Jack Newton, golfer whose career ended in accident, dies at 72

Jack Newton, who lost to Tom Watson in the 1975 British Open qualifiers and finished runners-up to Seve Ballesteros at the 1980 Masters before his professional golf career ended in a near propeller crash mortal, died on Friday. He was 72 years old.

His family said in a statement that Newton, who had been living with Alzheimer’s disease, died of “health complications”. The statement does not specify where he died.

Newton won the Buick Open on the PGA Tour in 1978 and the Australian Open in 1979, as well as three tournaments in Europe, before his career – and almost his life – ended when he entered the propeller of a small plane as it was about to board at Sydney Airport on July 24, 1983.

His right arm was severed, he lost sight in his right eye and he suffered serious injuries to his abdomen. Doctors gave him only a one in two chance of surviving and he spent almost two months in intensive care before undergoing a long rehabilitation.

Despite his near-death experience, Newton returned to public life, his jovial personality intact. He became a popular television, radio and newspaper golf commentator, golf course designer and chairman of the Jack Newton Junior Golf Foundation, which raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for up-and-coming players. in Australia.

The foundation’s annual tournament drew a who’s who of celebrities and professional golfers to Australia, most of whom dressed in extravagant costumes, as Newton encouraged.

He learned to play golf with one hand, swinging the club with his left hand in a right hand position. He consistently scored in the mid-80s for 18 holes – which translates to a handicap of around 12 or 14, which most able-bodied amateur players would aspire to.

Newton turned professional in 1971 on the European Tour and won his first event, the Dutch Open, the following year. A week later, he won a tournament in Fulford, England; in 1974 he won the tour match play championship.

His playoff loss at the 1975 British Open came after Watson had a few lucky shots. A wire fence kept Watson’s ball inbounds on the eighth hole, and he checked for an eagle on the 14th to claim the Claret Jug with a shot over Newton.

“I always thought if I went into a major with good form, I could be dangerous,” Newton said. “That’s how I played golf. Once I raised my tail, I was no longer afraid of anyone.

At the 1980 Masters, he finished the tournament tied for second with American Gibby Gilbert, four strokes behind 21-year-old Spaniard Ballesteros.

Gavin Kirkman, chief executive of the PGA of Australia, said “Newton’s contribution and legacy will live on for many decades”, adding that he “was as tough on the course as he was on it” .

Newton is survived by his wife, Jackie; two children, Kristie and Clint; and six grandchildren. Her daughter was a professional golfer and her son played rugby in Australia and Great Britain.

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