Australian golfing great Jack Newton has died at the age of 72.
Newton, the 1979 Australian Open champion, died overnight due to “health complications”, his family said.
Newton’s victory at the Australian Open was one of three Australian Tour triumphs – he also had a PGA Tour victory and was a three-time European Tour winner. After turning professional in 1971 and winning the Dutch Open the following year, the Cessnock-born Newton’s glittering career continued by finishing second at the British Open in 1975 and the US Masters in 1980.
“I always thought if I went into a major with good form, I could be dangerous,” Newton said of his career. “That’s how I played golf. Once I raised my tail, I was no longer afraid of anyone.
Newton’s playoff loss to Tom Watson at the 1975 British Open at Carnoustie was particularly unlucky. By round three, he had set a course record of 65, despite sustaining an ankle injury so bad on the practice tee before the championship started that painkiller injections were needed just to get on the course.
On the final round, Newton was the leader on the back nine but lost shots in three of the final four holes. Meanwhile, a metal fence kept Watson’s ball inbounds on the eighth hole and the American miraculously eagled on the 14th to eventually win the Claret Jug with one shot over Newton.
Newton’s golfing career ended prematurely in July 1983 when, aged 33, he lost his right arm and eye after hitting a plane’s spinning propeller during a rainstorm . Newton’s right arm was severed, he lost sight in his right eye and suffered serious injuries to his abdomen.
Doctors gave him only a half chance of surviving, and he spent several days in a coma and nearly two months in intensive care and required lengthy rehabilitation from his injuries. “Things weren’t going so well for me. I knew that from the priest walking around my (hospital) bed,” Newton later said.
Despite his near-death experience, Newton returned to public life as a popular television commentator, radio and newspaper pundit, golf course designer, and president of the Jack Newton Junior Golf Foundation, which raised hundreds thousands of dollars for the next generation of golf. players in Australia.
Newton also relearned to golf one-handed, swinging the club with his left hand from a right-handed stance, returning to a handicap of around 12 or 14.
“[He] was a fearless competitor and an iconic Australian, blazing a formidable trail during his professional golf career between 1971 and 1983,” his family said on Friday. “He fought back against terrible adversity as only he could.
“[He] has chosen to selflessly invest his time, energy and effort in giving back to the community through his Jack Newton Junior Golf Foundation, sports commentary, golf course design and major fundraising for several charities, including [for] Diabetes.”
Newton was awarded the Order of Australia for his services to golf in 2007.
“His passion for the sport and his contribution to future generations of golfers and the Australian community demonstrates the character of our father, beloved husband, proud brother, adored grandfather and fellow maverick.
“In true Jack Newton style, we will be celebrating his incredible life, however, at this time our family requests privacy and we appreciate everyone’s lifelong love, support and friendship. .”
Newton is survived by his wife Jackie, daughter Kristie, son Clint and six grandchildren.