LONDON Double major winner Tony Jacklin is mourning the death of the caddie who was on his bag when the Englishman romped to a seven-shot victory at the 1970 U.S. Open in Minnesota.
Tom Murphy formed his partnership with Jacklin by chance at Hazeltine Golf Club 44 years ago and the pair remained friends until the Minnesota native died in his sleep last week, at the age of 63.
"He will be missed by a lot of people," the 1969 British Open champion told Reuters in a telephone interview from his home in Florida. "Tom touched a lot of lives and was a sweetheart of a guy."
Jacklin defied 60kph winds to become the first Briton to win the U.S. Open since Ted Ray in 1920.
The Englishman was the only player to break par in the championship. He led from start to finish and raised his arms in triumph after sinking a 30-foot birdie putt across the green at the last hole.
Jacklin collected a cheque for $3,000 and handed 10 percent of his winnings to Murphy, money that helped set the American teenager up for life.
"Tom went on to become a successful entrepreneur," said Europe's four-times Ryder Cup captain.
"He was involved in various businesses, he was a golf coach and also owned a golf course in Arizona. His 10 percent from our U.S. Open win put him through college and from that point he never looked back."
Jacklin explained how the two young men formed their successful partnership out of nowhere.
"You couldn't use your own caddie back then," said the 69-year-old. "The caddies had to draw a player's name from the ballot and Tom's best friend drew my name out.
"I went on to win and the memory of that week was the highlight of Tom's life. We didn't make contact for years and then when I joined the seniors tour 19 years ago we got together again.
"He remembered every shot I hit at the U.S. Open in 1970. From then on we started to see each other regularly again."
Jacklin featured in the Ryder Cup seven times and is also Europe's most decorated non-playing captain, having led the team to two wins, one tie and one defeat between 1983-89.
He won countless tournaments around the world and is regarded as one of Britain's greatest golfers but he said the performance he produced at Hazeltine was the best of his career.
"I was in my element that week," added Jacklin. "I increased my lead in every round.
"I got more and more nervous as my lead grew during the week but Tom was very calm and supportive and he never changed at all. We had a very, very happy week together and it's very sad that he has now passed away."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)