Commentator and former Ryder Cup player Peter Alliss – known to fans as “the voice of golf” – has died aged 89.
The golfing legend, who won more than 20 tournaments during his career becoming a successful broadcaster, died peacefully at his home in Surrey on Saturday, it has been announced.
European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley has hailed him as “truly one of golf’s greats”.
He said in a statement: “Peter made an indelible mark on everything he did in our game, but especially as a player and a broadcaster, and he leaves a remarkable legacy.”
A statement released on behalf of the Alliss family to the BBC said: “It’s with great sadness that we announce the passing of golfing and broadcast legend, Peter Alliss.
“Peter’s death was unexpected but peaceful. Peter was a devoted husband, father and grandfather and his family ask for privacy at this difficult time.”
Born in 1931 in Berlin, where his father Percy worked as a club pro, Alliss followed in his father’s footsteps and left school at the age of 14 to work for him at Ferndown Golf Club in Dorset, before turning professional himself two years later.
After his career was largely put on hold by two years of National Service in the RAF from 1949 to 1951, Alliss soon began to make a name for himself and won his first title in 1952.
He played for Britain and Ireland in his first Ryder Cup in 1953 and then in every match from 1957 to 1969, and represented England 10 times in golf’s World Cup.
In 1958, he won the Italian Open, Spanish Open and Portugal Open.
He was also famously chosen to give Sean Connery golf lessons before the actor played James Bond in the 1964 film Goldfinger.
Alliss, who retired as a player in 1975, was inducted into golf’s Hall of Fame in 2012.
With his deep and soothing voice, warm humour and passion for the game, Alliss may have been more renowned as a commentator than a player.
He made his broadcasting debut in 1961 as part of the BBC team for the British Open at Royal Birkdale and became the corporation’s main commentator in 1978, covering major tournaments in the United States, Canada and Australia.
Alliss also worked for ESPN, ABC Sports, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation among others.
Known for his witty one-liners, when Tiger Woods shot 81 at the 2002 British Open, he said: “It’s like turning up to hear Pavarotti sing and finding out he has laryngitis.”
He was due to celebrate his 60th year in broadcasting in 2021.
In November he commentated on the Masters from home due to the coronavirus pandemic and his own failing health.
Alliss wrote many books and co-designed more than 50 courses, including The Belfry, which hosted the Ryder Cup in 1985, 1989, 1993 and 2002.
Sad to hear of Peter Alliss’s death
The most sane and comforting voice I ever heard
I always thought that I could cope with the ending of the world if only Peter was commentating on it
— John Cleese (@JohnCleese) December 6, 2020
BBC director general Tim Davie said: “No one told the story of golf quite like Peter Alliss.
“He captured golf’s drama with insight, wisdom, and humanity. He was a legendary commentator who brought the game to life for millions of us.”
Actor John Cleese wrote on Twitter: “Sad to hear of Peter Alliss’s death. The most sane and comforting voice I ever heard.
“I always thought that I could cope with the ending of the world if only Peter was commentating on it.”
Gary Lineker, who worked with Alliss when fronting the BBC’s coverage of the Open, tweeted: “Deeply saddened to hear that Peter Alliss has passed away.
“A wonderfully witty and truly brilliant commentator. Golf will never be the same.”