The 13-time Tour winner was best remembered for disparaging comments about Hazeltine National Golf Club during 1970 U.S. Open.
Dave Hill, a 13-time winner on the PGA Tour whose outspoken ways sometimes overshadowed his shotmaking, died on September 27 in Jackson, Mich. The New York Times reports. He was 74.
He had emphysema, his brother Mike, also a former tour golfer, told The Jackson Citizen Patriot.
Dave Hill emerged as a leading pro in 1969, when he won the Vardon Trophy for best scoring average, 70.34 shots per round, and was runner-up to Frank Beard on the earnings list at a time of relatively modest purses, winning $155,849. He won three tournaments that year and played in his first of three Ryder Cups.
But he was best remembered for the 1970 United States Open at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.
After the second round on a windy course, trouble came when Hill was asked what the course lacked. He said it was missing “only 80 acres of corn and a few cows to be a good farm.”
He also said that Robert Trent Jones, one of the world’s best-known golf architects, had the course blueprints “upside down” when he laid it out. Hazeltine had numerous doglegs, leading Hill to feel that it did not reward outstanding shots.
Joe Dey Jr., the commissioner of the Tournament Players Division of the PGA, fined Hill $150 before the start of the third round for “criticism that tends to ridicule and demean the club.”
But Hill wasn’t the only one to criticize Hazeltine. Jack Nicklaus told Sports Illustrated a week or so before the Open that the course lacked definition and that “many players will need guides as well as caddies in this Open.”
Dey said Nicklaus was not fined because his remarks did not constitute ridicule.
In the third round, spectators voiced their opinion of Hill not with boos but “moos” and the clanging of cowbells as he walked the course. Hill finished as the runner-up, seven shots behind Tony Jacklin of England.
Hazeltine was redesigned in 1990 by Rees Jones, a son of Robert Trent Jones, in preparation for the 1991 United States Open, and Hill played it soon after its remaking. “They’re still talking about that,” he told The Chicago Tribune in recalling his acerbic remarks at the 1970 Open there. But he said he was impressed by the revamped Hazeltine, calling it “a fun and demanding golf course.”
Over the course of his career, Hill was fined, suspended or put on probation by golf officials several times for what they maintained were actions unbecoming a professional golfer.
He sharply criticized the mind-set of fellow pros in his book “Teed Off” (1977), written with Nick Seitz. “The average touring golf pro today is living off the fat of the land and thinks the world owes him $200,000 a year,” Hill said. “Most pros couldn’t do anything else for a living, but they always have their hands out looking for a freebie. Instead of saying ‘thank you,’ they want to know what time the next plane is leaving.”
Hill grew up in Jackson, where his father, George, operated a small farm and ran a machine shop but found time to take his four sons to a local course to practice. Hill became a caddie at age 10, and he was the assistant golf pro at a course in Kalamazoo, Mich., at 21.
He turned pro in 1958 and had his first tour victory at Tucson in 1961. In addition to his PGA Tour victories, he was a six-time winner on the Senior Tour (now the Champions Tour).
Hill was a perfectionist about his ball-striking, sometimes to the exclusion of other parts of his game. As Lee Trevino told Sports Illustrated in 1971: “I’ve seen him knock a beautiful shot to within 10 feet of the pin and then three-putt for a bogey but not be bothered a bit because he’d hit a pretty shot.”
In addition to his brother Mike, Hill’s survivors include a son, David, and a daughter, Laura, The Citizen Patriot said.
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