Over the last couple of decades, the exposure enjoyed by golf has reached an entirely new level. Indeed, it’s entirely possible to watch practically any professional tournament in the world, live and direct via internet streams. But the sport of golf enjoyed a similar boom which came during the 1980s, when live TV coverage of tournaments became hugely popular and turned already famous players into household names.
These days when it comes to golf betting, Americans like Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas are now amongst the most familiar names, along with Dustin Johnson as the +800 favorite to win the 2021 US Masters. They are the current generation of professional golfers tearing up the fairways and greens, alongside elite European rivals such as Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy.
However, none of these golfers would be who they are today without the influence of certain '80s legends. Individuals who managed to delight and fascinate their fans in equal measure, undoubtedly inspiring the modern era superstars of golf to take up the sport. With that in mind, let’s take a look at three of the most iconic golfers from a decade that had top entertainment across a range of spheres outside of golf including the box office.
Although his prime was during the 1960s and 1970s, Jack Nicklaus continued to enjoy great success during the 1980s, winning five important PGA Tour events and three majors. Known by adoring fans as The Golden Bear, he won both the US Open and the PGA Championship in 1980, although the best was yet to come.
At the 1986 Masters, 46-year-old Nicklaus earned the last of his 18 career majors, a record which still remains unbeaten and is unlikely ever to be matched. Beating fellow golfing icons Tom Kite and Greg Norman by just one shot on the leaderboard, Nicklaus forever sealed his legacy as one of the greatest sportsmen of all time.
During an era in which American golfers were the driving force in golf, a humble young man from Cantabria, Spain reignited the European game. After bursting onto the scene in the 1970s, Seve Ballesteros became one of the most popular golfers to walk the fairways throughout the 1980s, largely thanks to his unique style and ability to overcome any obstacle.
The thing about Seve is that he could hit an absolute stinker from the tee, into the rough or a bunker, yet pull off some of the most remarkable recovery shots by dropping the ball onto the green and right next to the pin. Such phenomenal ability earned Ballesteros five career majors and four PGA Tour wins, not to mention a firm place in the hearts of golf aficionados.
While his professional career began in the 1970s, albeit often in the shadow of Jack Nicklaus in the hunt for titles, Tom Watson still managed to secure three major titles by the end of the decade. However, there’s little doubting that the 1980s firmly belonged to the American golfer, thanks to entertaining and friendly rivalries with his fellow professionals.
Along with triumphing at the Masters in 1981 and the US Open in 1982, Watson won The Open Championship three times between 1980 and 1983, which is also why he remains one of the best players in golf history. No matter the weather or course conditions, Tom was titanic when it came to consistent and composed play throughout the ’80s.
There were so many amazing golfers to enjoy during the 1980s that it’s difficult not to conclude with a few honorable mentions. It was a marvelous decade for European golfers, with Sandy Lyle of Scotland and Nick Faldo of England rising to the fore, along with Bernhard Langer from Germany. Finally, who can ever forget the greatness of Greg Norman, "The Great White Shark" from Australia. All of these legends made the '80s a truly unforgettable era for golf.