Golf greats pay tribute at Kel Nagle memorial

Even the normally unflappable Peter Thomson couldn’t contain his emotions as we farewelled his close friend, 1960 British Open champion Kel Nagle in Sydney last week.

A five-time British Open champion himself, Thomson paid tribute to his life-long friend suggesting that when he was able to greet Nagle after his Open triumph at St Andrews was perhaps the happiest moment of his golfing life.

Kel Nagle Kel Nagle (Credit: PGA Australia)

A long list of past and present players gathered at the Northern Suburbs Crematorium in Sydney to pay tribute to the late 94-year-old.

Alongside Thomson were the likes of 1990 PGA Championship winner Wayne Grady, 1975 Open runner-up Jack Newton, Rodger Davis, Ian Stanley, Brian Jones and Frank Phillips, plus Greg Norman’s long-time coach, Charlie Earp.

There were also messages from players of the calibre of 2013 US Masters champion Adam Scott, 1963 British Open winner Sir Bob Charles as well as leading golf officials from the United States, Britain and New Zealand.

They paid tribute to Kel Nagle’s amazing life and a career that saw the great man capture 81 professional titles, 61 in Australasia, and win at least one event a year for 26 successive years from 1949 to 1975.

Thomson recounted his memories of Nagle, but at times he was overcome by emotion and his wife Mary had to step in and help.

Thomson, now 85, twice combined with Nagle to win the Canada Cup, now known as the World Cup.

“We set a fire that became a raging bushfire over the years because we won all sorts of things and got a bit cheeky with ourselves winning things from Americans,” Thomson said.

He said Nagle, who turned professional in 1946 after completing active service in the Second World War, followed the same routine in the 1960 Open at St Andrews, as he did when he won there five years earlier.

“When I greeted him on the 18th green, it was the happiest moment of my golfing life,” Thomson said.

“An experience like this has stayed with me and helped me appreciate all the gentlemen, like Kel, that had put into this game, so that the foundations would be rich for future generations, like me.”

Mourners heard Nagle loved fishing, horses, a punt and the Eastern Suburbs Roosters rugby league team.

Most tributes referenced his reputation for being the great gentleman of golf.