Roberto de Vicenzo started in the game in Buenos Aires as a caddie and by retrieving balls from ponds, before becoming the greatest golfer to emerge from South America.
He won countless tournaments around the world, on a par with Gary Player, but his greatest achievement came in winning The Open in 1967 at Royal Liverpool. He first played in 1948, was a runner-up once and was third no less than six times.
By 1967 he was a sentimental favourite, always a quality ball-striker, his putting not always reliable and aged 44 he became the second oldest Champion Golfer of the Year ever, after Old Tom Morris who was 46 in 1867.
In a tense finale, he held off the challenge of defending Champion Jack Nicklaus, helped by a birdie at the par-5 16th – now the 18th for Royal Liverpool’s recent Opens – when he struck a superb 3-wood over the corner of the out-of-bounds to the heart of the green.
His victory was a joyous occasion, and there was no more popular Champion. The crowd’s “sustained warmth and affection,” wrote Pat Ward-Thomas, “were tribute to a fine human being as well as a great golfer and a victory nobly won.”
Alas, Easter Sunday the following year, the day of day of his 45th birthday, ended up as one of the saddest days in golf. After a bogey at the last, de Vicenzo appeared to have scored a 65 to tie for the Masters, only for a mistake on his scorecard to be spotted too late.
Tommy Aaron had written down a 4 instead of a 3 on the 17th hole. De Vicenzo was deemed to have scored a 66 and lost by one to Bob Goalby. The Argentinian refused to blame anyone else for the error. “What a stupid I am,” he said.