Thomas Bjorn leads tributes following death of ‘voice of golf’ Peter Alliss

Former Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn has led the tributes to Peter Alliss after the man who became the ‘voice of golf’ following a successful playing career died at the age of 89.

Alliss, who won more than 20 tournaments during his career and played on eight Ryder Cup teams, died on Saturday evening at his home in Surrey.

Bjorn wrote on Twitter: “What a great man. Great voice and a true friend of our game. Peter was a brilliant broadcaster but an even better player.

“We will miss him dearly but we should also celebrate a life well lived. Thoughts are with the Alliss family.”

Former England footballer Gary Lineker, who worked with Alliss at the BBC, paid his own tribute on Twitter, writing: “Deeply saddened to hear that Peter Alliss has passed away. A wonderfully witty and truly brilliant commentator. Golf will never be the same. #RIPPeter.”

The news was announced by the European Tour, whose chief executive Keith Pelley said: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Peter Alliss, truly one of golf’s greats.

“Peter made an indelible mark on everything he did in our game, but especially as a player and a broadcaster, and he leaves a remarkable legacy. Our thoughts are with his wife Jackie and the Alliss family.”

Peter Alliss
Peter Alliss

Born on February 28, 1931, in Berlin, where his father Percy worked as a club pro, Alliss followed in his father’s footsteps and quit school at the age of 14 to work for him at Ferndown Golf Club in Dorset, before turning professional himself two years later.

After his career was largely put on hold by two years of National Service in the RAF from 1949 to 1951, Alliss soon began to make a name for himself and finished ninth in the 1953 Open, one of five top-10 finishes in the event.

That performance helped Alliss gain selection for the Ryder Cup in October, making he and Percy the first father and son to play in the biennial contest, but Peter suffered a crucial singles defeat to Jim Turnesa as the home side lost by a point at Wentworth.

His move into broadcasting came about after he was overheard by the BBC’s Ray Lakeland talking to a friend on a flight back from a tournament in Ireland in 1960.

Peter Alliss
Peter Alliss

Alliss combined commentary stints at the following year’s Open Championship with finishing eighth behind Arnold Palmer at Royal Birkdale, helping raise his profile to such an extent that he was chosen to give Sean Connery golf lessons before the actor played James Bond in the 1964 film ‘Goldfinger’.

Alliss became the BBC’s lead commentator in 1978 and was due to celebrate his 60th year in broadcasting in 2021. In November he commentated on the Masters from home due to the coronavirus pandemic and his own failing health.

A statement released by the BBC on behalf of the Alliss family read: “It’s with great sadness that we announce the passing of golfing and broadcast legend, Peter Alliss.

The Tour is saddened to hear of the passing of eight-time Ryder Cup player, 31-time winner and the 'Voice of Golf' Peter Alliss.

Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.

— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) December 6, 2020

“Peter’s death was unexpected but peaceful. Peter was a devoted husband, father and grandfather and his family ask for privacy at this difficult time.”

Director of BBC Sport, Barbara Slater, added: “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.

“He transcended his sport as one of the greatest broadcasters of his generation. He will be terribly missed and our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time.”

BBC director general Tim Davie added: “No one told the story of golf quite like Peter Alliss. He captured golf’s drama with insight, wisdom and humanity. He was a legendary commentator who brought the game to life for millions of us.”