Golfer Bob Rosburg, who won the 1959 PGA Championship and later capitalized on his golfing skills as one of the first TV announcers to rove the course along with the players, died Thursday at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs. He was 82.
"Rossie," as he was best known to friends, had cancer but died of complications after he fell Tuesday, his son Bob said Friday.
A child golf prodigy, Rosburg won six times on the PGA Tour, starting with the 1954 Miami Open. At the 1959 PGA Championship, his only victory in a major tournament, he came from six shots back entering the final round at the Minneapolis Golf Club and finished with a 66 to edge out Jerry Barber and Doug Sanders.
Twice Rosburg came in second at the U.S. Open -- in 1959, when he finished one shot behind Billy Casper at Winged Foot Golf Club at Mamaroneck, N.Y., and in 1969, when he missed a 3-foot putt on the final hole that would have forced a playoff with Orville Moody at Champions Golf Club in Houston.
Rosburg's last win on the tour was the 1972 Bob Hope Desert Classic. At 45, he hadn't won a tournament in 11 years. His first-place finish at Indian Wells Country Club was also satisfying because he had helped design the tournament's unusual format of five rounds played at four Coachella Valley courses with pros and amateurs -- many of them celebrities -- matched together.
As his playing career wound down, Rosburg was hired by ABC Sports in 1975 to provide commentary inside the ropes from a player's perspective. He worked for the TV network for 31 years, describing shots, explaining club selection and sharing his insights with viewers.
"There's more to golf than having a smooth swing," Rosburg said in a 1987 interview with the Associated Press. "I like to get into the mood of the game, like how a golfer is holding up under pressure."
But he wouldn't engage the golfers on the course.
"I feel they should be given their privacy during the round," he said. "It's hard enough playing golf without having someone put a microphone in your face."
Rosburg had been hitting golf balls since he was a toddler. Born Oct. 21, 1926, in San Francisco, he learned to play with his physician father at Lincoln Park, near their home. At 3, he was taken on the vaudeville circuit to show off his swing as the opening act for Antarctic explorer Adm. Richard E. Byrd.
While a junior member at San Francisco's exclusive Olympic Club, Rosburg one year defeated baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb for the club's golf championship.
At Stanford University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in humanities in 1949, Rosburg played golf and was a pitcher and infielder on the baseball team. Although invited to spring training with the Brooklyn Dodgers after college, he eventually chose golf and joined the PGA tour in 1953.
In later years, Rosburg occasionally played on the senior Champions Tour, and he won the 1981 Legends of Golf with Gene Littler.
Rosburg, who lived in La Quinta, is survived by his fourth wife, Becky; three children from his first marriage, Bob of Wilmington, N.C., Deborah of Indianapolis and Bruce of Dallas; and several grandchildren.
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