The following story appears in this week’s Golf Digest. The actual winning score was 107 for Ted Ray.
By Bill Branch
For two days, Ted Ray reached his height at the PGA Tour at Royal Birkdale, based on a birdie that lifted him from No. 60 to 64 in the final round of the British Open, one shot shy of Rory McIlroy and the clubhouse lead.
“I was ready for it all,” said Ray, the “Rain Man of golf” whose career was far more than a description. It was his achievements in all aspects of his sport — field-hugging, split-throttle, sweet shots, piercing putts — that became the stuff of legend. He was the good guy; he looked your way and made you smile; he was the showman, and he played it like it was the biggest game in the world.
Through the ages, Ray was a professional and a legend. He was five-time PGA champion, runner-up in seven majors, wins in 27 PGA Tour events, trophies at four Ryder Cups and the Presidents Cup, and four wins in British Open play.
He was a mega-memorable player. “I’m not sure the word ‘great’ can cover Ted,” said Gary Player, a two-time British Open winner who called Ray the greatest player he ever saw. “He was an outstanding ball striker and his short game was truly magnificent. His putter was exceptional and he could also play some very good ball-striking golf. He made a lot of birdies. He had a very competitive spirit; he was not afraid to play on his good side. And he was extraordinarily brave.”
Ray died at age 72 from a heart attack in Phoenix. So members of Ray’s family, who were among the most supportive of his career, wanted to give back to the pro’s legacy. They have established the Ted Ray Golf Academy (TedRayGolfAcademy.com) in Mesa, Ariz., where players can participate in offseason golf lessons, shooting clinics and special events.
“Golf is his passion, and this is a way to keep his memory and legacy going,” said his wife of 58 years, Sandra Ray. “It’s just amazing how far the game of golf has come. It’s great that I can do this so that kids that might not get to get the chance to play the game of golf, that I can give them something that will teach them about life, that will make them better people — because that’s really what Ted was all about.”
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