'Voice of Golf' Peter Alliss dies at age of 89

Peter Alliss

Peter Alliss, the BBC's long-standing 'Voice of Golf', has died at the age of 89.

A decorated tour pro and Ryder Cup star, Alliss was best known to golf fans around the world for his work behind the microphone on the BBC's golf coverage. He made his broadcasting debut in 1961 before becoming the lead commentator in 1978. 

A statement from the Alliss family described his passing as "unexpected but peaceful".

The statement said: "It is with great sadness we announce the passing of golfing and broadcast legend Peter Alliss.

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"Peter was a devoted husband, father and grandfather and his family ask for privacy at this difficult time."

Barbara Slater, the director of BBC Sport, said: "Peter was the voice of golf. He was an absolute master of his craft with a unique ability to capture a moment with a magical turn of phrase that no one else could match."

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Born in Berlin in 1931, while his father Percy, was employed as a club professional at the Wannsee Golf Club, Peter was making headlines from the moment he arrived in the world. He weighed 14lbs 11oz at birth, reputed to be a European record at the time.

He attended a private boarding school in the south of England but left at the age of 14, the minimum leaver's age. A talented amateur golfer, who represented England at boys' level, he turned pro in 1947, at the age of 16, as an assistant to his father at Ferndown Golf Club in Dorset. 

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It was the start of what was to be a fabulous playing career, during which he won more than 30 times between 1952 and 1969.

He also played in 24 editions of the Open Championship - posting five top-10 finishes - as well as two Masters Tournaments and eight Ryder Cups. 

He and his father Percy were, in fact, the first father and son duo to compete in the biennial event.

However, as exceptional a player as he was, he was arguably better known for talking about golf than playing it.

He made his commentary debut for the BBC at the 1961 Open Championship. Following the death of his co-host and great friend Henry Longhurst in 1978, he assumed the position of lead commentator. 

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With his dead-pan, rambling style, Alliss earned a legion of fans, many of whom tuned in to the BBC's golf coverage as much for his inimitable way with words as for the on-course action itself.

After Tiger Woods shot a third round 81 at the 2002 Open, he famously remarked: "It's like turning up to hear Pavarotti sing and finding out he has laryngitis." 

On another occasion, he observed that "one of the good things about rain in Scotland is that most of it ends up as scotch."

As recently as last month, Alliss was describing the action as only he could, calling all of the key moments from the Masters Tournament where Dustin Johnson won his second major championship.

Describing his commentary style, he once remarked: "I'm there as an old player, a lover of the game and a good weaver of stories."

He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2012.

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