Golf’s oldest multi-champion dies

NEW YORK-. Jack Burke Jr., the Masters champion The oldest man who was still alive and who had one of the greatest comebacks in Augusta National history to win one of his two majors, died Friday. He was 100 years old.

Burke, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, also won the PGA Championship and was equally a skilled teacher. He built the legendary Houston Golf Club and handed out lessons, plus a dose of wisdom.

“Why did golf give us 34 rules when God gave us only 10 commandments?” he said at a dinner at his home in Houston in 2000, one of many examples of his sharp wit and common sense.

Houston Golf Association CEO and President Steve Timms confirmed his death after speaking with Burke’s wife.

Burke won two majors in 1956 and was considered the PGA player of the year, but no victory was as recognized as his comeback to take the Masters when he started the round eight shots behind Ken Venturi. In the midst of extremely windy conditions only two players had anything better than the payout and Burke had a -1 round of 71 to win by one stroke over Venturi.

That year Burke defeated Ted Kroll to win the PGA Championship.

These were among his 16 victories on the PGA Tour, including four in a row early in 1952. He was named to five Ryder Cup teams and won seven of eight duels. His only defeat was in 1957 when Burke was captain and the UK won for the first time since the Second World War.

The last of his 16 PGA Tour titles came in 1963, but his career didn’t end there. He was equally a teacher and a Texan in every way.

Born in Fort Worth, Burke grew up in Houston where his father Jack Burke managed River Oaks Country Club. His father died while Burke was serving as a Marine in World War II where he taught combat skills at Miramar, near San Diego.

When the war ended, Burke became a professional tennis teacher in New Jersey and received a position as Claude Harmon’s assistant at Wingled Foot. This led to his first job as a professional at Metropolis Country Club in New York.

He finished 45th on the money list in nine events in 1949 and earned his first PGA Tour victory that year in the Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach.

Burke was part of the original inductees of the PGA Hall of Fame, but was not elected in the first year when the World Golf Hall of Fame opened in 1998 in Florida. He was elected two years later in the veteran category.

He joined Masters champion Jimmy Demaret to found Champions Golf Club in 1957, a golf club built specifically for good golfers. The club hosted the 1967 Ryder Cup, the 1969 US Open and the Tour Championship for three years, first in 1999 when Tiger Woods won.

Burke and Woods share a locker in the champions’ locker room at Augusta National.

His second wife, Robin, was a Curtis Cup captain in 2016, and helped Burke manage Champions. The club hosted the US Women’s Open in December 2020 and Burke, 97, was present.