Billy Casper:Golf Pro and Mormon
William Earl Casper Jr. was an American professional golfer who was one of the most prolific tournament winners on the PGA Tour during the height of his career from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s.
Casper was born on June 24, 1931 in San Diego, California. His father taught him to golf when he was five years old. He spent his youth as a caddy so that he could earn money for golf. When he was 16 years old he took five lessons from the club pro, Charlie Heaney, who taught him the overlapping Vardon grip. After graduating from high school, he attended the University of Notre Dame for one semester on a golf scholarship. After he returned from college, he married his wife, Shirley, in 1954. He competed frequently as an amateur before turning pro in 1954.
In 1956, Casper earned his first PGA Tour win. He won fifty additional PGA Tours during his career, which placed him seventh on the all-time list. He won three major championships: the U.S. Open in 1959 and 1966 and the 1970 Masters Tournament. He won nine Senior PGA Tours (now Champions Tour) from 1982 to 1989, including two senior majors.
He was PGA Tour Player of the Year in 1966 and 1970. He led the money list twice and won the Vardon Trophy (for low-scoring average) five times.
Casper has scored the most points in the Ryder Cup by an American player. He was a member of the United States team in the Ryder Cup eight times and a non-playing captain in 1979.
Casper was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1978. In 2000, he was ranked as the 15th greatest golfer of all time by Golf Digest magazine. Despite these accolades, he was always in the shadows of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Gary Player (the “Big Three”). Some say Casper was less charismatic, others think he was quiet in personality and temperament, and was the antithesis of flashy on the golf course. He is considered by many to be the best putter of all time. His golf company, Billy Casper Golf, uses a buffalo logo. He gained the nickname of “Buffalo Bill” after he ate a diet of buffalo meat and organic vegetables that helped him drop a lot of weight early in his career.
Casper joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in his early 30s at the height of his golfing career (1966). He recruited players for BYU and during his career participated in hundreds of fireside talks in Church meetinghouses at PGA Tour stops. He and his wife, Shirley, have eleven children, six of whom are adopted. They settled in Springville, Utah, in 2007. Casper died at his home on February 7, 2015.