Dow Finsterwald became a footnote in history as the first player to win the PGA Championship in stroke play and the last US captain before being invited to join continental Europe.
In addition to being a major champion and Ryder Cup player, he has dedicated his life to golf as the longtime professional at The Broadmoor in Colorado.
Finsterwald, a 12-time winner on the PGA Tour, died Friday night at his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He was 93. His son, Dow Finsterwald Jr., said he died peacefully in his sleep.
“He did everything he could for the game,” said the head pro at the Colonial Club in Fort Worth, Texas. “He enjoyed his friends and they will always remember him. He loved the rules and cared about the game. He had a wonderful life and felt it was complete.”
Finsterwald was born in Athens, Ohio and played college golf at Ohio University. One of his first matches was with Arnold Palmer at Wake Forest, and they remained close friends until Palmer’s death in 2016. Finsterwald spent the summer at the Palmer Bay Hill Club and Lodge.
“He (shot) 29 and we played together, so I didn’t have much of a chance there,” Finsterwald said.
Palmer came along while golf was being televised. It was a big reason why the PGA Championship decided to switch from match play to stroke play in 1958.
Finsterwald lost to Lionel Hebert in the 1957 championship match. The following year at Pennsylvania’s Lanark Country Club, Finsterwald was two shots behind Sam Snead entering the final round when he closed with a 67 and won by two over Billy Casper.
“It’s definitely had a big impact on my life, and winning the championship brought certain things forward,” Finsterwald said in 2008 at the 50th anniversary of his victory at Oakland Hills. But as important as it was to me – and believe me, it was very important – it was a big step for the PGA of America to go from match play to stroke play.
Being 2nd in the finals in the last match play was definitely a bit more there. So I guess I have a bit of a bias towards stroke play. “But it was reasonable and time to do it.”
Finsterwald He was the PGA Player of the Year in 1958 and won the Varden Cup in 1957 with the lowest average. He played in four Ryder Cup teams at 9-3-1. He was captain of the 1977 American team that featured Ryder Cup rookies like Tom Watson and Lanny Wadkins.
America won easily, and in that Ryder Cup at Royal Lytham & St. It was at Annes that Jack Nicklaus provided stiff competition as the Americans were winning in a row. The British and Irish group expanded to include continental Europe.
Finsterwald’s last win was the 500 Festival Open Invitational in Indianapolis. He also made 72 consecutive cuts, a feat in his day because he wasn’t measured at 36-holes but was among the top 25 or more finishers in the prize fund.
Finsterwald It became the flagship project at Broadmoor in 1963 and held the position for 28 years.