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Billy Casper Autobiography: The Big Three and Me

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Among golf’s best players, Billy Casper is a true wild card. Sure, you’ve heard the name, but among the greats? Well …

Casper’s new autobiography, The Big Three and Me, makes a case for Casper’s inclusion in that pantheon. None other than the Big Three themselves—Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player—nominate him for membership in the book’s foreword. The “Fab Fore” probably never came to be largely because Casper wasn’t represented by the same agent, Mark McCormack. “The Big Three” was his marketing name.

Casper’s approach to the book isn’t bitter or demanding. With his laid-back California nature, he’s appreciative of a game that was—and still is—very good to him. He doesn’t storm the entrance to the Big Three clubhouse; he simply leaves his body of work at the doorstep and allows readers to decide for themselves.

Casper’s impressive career and many records make a case on their own. His 51 career victories are the seventh-most in PGA history, with two U.S. Open wins and a Masters. No one has accrued more Ryder Cup points for the U.S. than his 23 ½. He’s a five-time Vardon Trophy winner (awarded to the tour player with the lowest overall average in a season); only Tiger Woods has won more. His lifetime winning average was only bested by Nicklaus and Woods.

Factoids aside, Casper’s is a lifelong golf epic straight out of Hollywood. A Depression-era baby born to teenage parents, he began his life on tour hauling a trailer and funded by hometown friends. His first professional check was a whopping $33.33.

Rather than focus on his own brilliant play, the author highlights the gentlemanly way in which Arnold Palmer handled his seven-stroke meltdown, allowing Casper to seize the U.S. Open from him in 1966. Likewise, he points out Nicklaus’ sportsmanship in a Ryder Cup event.

For someone who was never allowed into the elite club, Casper has only good things to say about most of his peers—and they about him. “In my opinion, Billy Casper was the best player in the middle ’60s,” notes Johnny Miller, a former competitor and a current tour broadcaster. “He was a magician with the golf club. He had every shot in the book.”

These days, the 84-year-old Casper can ride off into the sunset with no regrets. He was golf’s second millionaire after Palmer, and he continues to enjoy success with golf-related projects. His 60-year marriage to wife Shirley has given him 11 children (six of them adopted), 34 grandchildren and 11 great-great grandchildren. And that, in anyone’s book, is big.

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