Golfer George Archer: Bio of the Masters Winner

pro golfer George Archer in 1972
George Archer won more than a dozen times on the PGA Tour from the 1960s into the 1980s, including The Masters. Then he won nearly 20 more times on the Champions Tour. His is remembered as one of the tallest pros to be that successful, and as one of his era's best putters.

Full name: George William Archer

Date of birth: October 1, 1939

Place of birth: San Francisco, California

Date and place of death: September 25, 2005 in Incline Village, Nevada

Nickname: The Gilroy Cowboy because, before turning pro, he spent a year working as a ranch hand on a ranch in Gilroy, California. Archer later lived on the ranch and continued to help out during his times away from the PGA Tour.

Number of Wins

George Archer won 13 official PGA Tour tournaments, first in 1965 and last in 1984. On the Champions Tour, Archer won 19 times, first in 1989, last in 2000.

His tournament wins are listed at the end of his bio below.

Archer's Masters Win, Record in Majors

George Archer had exactly one Top 10 finish in The Masters, but he made the most of it: He won the 1969 Masters.

Archer was tied for second place following a first-round 67. A 73 in the second round left him tied for third. In the third round, Archer shot 69 and trailed leader Billy Casper by one stroke.

In the final round, Archer played steady and took advantage when other contenders stumbled late. Casper started poorly and came on late, but couldn't recover from his 5-over-through-10-holes start. Tom Weiskopf dropped out of the lead after a bogey on the second-to-last hole. And Charles Coody had the lead with three holes to play, but bogeyed all three of those holes.

Archer parred his final four holes to shoot 72. He finished at 7-under 281, one stroke ahead of Casper, Weiskopf and George Knudson. You can watch the final-round broadcast on our 1969 Masters page.

Archer's next-best finish in The Masters was a tie for 11th in 1981. In the 1983 Masters, Archer's daughter Elizabeth caddied for him, becoming the first woman to caddie in The Masters. He finished tied for 12th, his final Top 20 showing in the tournament.

Archer never completed the British Open. He had a fourth-place showing in the 1968 PGA Championship, and was fifth in the 1971 U.S. Open. He had only four Top 10 finishes in majors in his career, the other one being 10th in the 1969 U.S. Open. The first major Archer played was the 1964 U.S. Open, and the last was the 1992 Masters, where he made the cut at age 53.

More About George Archer

Two things every profile of George Archer include: He was 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-6, one of the tallent golfers of his era and one of the tallest successful golfers ever; and he was, by reputation, one of the great putters of his era.

To underscore how unusual it was considered for a man as tall as Archer to excel in golf back in his time, consider this passage about him in the 1981 PGA Tour media guide:

"Exceptionally tall men like Archer seldom play the game with excellence, and no other man standing 6-feet-5 has accomplished what George has in golf. A legendary putting stroke has helped overcome whatever shortcomings tall men are supposed to experience."
At one time, Archer held the all-time PGA Tour record for fewest putts in a four-round tournament: He needed only 95 putts to complete the 1980 Sea Pines Heritage Classic.

Archer took up golf at age 12 and learned on the public golf courses in the San Francisco area of California. Those included Harding Park, and also Lincoln Park where he took part in 25-cent putting matches and developed his skill with the flatstick.

He worked as a caddie at Peninsula Golf and Country Club and played for the San Mateo High School golf team. By the time Archer was 24, in 1963, he enjoyed his finest year as an amateur: Archer won the prestigious Trans-Mississippi championship, plus the Northern California Open and San Francisco City Championship. He reached the semifinals in the 1963 U.S. Amaetur (losing to eventual champ Deane Beman), and was low amateur for the third year running in the Lucky International, the PGA Tour tournament played in San Francisco at Harding Park.

Archer first played in a PGA Tour event, as an amateur, at the 1961 Lucky International. After turning pro at age 25 in 1964 (he finished 51st on the PGA Tour money list), his first PGA Tour win was at the 1965 Lucky International.

Archer was winless in 1966, but from 1966-72 he finished in the top 20 of the money list all but one year (worst of 28th), including eighth in 1967, fourth in 1968, fourth in 1971 and third in 1972. His best year for wins was three in 1968, and he won twice each on the PGA Tour in 1969, 1971 and 1972.

The year 1969 was particularly special because, of course, his Masters win. But Archer's other win that year was the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, which, at that time, was one of the highest-profile non-major tournaments in golf.

Archer eventually 13 PGA Tour titles despite a career hampered by repeated injuries, especially in the 1970s. After several poor years in the mid-70s, Archer rebounded to finish 20th on money list in 1977. But he then fell far down the list with back problems that finally required surgery in 1979.

Archer came back for one last win at the 1984 Bank of Boston Classic at the age of 44. Over the course of his career, from PGA Tour through Champions Tour, Archer underwent seven major surgeries.

"One thing about golf is you don't know why you play bad and why you play good." — George Archer
He also lost three times in PGA Tour playoffs: to Jack Nicklaus at the 1969 Kaiser International Open Invitational; to George Knudson at the 1970 Robinson Open Golf Classic; and to Miller Barber at the 1972 Dean Martin Tucson Open. Archer last played a "regular" PGA Tour tournament in 1989 — he played close to a full season and had two top 20 finishes — but continued playing The Masters through 1992.

In his PGA Tour career, Archer made 674 tournament starts, recorded 111 Top 10 finishes, had 13 wins, 15 runner-up finishes, and 15 third-place finishes.

When Archer turned 50, he joined the Champions Tour in 1989 and played the senior circuit through 2004. He won his Champions Tour debut, the 1989 Gatlin Brothers Southwest Senior Classic.

From 1990-93, Archer played 32 tournaments per year on the Champions Tour and finished fourth, second, second and third, respectively, on the money list. He won four tournaments in 1990, three each in 1991 and 1992, and four again in 1993. He shared the Champions Tour Player of the Year Award in 1991. Archer was winless in 1994 but still finished 10th on the money list, then won twice in 1995 and was 11th on the money list. He didn't have another top 20 finish in money, but did win twice more, the last time in 2000 at the age of 60.

Along the way, Archer earned the distinction of being the first Champions Tour golfer to win a tournament after undergoing a hip replacement.

Archer was particularly fond of two senior tournaments, the Northville Long Island Classic and Raley's Senior Gold Rush — he won them three times each. He also lost twice in senior tour playoffs: to John Brodie in the 1991 Security Pacific Senior Classic, and to Jim Colbert in 1992 GTE Suncoast Classic.

For his Champions Tour career, Archer made 374 starts and recorded 146 Top 10s, 19 wins, 20 seconds, and 19 thirds. After the 2000 Champions Tour season (the last in which Archer won), his 19 wins were tied for eighth-best in senior tour history and he stood seventh on the career money list.

In 2004, at a time he was still playing on the Champions Tour, Archer was diagnosed with lymphoma. He died in 2005, one month after playing golf for the final time. He was 65 years old.

Archer is a member of the California Golf Hall of Fame (inducted 1991), the San Mateo County Sports Hall of Fame (1994) and Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame (2012).

Following his death, Archer's wife, Donna, revealed that George was functionally illiterate for most of his life — a learning disability prevented him from ever learning to read or write beyond a third-grade level. It was a secret that George had worked hard to keep over the years, but Donna Archer revealed it in order to launch a charitable effort aimed at literacy. That effort continues today as the George Archer Memorial Foundation for Literacy.

List of Archer's Pro Wins

PGA Tour (13)

  • 1965 Lucky International Open
  • 1967 Greater Greensboro Open
  • 1968 Pensacola Open Invitational
  • 1968 Greater New Orleans Open Invitational
  • 1968 PGA National Team Championship (partnered by Bobby Nichols)
  • 1969 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am
  • 1969 Masters Tournament
  • 1971 Andy Williams-San Diego Open Invitational
  • 1971 Greater Hartford Open Invitational
  • 1972 Glen Campbell-Los Angeles Open
  • 1972 Greater Greensboro Open
  • 1976 Sahara Invitational
  • 1984 Bank of Boston Classic
Archer's other wins in pro tournaments:
  • 1963 Northern California Open
  • 1963 Northern California Medal Play
  • 1964 Northern California Open
  • 1967 Northern California Open
  • 1969 Argentine Masters
  • 1981 Colombian Open
  • 1982 Philippines Invitational

Champions Tour (19)

Archer's other senior wins:
  • 1990 Sports Shinko Cup
  • 1990 Princeville Classic
  • 1991 Sports Shinko Cup
  • 1994 Chrysler Cup (individual tite)

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