One of the great pure ball strikers in the history of the game, Bolt didn’t join the PGA Tour until his early 30s, but still went on to win 15 PGA Tour events, none more memorable than the 1958 U.S. Open, where he bested a young Gary Player by four shots.
Bolt was known far and wide for his temper, which led to an occasional club toss, but should have been better known for his skill. In his long retirement at Cherokee Village, Arkansas, he played thousands of rounds with only a rare flash of anger, and was better known as a staunch supporter of local charities and junior golf. He lent his
name and time to the Tommy Bolt Classic at the Jonesboro CC to raise funds for the Arkansas State golf team for many years.
In a 1994 interview with this writer, Bolt said his smartest move as a professional was to spend three weeks with Ben Hogan in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1955, where Hogan taught him his secret, or at least one of them.
“I didn’t really learn to play golf until then,” Bolt said. “He told me what his secret was. It was the left hand moving over on top of the club to eliminate the fear of hooking. I was always a hooker. I could get the ball up and down, so I won tournaments, but I was always hooking my drives.”
With the snap hook eliminated, Bolt won three times in 1955, once in 1957 and then won The Colonial before coming to Tulsa for the first major championship at Southern Hills. “Let me tell you, winning that U.S. Open was my ultimate goal since I was a little kid caddying,” Bolt said. “I almost won that thing two or three times.”
Bolt won a second major when he captured the PGA Seniors Championship in 1969, one of three senior tour victories.