3 Memorable Golfers That Ruled The Eighties

By Jane Duncan, freelance writer

May 3 2022

The 1980s will always be remembered as an era when golf reached a turning point. Increased TV coverage saw the game appeal to new audiences all the time. Arnold Palmer was no longer a threat, a host of other talent peaked during the same decade that big hair and punk rock became hot trends. From Jack Niklaus and Tom Watson to Seve Ballesteros, let’s have a closer look at three of the top golfers of the 1980s.

Play Better Golf - The Short Game and Scoring. 1986 book by Jack Nicklaus

Jack Niklaus Remained in Good Form

Although Jack Niklaus was at the peak of his career during the sixties and seventies, he continued to shine in the eighties. In fact, he went on to three majors and five PGA Tour events, which included the 1980 U.S. Open and PGA Championship as well as the 1986 Masters. The latter was hailed one of the most memorable tournaments ever with Niklaus’ back-nine shooting him past a host of other top contenders such as Tom Kite, Seve Ballesteros, and Greg Norman. Niklaus went on to win what is now known as the PGA Tour Champions a whopping ten times and received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2015.

The 80s Belonged to Tom Watson

By the eighties, golf was one of the most popular sports in the USA, both as far as participation and viewership were concerned. While the social aspects of the game made it increasingly appealing, so too did seeing players such as Tom Watson reach their peak. The Missouri native went on to enjoy 19 wins and five majors during the eighties and also ended in the top five of an additional eight majors. Considered the best bad-weather player in the world to this day, Watson's aggressive style earned him the honor of being ranked as one of the best players in the world of all time.
The New Rules of Golf - Tom Watson with Frank Hannigan

The New Rules of Golf (1984) by Tom Watson

Seve Ballesteros was a Legend Amongst Men

Spanish-born Seve Ballesteros had a spectacular run in the eighties, ending the decade on no less than 32 European Tour victories. To this day, he is the all-time top player in Europe with 50 career wins to his name. Ballesteros didn’t only excel in Europe and also won the PGA Tour seven times. His four major wins were at The Masters in 1980 and 1981 and the British Open in 1984 and 1988. Thanks to his contribution to the game, he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1999. Unfortunately, he passed away from brain cancer at the age of 54 in 2011.

The eighties was a good era for golf. Not only did the game receive more media attention than ever before, but players also upped their game in every sense of the word.