, golfer, born May 3, 1948; died May 2, 2024