Life fortress: A father-son bond is priceless for professional golfers Billy and Bobby Casper

Published: Saturday, June 16 2012 8:39 p.m. MDT

In this June 20, 1966, file photo, Billy Casper reacts when he ran a 25-foot putt into the cup on the 11th green for a birdie 3 during his playoff against Arnold Palmer in the U.S. Open golf tournament at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. As Olympic prepares to host golf's national championship for the fifth time, matching the club's memorable moments of the past might be the toughest part.

Associated Press

He stands across the table from Hall of Fame golfer Billy Casper at the Olympic Club in San Francisco this week and his love and appreciation for his father knows no bounds.

Bobby Casper knows the bond between a father and son can be a life fortress. He has dwelt in that castle all his life.

This week the 51-year old from Mapleton watched his father return to the site of his remarkable comeback victory over Arnold Palmer in the 1966 U.S. Open and perched at a table in the merchandise center at the Olympic Club, signing copies of his book "The Big Three and Me." He's seen golf fans line up at the table as his father has greeted them for hours ever day.

He's watched as his father did interviews with national golf writers and personalities including Jaime Diaz of Golf Digest and NBC's Johnny Miller and Bob Costas.

Bobby has watched as his father, now late in years, is receiving well-deserved recognition as one of the most prolific golfers who ever lived. His remarkable 51 PGA Tour victories, three major championships including two U.S. Opens, the most career wins and points in Ryder Cup competition. The list goes on.

But here, at the Olympic Club, it all holds a special place for Billy. When he birdied No. 15 in the final round of the 1966 Open and Palmer made bogey, he continued the charge from five strokes back to force a playoff. He promptly throttled the legend the next 22 holes, and Palmer was never the same.

People talk about the Big Three, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, but it should have been — for all time — Nicklaus, Palmer and Casper. If you lay out the record, Casper's career clearly eclipses that of Player. The difference, back in the day, is that Nicklaus, Palmer and Player were represented by sports agent Mark McCormick and that made all the difference between created fame and enjoyed fortune.

Bobby Casper grew up following his father all over the world. "When I was a senior in high school we went over to Kenya where he played in the European Tour and that was the first time I met Seve Ballesteros. We always had opportunities to go places, like Morocco, Japan and New Zealand," said Bobby. It was the time of his life.

"I remember when we'd go to the Western Open, which is the BMW Championship today. He was represented by Wilson's Sporting Goods at that time. He'd go into the factory to get his clubs re-gripped with the old leather grips. When he'd be doing that, I got turned loose on the catalog and ordering all the sports equipment I could get my hands on, whether it was baseball, tennis, mitts, basketballs or baseballs."

When Billy left home to compete, he'd be gone for two weeks at a time, but when he came home, it was his time to get away from it all. One of his favorite things to do was take his family, his sons, sport fishing out of the Port of San Diego. "We'd do that for two weeks and then Dad would settle down and practice and get ready to play again."

Billy said his commitment to get back to the game, both then and now, has been an example to him. His father was a dedicated competitor who practiced his craft and has always been giving of his time and talent to advance the game. Even today he holds a charity event at San Diego Country Club after the Masters every year to benefit the Boys & Girls Club. It raises $150,000 a year, for a total of more than $3 million since it was created.

What would Bobby want people to remember about Billy?

"He's always been underestimated, as far as the game goes," said Bobby, who pointed to the marketing plan by McCormick. I don't think people realize the record he had and how good he was as a player over time. He's seventh all time in career wins on tour."

The new book, coauthored by Lee Benson and James Parkinson, is a great starting point to understand exactly who Billy Casper is and what he did.

"It's been really good for him. It's almost like his life story. In reading it, I've learned things about him that I never knew, and I've known him all my life.

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