Golf Legend Billy Casper
In 2000, Golf Digest placed William “Billy” Casper at number 15 on a list of the greatest golfers of all time. Playing through what some dub the “Golden Age” of golf along with the game’s “big three”—Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Gary Player— Casper carved out his own legendary status, becoming perhaps best known as an ace on the putting green.
Born in San Diego in 1931, Casper picked up golf as a child and went pro in 1955. By the mid-1970s, he had amassed an impressive collection of golf’s highest honors. He had 51 PGA Tour wins to his credit (a feat that still lands him seventh on the all-time list of winners), had registered 23 holes-in-one, and had twice been named PGA Player of the Year. He had won two U.S. Opens and a Masters and played for the United States in eight Ryder Cup tournaments, where he logged 23.5 points, still the best for an American player. He had captured the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average five times—second only to Tiger Woods—and had become the second golfer ever to bank $1 million in tour earnings.
Still, Casper went largely underrated by the general public, despite being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1978 and the PGA Hall of Fame in 1982. Casper followed up his professional career with success on the senior PGA tour (now called the Champions Tour) throughout the 1980s. Casper’s last of nine wins on the senior circuit came in 1989. That same year he founded Billy
Casper Golf with business partners Peter Hill and Bob Morris, with the vision of offering sophisticated golf course management, design, and marketing services. The company has since grown to be the second largest golf course operator in the United States, managing facilities in 25 states.
In 1992, Casper founded Billy’s Kids, also known as the Billy Casper Youth Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports youth programming in Utah and California. Casper’s ongoing dedication to young people was instrumental in his being awarded the PGA Distinguished Service Award in 2010.
Today Casper lives in Springville, Utah, with Shirley, his wife of 60 years. He remains active in philanthropic work and enjoys spending time with his family—11 children, 34 grandchildren, and more than a dozen great-grandchildren. Golf still factors into Casper’s life; now 81, he hits the links occasionally, and his grandson Mason is an NCAA qualifying golfer at Utah Valley University. “He learned a lot from his dad—my son,” says Casper of his grandson’s golf talent. “But occasionally I’d put my finger into the mix.”
After years of hosting his own youth golf camps, Casper has turned to hosting charitable tournaments, participating in as many as 15 each year. He’s also been employed by Crystal Cruises for over a decade, having most recently returned from a Mediterranean cruise, where he lectured and played golf with the patrons. 2012 has been an especially busy year for Casper, with the release of his autobiography, The Big Three and Me, and the corresponding Victory 51 tour.
“I’m busier now today than I’ve ever been before, and I’m enjoying it more,” Casper said.