Utah governor declares ‘Billy Casper Day’ after Mormon PGA golfer

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Billy Casper was remembered as much for his kindness as his golfing ability at a funeral service in Provo on Saturday, a week after he died at his home in nearby Springville at the age of 83.

In this June 20, 1966, file photo, Billy Casper reacts after running a 25-foot putt into the cup on the 11th green during his playoff with Arnold Palmer for the U.S. Open title in San Francisco. Casper, a prolific winner on the PGA Tour whose career was never fully appreciated in the era of the "Big Three," died Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015, at his home in Utah. He was 83. (Associated Press)
In this June 20, 1966, file photo, Billy Casper reacts after running a 25-foot putt into the cup on the 11th green during his playoff with Arnold Palmer for the U.S. Open Title in San Francisco. Casper, a prolific winner on the PGA Tour whose career was never fully appreciated in the era of the “Big Three,” died Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015, at his home in Utah. He was 83. (Associated Press)

Fellow PGA Hall of Famer Johnny Miller, former PGA Tour golfer Doug Sanders, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and top leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were among those who attended the service.

“He knew he had this amazing gift of hands,” said Miller, now a TV analyst. “He never played bad.”

Miller mentioned how much he owed Casper, then backed away from the podium and said he would need “a miracle” to avoid breaking down. He was among Casper’s pallbearers.

Sanders called Casper one of the most beloved players in golf.

“I’ve never heard any player ever say a bad word about Billy Casper,” Sanders said. “I never heard Billy say a bad word about anybody. He was a pleasure to play with.”

Elder W. Craig Zwick, of the First Quorum of the Seventy, said Casper was a gentleman off the course, too.

“Billy treated people with sincere kindness and love wherever he went,” he said.

Casper won 51 times on the PGA Tour, putting him at No. 7 on the career list behind only Sam Snead, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Byron Nelson. His three major championships were the 1959 and 1966 U.S. Opens and the 1970 Masters. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1978.

Survivors include his wife of 62 years, Shirley, 11 children, 37 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren. He became a Mormon just as his career was taking off.

Herbert declared Saturday “Billy Casper Day” in Utah.

Casper was buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Springville.

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