The British PGA Matchplay Championship was a match play golf tournament that began in 1903 and ran until 1979. Between 1903 and 1969, the event was sponsored by the now defunct British newspaper the News of the World, and was commonly known by the paper's name. Initially organised as the championship of British professionals, the event came to include invited players from other countries - in particular from around the Commonwealth (it was won on four occasions by Australia's Peter Thomson, a record number of victories shared with Dai Rees and James Braid). On occasion, American professionals also took part, notably in 1949 when eight members of the victorious U.S. Ryder Cup side accepted invites to the event, Lloyd Mangrum reaching the semi-finals.
For many years, the event boasted the richest prize fund in British golf, and certainly in the pre-First World War era, can be considered to have been a 'major' championship of its day, as at the time, the British professionals were considered the best players in the world ? in 1907 the four semi-finalists were The Great Triumvirate of Harry Vardon, J.H. Taylor and James Braid, along with Ted Ray, who would go on to win both the British and U.S. Opens.
After World War II, the event provided several notable British and Irish players, like Christy O'Connor Snr, Eric Brown and Dave Thomas, with their greatest triumphs, and also became a showcase for the matchplay strength of Neil Coles, who was at least a semi-finalist eleven times in eighteen years, a remarkable achievement considering the field normally comprised 64 and on occasion 128 players.
Dave Thomas was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, he turned professional in 1949, taking up a position as an assistant. He later played tournament golf, and won more than a dozen titles in Britain and around Europe. He also tried his hand in the United States, he did win a qualifying tournament for the U.S. Open in 1964 and finished second in the St. Paul Open
In 1958, Thomas finished tied with Peter Thomson after 72 holes in the Open at Royal Lytham, but lost the 36-hole Saturday playoff by four strokes. At Muirfield in 1966, he again finished as runner-up, one stroke behind Jack Nicklaus. Throughout his career, Thomas was renowned for his long, straight, driving, and once hit a drive during a practice round for the 1967 Open at Hoylake onto the green at the 420-yard (384 m) second hole.
Thomas represented Great Britain in the Ryder Cup on four occasions, in 1959, 1963, 1965 and 1967, only being defeated once in his five singles matches. He also represented Wales in the Canada Cup, which later became the World Cup of Golf, on eleven occasions, and again at the Double Diamond Internationals in 1972.
Thomas was elected Captain of the Professional Golfers' Association during their centenary year in 2001, and in 2006 was recognised for his contribution to golf by being made an honorary life member of the PGA.
After retiring from tournament golf due to back and eye problems, he set up a golf course design business. He has designed over 100 courses around the world, his work includes Hacienda Del Alamo, the Brabazon, Derby and PGA National courses at Ryder Cup venue The Belfry.
Thomas died at his home in Spain on 27 August 2013.
This item has a letter of authentication from his son Paul Thomas
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