Golfer Tommy Horton: Bio of the British Favorite

Golfer Tommy Horton
Tommy Horton was an English pro golfer who won tournaments before the creation of the European Tour, and also after. He was a Ryder Cup player and a respected and well-liked player behind the scenes of British and European golf for decades. He also was the first star of the newly created European Seniors Tour.

Full name: Thomas Alfred Horton

Date of birth: June 16, 1941

Place of birth: St. Helens, Merseyside, England

Date and place of death: December 7, 2017 in Jersey, Channel Islands

Horton's Victory Totals

Horton is credited with 41 wins in pro tour events. Those tournament wins are listed at the bottom of this article, but here is the breakdown:
  • European circuit/European Tour*: 9 wins
  • European Senior Tour wins: 23
  • Other pro wins: 9
(*Horton's wins began in the late 1960s, before the creation of today's European Tour. Five of the total of nine wins are from the pre-European Tour circuit, four came after the formation of the European Tour in 1972.)

In the Majors

Horton played The Masters four times (missing the cut all four times), and never played the U.S. Open or PGA Championship. He first played the Open Championship in 1965 and last in 1986. He had four Top 10s in that span, with a best finish of tied for fifth place in the 1976 British Open. His other Top 10 Open finishes were tied for eighth in 1967, tied for ninth in 1970 and tied for ninth in 1977.

Tommy Horton, Butten Boy

Tommy Horton was a "Butten boy." What, you ask, was a "Butten boy"? In 1964 a wealthy British businessman named Ernest Butten, tired of watching American golfers win the British Open, came up with a plan: He would select a handful of the most-promising young British professionals, pair them with a top teacher of the game and experts in physical fitness and psychology, and develop a training program.

It was an early experiment in immersive golf training, the kind that today is common beginning from very young ages for the best youth golfers. Horton, Alan Ibberson, Iain Clark and Brian Barnes were the golfers selected for the program, and they became known as the Butten boys. Max Faulkner, 1951 British Open winner, was hired as the instructor.

Butten wanted an Open championship within a year. Faulkner thought that timeline was ridiculous and argued that Butten's hope should be an Open champ within five years. Butten also started butting into Faulkner's teaching, and his presence at tournament sites rattled the players. According to Faulkner:

"The boys would see him on a shooting stick at the back of the green and it would frighten the life out of them. When they were putting they would see him with his head bowed, praying thet they would get it in the hole. Then he would get his notebook out and mark it all down. Most of the time he would be very pleasant to them but then at other times they would suddenly get it in the neck."
The arrangement fell apart in 1965 after Horton nearly won his first tournament, the Silentnight, only to double bogey the final hole and finish second. Still, the four golfers and Faulkner were thrilled with such a high finish. Butten, however, greeted the group the next day by saying (according to Faulkner), "You are a disgrace to the profession."

Faulkner soon quit, Horton and Barnes followed him, and a couple months later so did the other two. The "Butten boys" experiment can't be considered a failure, even though none of them went on to win the Open: Horton and Barnes enjoyed long, successful careers, with dozens of wins between them and many Ryder Cup appearances.

More About Tommy Horton

Tommy Horton was born in England, but his family moved to Jersey in the Channel Islands when he was four. That was 1945, and Horton became strongly associated with Jersey for the rest of his days, living much of his life there. He became the professional at Royal Jersey Golf Club in 1974, and retired there in 1999.

But he turned pro in 1957, and two years later joined the staff at Ham Manor Golf Club in England. It was 1964 when he began his tournament career in earnest, going through the "Butten boys" training program with Max Faulkner.

In addition to his runner-up finish in the 1965 Silentnight Tournament (mentioned above), Horton had other close calls in the mid-1960s: He was runner-up at the Carroll's International in 1965 and 1967, and at the Martini International in 1968.

Horton's breakthrough victory was at the 1968 RTV International. There were two big wins in 1970: The British PGA Matchplay Championship (where he beat Ronnie Shade, 3 and 2, in the final) and the South Africa Open, where Horton ended Gary Player's five-year win streak and became the first non-South African to win it.

When the European Tour was founded in 1972, Horton got a win in the first year at the Piccadilly Medal. Three more European Tour wins followed, including his last, the 1978 British Masters. He won several national opens in Africa during the mid-1970s, too, and the PLM Open in 1984, two years before it became an official European Tour event.

Horton also played in two Ryder Cups, although it was surprising to many he wasn't selected earlier for more. He played in the 1975 Ryder Cup and 1977 Ryder Cup. (At the 1997 Ryder Cup, European captain Seve Ballesteros chose Horton as one of his assistants.)

According to Peter Alliss, writing in 1983, "Perhaps one reason for his delayed selection (to the Ryder Cup) was that many considered him underpowered and a suspect putter, but his long game is rated particularly highly. A very straight driver, he found he gained much length from the use of a carbon shaft, and he is one of the best long-iron players in Britain."

From 1964-82, Horton finished in the Top 50 of the European money list every year, and lower than 30th only four times in that stretch. Seven times he was in the Top 10. His best finish was second in 1967, and he was fifth on the money list in 1968, 1970 and 1976.

When the European Seniors Tour was founded in 1992, it was great timing for Horton who had just turned 50. And he became that tour's first star and first best player. He won three times in 1993, four in 1996, six tournaments in 1997, three more in 1998. Horton led the European Seniors Tour Order of Merit five times, in 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999.

At time of his final senior win in 2000, his 23 wins were the tour record. That number stood until Carl Mason passed it in 2011.

Golfer Tommy Horton

Along the way Horton was often involved in the administrative side of British and European golf, too. He was captain of the British PGA in 1978. He served for many years on the European Tour board of directors and, later, on the senior tour's board of directors. He also was known as a champion for and helper to young players as they arrived on the tour, and founded a European Tour training program for rookies.

In 2000, Horton was awarded an M.B.E. (Memer of the British Empire), and in 2012 he was made an honorary lifetime member of the European Tour. He was 76 years old when he died in 2017.

Horton authored or co-authored several instructional books. Golf: The Long Game was published in 1969, followed by Golf: The Short Game in 1970. Golf: How to Improve Your Game was published in 1988.

List of Tommy Horton's Tournament Wins

Horton's wins on the European circuit that predated the European Tour:
  • 1968 RTV International Trophy
  • 1969 Tyneside Festival of Golf
  • 1970 South African Open
  • 1970 British PGA Matchplay Championship
  • 1971 Gallaher Ulster Open
His wins on the European Tour:
  • 1972 Piccadilly Medal
  • 1974 Penfold Tournament
  • 1976 Uniroyal International
  • 1978 Dunlop Masters
His wins outside of the European Tour:
  • 1973 Nigerian Open
  • 1975 Gambian Open
  • 1977 Zambia Open
  • 1984 PLM Open
  • 1985 Togo Open
Horton's wins on the European Seniors Tour:
  • 1992 Forte PGA Seniors Championship
  • 1993 Shell Scottish Seniors Open
  • 1993 Collingtree Seniors
  • 1993 Senior Zurich Lexus Trophy
  • 1994 St. Pierre Seniors Classic
  • 1994 Belfast Telegraph Irish Senior Masters
  • 1995 De Vere Hotels Seniors Classic
  • 1996 Castle Royle European Seniors Classic
  • 1996 Stella Senior Open
  • 1996 Northern Electric Seniors
  • 1996 The Players Championship
  • 1997 Beko Turkish Seniors Open
  • 1997 AIB Irish Seniors Open
  • 1997 Jersey Seniors Open
  • 1997 Scottish Seniors Open
  • 1997 Clubhaus Seniors Classic
  • 1997 Senior Tournament of Champions
  • 1998 El Bosque Seniors Open
  • 1998 De Vere Hotels Seniors Classic
  • 1998 The Belfry PGA Seniors Championship
  • 1999 Beko Classic
  • 1999 Monte Carlo Invitational
  • 2000 Royal Westmoreland Barbados Open
His other senior tournament wins:
  • 1995 British Senior Club Professional Championship
  • 1996 British Senior Club Professional Championship
  • 1997 British Senior Club Professional Championship
  • 1998 British Senior Club Professional Championship

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