Admired around the world for his play, grace and sportsmanship, golfer Roberto De Vicenzo died on Thursday in his native Argentina at the age of 94. De Vicenzo won the inaugural U.S. Senior Open in 1980 at Winged Foot Golf Club and received the Bob Jones Award, the USGA’s highest honor, in 1970.
He was a champion of more than 230 worldwide tournaments, including the 1967 Open Championship at Hoylake, where he triumphed over Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. De Vicenzo is also remembered for his scoring gaffe in the 1968 Masters; he had birdied the par-4 17th hole, but his fellow competitor Tommy Aaron inadvertently wrote down a 4 instead of a 3. De Vicenzo didn’t realize the error and signed the scorecard. Under the Rules of Golf, the higher score had to stand, so Bob Goalby was declared the winner and De Vicenzo had to settle for a heartbreaking runner-up finish.
Later De Vicenzo famously said, “What a stupid I am,” a quote that has become legendary for its poignancy.
De Vicenzo was born in Villa Ballester, a northern suburb of Buenos Aires, and he acquired his love of the game as a caddie. He developed his skills at Ranelagh Golf Club. At the age of 19 in 1942, he won his first Argentine tournament, the Abierto del Litoral. He claimed the World Cup in 1953 with Antonio Cerda. He eventually amassed 193 victories in South America, nine on the European Tour and eight on the PGA Tour. .
De Vicenzo posted 16 top-10 finishes in the majors. In addition to his runner-up finish in the Masters, he was second in the 1950 Open Championship.
"De Vicenzo was a tremendous striker—one of the three or four best I ever saw," Gary Player told Golf World in 2006. "If he had played a full schedule in America, he would have won a lot of major championships, because he knew how to win."
De Vicenzo became one of the early stars of the burgeoning Seniors Tour, winning the 1974 Senior PGA Championship and the capturing the first U.S. Senior Open Championship by four strokes over amateur Bill Campbell.