Bill Rogers - the star who gave it up

Ex-Open winner recalls his greatest year

Paul Prendergast
Mon, 7 Feb 2011

Bill Rogers - the star who gave it up

The year 1981 was momentous one for events on the global stage...

US President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II survived assassination attempts but President Anwar Sadat of Egypt did not. Mark Chapman was jailed for life for murdering John Lennon, Princess Diana and Prince Charles were married and the space shuttle Columbia made its maiden flight.

It was also the year that the tempestuous John McEnroe claimed his third Wimbledon title and a fondly remembered Texan won the Open Championship at Royal St George's, Sandwich - four shots clear of the emerging Bernhard Langer.

Bill Rogers was 29 at the time and was only known to a European audience with his win in the 1979 Suntory World matchplay at Wentworth.

But in 1981 the man with a slender frame and disarming smile, became the hottest golfer on the planet claiming seven victories on four continents between April and December.

He also tied for second in the US Open behind Australia’s David Graham - leading at one stage on the final day - was a member of the all-conquering US Ryder Cup dream team at Walton Heath and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year.

But it seemed no sooner had he arrived on the scene than he disappeared almost without trace. Disenchanted with Tour life he took a club pro job in his home town of San Antonio and dedicated his life to his family and his faith.  

Thirty years on and days and on the eve of his 60th birthday, Bill Rogers is at peace with the world giving more of his experience back to the game as the assistant coach to the University of Texas golf teams, where we caught up with him.

Happy 60th birthday for later this year, Coach Rogers!

Thank you. I’m looking forward to it and to many more. I still feel quite young and active and blessed to be in good health.

You’ve come full circle, coaching at University of Texas, San Antonio (USTA).

I’m in my third year and loving the interaction with the young men and women in the programme. I feel very fortunate to have played golf and stayed in the industry all these years. It strikes me as being very meaningful to be able to give back in some way, to be a coach and a mentor to these young people, share some life stories and experiences of my time.

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