Sports

Jack Newton, who lost British Open qualifiers, dies aged 72

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Jack Newton, who lost to Tom Watson in the 1975 British Open qualifiers and tied for second behind Seve Ballesteros at the 1980 Masters before his professional golf career ended in a near-fatal airplane propeller crash, died. He was 72 years old.

Newton, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, died early Friday due to “health complications”, his family said in a statement.

“(He) was a fearless competitor and an iconic Australian, blazing a tremendous trail in his professional golfing career,” his family added. “He fought back against terrible adversity as only he could.”

Newton won the Buick Open on the US PGA Tour in 1978 and the Australian Open in 1979 and three tournaments in Europe before his career – and almost his life – ended when he entered the prop from a small plane he was about to board at Sydney Airport on July 24, 1983.

His right arm was severed, he lost sight in his right eye and also suffered serious injuries to his abdomen. Doctors gave him only a half chance of surviving, and he spent nearly two months in intensive care and required lengthy rehabilitation from his injuries.

“Things weren’t going so well for me. I knew that from the priest walking around my (hospital) bed,” Newton later said. He was 33 at the time of the accident.

Despite his near-death experience, Newton and his jovial personality returned to public life. He became a popular television, radio and newspaper golf commentator, golf course designer and president of the Jack Newton Junior Golf Foundation, which raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for up-and-coming golf players. in Australia.

The foundation’s annual tournament attracted a who’s who of celebrities and professional golfers to Australia, most of whom wore extravagant costumes, as Newton encouraged each year.

To not be deprived of playing the game he loved, he learned to play golf one-handed, swinging the club with his left hand in a right-handed position. He consistently had scores in the mid-80s for 18 holes. This translates to a handicap of around 12 or 14, which is what most able-bodied amateur players aspire to.

Newton turned professional in 1971 on the European Tour and won his first event, the Dutch Open, the following year. A week later he won another tournament in Fulford, England and, in 1974, the match play championship on the tour.

The Australian’s playoff loss at the 1975 British Open at Carnoustie came after Watson had a few rather fortuitous shots. A wire fence kept Watson’s ball inbounds on the eighth hole and the American eagled on the 14th to claim the Claret Jug with a shot over Newton.

“I always thought that if I went into a major with good form, I could be dangerous,” Newton had said. “That’s how I played golf. Once I raised my tail, I was no longer afraid of anyone.

Newton is survived by his wife, Jackie, and two children, Kristie and Clint, and six grandchildren.

Kristie was a professional golfer and Clint Newton, who was born in Hilton Head, South Carolina, played rugby league in Australia and Great Britain and represented the United States at the Rugby World Cup in XV 2013.

“His passion for the sport and his contribution to future generations of golfers and the Australian community demonstrates the character of our father, beloved husband, proud brother, adored grandfather and fellow maverick,” his family said in a statement. the press release.

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