On a Thursday in early spring, as Tom Weiskopf walked up the
12th fairway of the Pinnacle course at Arizona's Troon North
Golf Club, his mind snagged momentarily on one of the bad shots
he had hit that day. Or maybe it was the bad memory of his best
shot--a high, majestic five-iron that landed four feet from the
pin and then bounded into a backstopping bunker, up against a
wall of desert granite.
Whatever had caused the line of Weiskopf's mouth to tighten, he
quickly relaxed. Smiled, in fact. He stared up the fairway,
unbothered by the truck parked in front of the green, by the big
tractor tracks gouged into the loose brown soil under his feet
or by the distracting beep, beep, beep from nearby earthmovers
"Thank god," he said, "I don't have to do that for a living
By that, the 52-year-old Weiskopf meant "play tournament golf."
Three hours before and five miles away at the Golf Club at
Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, the former British Open champion
and four-time Masters runner-up (and, after his July 2 victory
at Congressional Country Club, current U.S. Senior Open
champion) had shot 75 in the first round of the Tradition, the
Senior PGA Tour's first major championship of the year. But
instead of beating balls on the range--or beating himself for his
shortcomings, as he was once wont to do--Weiskopf had simply
driven to Troon North, thrown on some jeans and a cowboy hat,
and started walking the desert that will become Pinnacle, a
course he is building as president of Tom Weiskopf Signature
July 16, 1995
"I'm the ball," he said, approaching a kidney-shaped depression
in a roughly graded fairway. "I want to land here"--he indicated
a modest mound of dirt--"and kick back toward the middle." His
design associate, Dave Porter, and the construction
superintendent, Keith Frederick, made notes in red ink on folded
blueprints. Over the next quarter hour the men debated whether
to remove a dying saguaro cactus from a green site, whether to
transplant another cactus and whether the championship tee on 15
provided adequate visibility.
"I used to get so pissed off when I played bad," Weiskopf said,
marveling at his own equanimity. "But today I had this to look
forward to. And I love this stuff. This is my freedom."
Freedom, of course, is just another word for multitalented.
Since he turned 50, on Nov. 9, 1992, Weiskopf has made about 15
appearances a year on the Senior tour. And although he describes
his playing skills as "diminished" and his chances of contending
again on the regular Tour as "zero," he seems to get maximum
results from minimum preparation. Last year the 6'3" Ohioan won
the Franklin Quest Championship in Park City, Utah, and had four
other top-10 finishes, including ties for fourth at the
Tradition and the U.S. Senior Open. This year, although consumed
with worry over his wife Jeanne's battle with breast cancer, he
has six top-10 finishes, $431,022 in official earnings and that
four-shot victory in the Senior Open to show for his part-time
Weiskopf shrugs when such results are thrown at him. He quit
tournament golf 13 years ago--really quit--and hasn't changed his
mind just because a few putts have fallen. "My career ended when
I won the Western Open in 1982," he said recently, petting a
couple of his bird dogs and watching the sun disappear over
Squaw Peak from the pool deck of his elegant house in Paradise
Valley, Ariz. "When I walked off the 18th green that day, I told
Jeanne, 'I need something bigger and more challenging than
That something proved to be golf-course architecture. In 1985
Weiskopf went to work with Jay Morrish, who had been a longtime
designer for Jack Nicklaus Golf Design before branching out on
his own. The new partnership scored with its first course, the
award-winning Troon Golf and Country Club, northeast of Phoenix.
Morrish-Weiskopf went on to create Shadow Glen in Olathe, Kans.;
Double Eagle in Galena, Ohio; the TPC of Scottsdale; Forest
Highlands in Flagstaff, Ariz.; and Weiskopf's favorite, the
spectacular Loch Lomond near Glasgow, Scotland. Weiskopf quickly
developed a reputation as a serious student of design. "He's a
hands-on designer," says Porter, who served as construction
superintendent at Loch Lomond. "He makes 10 or 12 site visits
during the rough grading alone."
Weiskopf would have been happy to finish his days working with
Morrish, but five years ago the esteemed designer suffered a
heart attack. Last November a recovering Morrish informed
Weiskopf that he wanted to end their working relationship so
that his son, Carter, could eventually take over the business.
"It was a total surprise to me, and I was devastated," admits
Weiskopf. "I'd quit the Tour to do this; I'd invested 10 years
of my life. I don't mind telling you, I was scared."
Yet Weiskopf barely broke stride. Clients lined up as if nothing
had happened. Weiskopf currently has eight courses under
contract, not counting three he is completing with Jay Morrish.
If he was scared, never, even at the height of his angst, did he
feel insecure enough to consider returning to television
commentating, which he had worked at for two years after
retiring as a player. "Television?" he says. "Good god. Boring!
Saying the same thing every week about the same players? To me,
that's not being creative." Every April since 1985, however, he
has provided commentary for CBS at the Masters. "That's fun,
that's different," Weiskopf says. "I enjoy being part of Augusta
He smiles, reflecting on his failure to ever win a green jacket,
remembering, maybe, the eight-foot birdie putt he missed on the
final hole in 1975 that would have tied him with Jack Nicklaus,
or his incredible play in 1969, when he hit 66 of 72 greens in
regulation but three-putted 13 times and lost to George Archer
by a stroke. "I had the front and the back and two sleeves,"
Weiskopf jokes. "I just didn't have the buttons."
Despite his consistently good play in the Masters, Weiskopf is
often remembered for his performance in 1980, the year he made a
13 on Augusta National's par-3 12th hole. Weiskopf hit five
straight balls into Rae's Creek in the first round, tying the
Masters record for the highest score on a hole (Tommy Nakajima
made a 13 at the 13th in 1978).
"I think it's one of the funniest stories of all time," says
Weiskopf, long over his embarrassment. "I hit a nine-iron and
had it on the front fringe, but it drew down the bank and into
the water. Then I dropped into a bad lie, hit a sand wedge fat
and went into the water again. I dropped into another bad lie,
hit it on the green, it spun back into the water...." At this
point in the story Weiskopf stares at his fingers, having lost
count. He dunked two more shots in the creek before finally
finding the back of the green with his 11th stroke, counting
five penalty shots.
"Jeanne was back there in tears, behind the ropes," Weiskopf
recalls. "To pick her up, one of my best friends, Tom Culver,
hugged her and said, 'Jeanne, you don't think Tom is using new
balls, do you?'''
The relaxed way he tells this story contrasts with the image of
Weiskopf as Terrible Tom, the prototypical frustrated golfer.
Although he won 15 Tour events, a British Open and several
international tournaments, he was better known in his prime for
his "almosts"--the four Masters shortfalls; his tie for second, a
third-place finish and two ties for fourth at the U.S. Open
between 1976 and '79; and his 18 one-stroke losses to fellow
Ohioan Nicklaus. Said to possess the smoothest, most graceful
swing this side of Sam Snead, Weiskopf was undisciplined off the
golf course and too emotional by half when playing. He was
criticized more than once for not finishing a tournament round,
and in 1977 he drew fire for skipping the Ryder Cup to hunt
"Tom is a very creative person, and that's the way he played
golf," explains Jeanne, who has been married to Tom for 28
years. "That doesn't always work, and he could become very
frustrated. But in the design business he has time to plot what
he's doing, and it almost always turns out well."
Not only do the courses turn out well--they're also alive.
They're permanent. Says Jeanne, "A golf course is more
satisfying than a trophy gathering dust on a shelf."
A quick tour of the Weiskopf house sheds light on the change in
Weiskopf's priorities. The floors and walls are crowded not with
golf trophies, but with hunting trophies: a huge Alaskan Kodiak
brown bear; a mountain grizzly rug; the wall-mounted heads of
the "Grand Slam of Bighorn Sheep"--stone, Dall, desert and Rocky
Mountain. And these days, even those trophies reflect a younger
Weiskopf. Now he hunts mostly game birds, deriving more pleasure
from pursuit than display.
Clearly Weiskopf is a man for whom sustaining accomplishment is
less important than pursuing new goals. "You know," he says,
"you can hit great long irons--and that was my strong suit, long
irons--but after a point, how many great long irons are you going
to continue to hit?"
O.K. So why play?
Weiskopf has his reasons. Clients like to see him on television,
wearing his trademark white cap and making trouble for Lee
Trevino and Raymond Floyd. More important, his wife and his
mother, Eva, still love to watch him play. At Congressional he
wore a pink ribbon--the symbol of the fight against breast
cancer--in support of Jeanne, who has undergone a lumpectomy,
radiation and chemotherapy since a malignant tumor was
discovered last August. Tears welled in Tom's eyes as he walked
up the 18th fairway on Sunday, demons dispersed and victory
assured. "I'm a sentimental guy," he said after greeting his
wife with a heartfelt kiss. "This one was for her."
Before his win Weiskopf sounded determined to invest no more
than his occasional presence to tournament golf, but that could
change. He clearly enjoyed flying home with the trophy while
Nicklaus gave the second-place interviews. "I will probably play
more now," Weiskopf said. "I can still do it, yes, I can still
win." But quitting--really quitting--remains in his plans, either
after the British Open at Troon in '97 or after St. Andrews in
2000. And, he says, there will be no looking back, "because now
I have something that gives me the same emotional uplift that
winning golf tournaments gave me."
How ironic. The ultimate trophy, at roughly 150 acres, wound up
being too big for Weiskopf's den.