Dow Finsterwald, Golfer Known for Some Close Calls, Dies at 93

Finsterwald was one of the sport’s most consistent money winners. But he may be best known for twice narrowly missing out on winning the Masters.

Dow Finsterwald, who captured the 1958 P.G.A. Championship and twice narrowly missed out on winning the Masters while becoming one of golf’s most consistent money winners, died Nov. 4 at his home in Colorado Springs. He was 93.

His death was confirmed by his son Dow Jr., The Associated Press reported. No cause was given.

Finsterwald won 11 PGA Tour events and finished in the money in 72 consecutive tournaments in the 1950s. That streak was the second longest at the time, after Byron Nelson’s 113 consecutive tournament cuts in the 1940s.

“My conservative play brings the highest rewards,” Finsterwald told The New York Times after winning the P.G.A. Championship by two shots over Billy Casper. “I just keep trying to move the ball toward the hole.”

Finsterwald won the 1957 Vardon Trophy for best scoring average of the year and was named the 1958 pro golfer of the year by the P.G.A.

He played on four Ryder Cup-winning teams and was the nonplaying captain of the victorious 1977 American squad, which faced a British-Irish team for the last time before the event became a competition between Europe and the United States. But for all his achievements, Finsterwald endured frustration at the Masters.

He finished two strokes behind the victorious Arnold Palmer, a close friend, in 1960 after incurring a two-stroke penalty for taking a prohibited practice putt. He finished tied for the lead with Palmer and Gary Player after four rounds at the 1962 Masters, but he fell to third place in the 18-hole playoff, which Palmer captured with a late charge.

Finsterwald may have lacked the flair that would appeal to the galleries, but he did have a fine short game.

“Jerry Barber and I were playing a practice round, $5 or $10 Nassaus,” he told The Columbus Dispatch in 2007, referring to a type of bet. “He chipped in two or three times and I called him a ‘lucky something.’ He said, ‘The more I practice, the luckier I get.’

“That was the first time I’d heard that. If I was able to get a decent short game, it was because I think I worked at it a little harder than others.”

Dow Henry Finsterwald was born on Sept. 6, 1929, in Athens, Ohio.

When he was 14, his father, Russell, a former head football and basketball coach at Ohio University in Athens, got him a summer job at the Athens Country Club. He bought a set of clubs, went on to play for the Ohio University golf team, played on the PGA Tour as an amateur, and turned pro in November 1951.

Finsterwald was the runner-up in the 1957 P.G.A. Championship, when he was upset in the final by Lionel Hebert. It was the 39th and last time the event used the match play format.

He had won only four tour events going into the 1958 P.G.A. Championship, which was held at Llanerch Country Club in Havertown, Pa.

Entering the fourth round, Finsterwald was two strokes behind the leader, Sam Snead, and one behind Billy Casper. He shot a 31 on the first nine on Sunday, finished with a 67 and won by two shots over Casper.

Two years later, Finsterwald endured a shattering experience at the Masters.

When he set the ball down for a practice putt after holing out on a second-round green, Casper, his playing partner, warned him that this was prohibited by the course rules, which were printed on the back of the scorecards.

Finsterwald, unaware of the prohibition, told Casper that he had in fact taken a practice putt on a green after holing out in the first round.

He then reported his transgression to the officials, who retroactively assessed a two-shot penalty for his first-round practice putt. But they did not invoke the usual automatic disqualification of a golfer who turns in an incorrect scorecard, which Finsterwald had done for the first round, in view of the delay in imposing the penalty.

Palmer birdied the last two holes of the fourth round and beat Ken Venturi by one stroke — and Finsterwald by the two shots he had lost to his penalty.

Finsterwald, who was considered an expert on the rules of golf, was an official at the 2013 Masters, at which Tiger Woods made an improper drop after hitting into the water in the second round. Finsterwald mentioned his 1960 Masters misadventure to the head of the competition committee, believing that it might serve as a guide on how to penalize Woods.

Woods was assessed a two-shot penalty for the infraction. But, like Finsterwald, he was not disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard, since the penalty was imposed after the second round had ended. He finished in a tie for fourth place, four shots back. (Adam Scott defeated Angel Cabrera in a playoff.)

After retiring from regular tour play in 1963, Finsterwald served as the director of golf at the Broadmoor Golf Club in Colorado Springs.

Finsterwald’s wife, Linda Pedigo Finsterwald, died in 2015. They had a daughter, Jane, and four sons, Dow Jr., John, Russell and Michael, who died shortly after birth. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.

Although Finsterwald twice fell short at the Masters, the attention he received led to a job as the host of a series more than 150 syndicated television vignettes about the early 1960s, “Golf Tip of the Day,” in which he gave pointers to athletes and show-business figures.

The rewards for Finsterwald were mostly limited to his becoming a modest presence as a TV personality. As he told the news website TCPalm in 2011, the shows paid him what “today would be called small peanuts.”

Source: Golf -


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