Australian Golfing Legend Kel Nagle Dies, Aged 94

Kel Nagle on the 12th green during the Open Championship at Troon, Scotland, 1962. Photo: Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty.

One of the greats of Australian golf, Kel Nagle, has died in Sydney, aged 94.

Nagle is Australia’s most successful professional golfer with 61 Australasian Tour wins in a career spanning four decades, nearly double his closest rival, his good friend and playing partner Peter Thomson with 34. He holds the record as the oldest Tour winner, taking out his seventh New Zealand PGA at 54. He won the Australian PGA six times. At 50, his was still rated in the top 10 in the world.

Between 1949 and 1975, Nagle won at least one tournament a year. His last Australian PGA victory was the Western Australia PGA Championship in 1977. His partnership with Thomson saw them win the World Cup for Australia twice in 1954 and 1959 in Sydney. The pair also won the Canada Cup in 1964.

His crowning glory was the 1960 British Open win, aged 39, with 10 under, one stroke ahead of Arnold Palmer, whom Nagle also pipped in his only other PGA Tour victory, the 1964 Canadian Open. Nagle came from nowhere on Scotland’s famed St Andrews course, having never finished in the top 10 of a major before.
Palmer had his revenge against Nagle at Troon two years later, with the Australian runner up.

Nagle’s best effort in the US was runner-up in 1965 Open to South African Gary Player in an 18 hole play-off at Bellerive.

Born in North Sydney in 1920, Nagle turned pro in 1949 and won 80 tournaments. He was one of the most-loved players on the circuit, a true gentleman who didn’t smoke or drink.

“I can honestly say I never met anybody in my life that didn’t really like Kel Nagle,” Gary Player recalled.

He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2007, just one of five Australians bestowed the honour, with Thomson declaring at the induction that “Of all the people I have ever met in the world of golf, this fellow is the finest.”

The Kel Nagle Plate is an annual award to the best performing rookie at the Australian PGA Championship.

In a statement his family said saying he passed away painlessly in hospital early on Thursday morning.

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