A refined statesman and a blonde bomber with a fondness for hotted-up cars; on the surface Peter Thomson and Stuart Appleby have little in common.
Yet look slightly beneath the surface and the pair share a grounding on the Melbourne sandbelt, a historic Presidents Cup triumph and a place among the greatest golfers Australia has ever produced.
The second round of our search to name Australia’s Greatest Golfer begins on Thursday with Thomson and Appleby to go head-to-head in an online vote by golf fans to be conducted on the PGA of Australia’s social media channels.
The No.1 seed on the basis of his five major championships and 95 wins around the world, Thomson moved into the second round with a victory over Peter McWhinney while Thomson’s close friend Ian Stanley was edged out by Appleby in their Round 1 clash.
Born in Cohuna on the Murray River, Appleby was just two years of age when Thomson won the last of his three Victorian Opens at Yarra Yarra Golf Club in 1973. He would later go on to grace those same fairways as a pennant player for Yarra Yarra after his talents as a junior led to invitations to the big smoke in Melbourne.
Located less than seven kilometres from Thomson’s spiritual home at Victoria Golf Club, Yarra Yarra and the surrounding sandbelt courses gave Appleby the grounding and sophistication to his game that would see him accrue nine wins on the PGA TOUR and record top-10 finishes in each of golf’s four majors.
Appleby had won two PGA TOUR titles and was ranked No.33 in the world when Thomson took charge of the International team to contest the 1998 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne and the pair would have a significant impact on the upset win over the superstar US team.
Thomson’s calm demeanour coupled with his innate understanding of Royal Melbourne’s subtleties gave the International team a foundation that would instil confidence belying their respective positions on the world ranking.
Starting strongly was critical and with Appleby contributing 2.5 points in the opening two days – including a 2 & 1 win alongside Vijay Singh against the 1997 Open champion Justin Leonard and a rising star named Tiger Woods – the International team established a virtually unassailable eight-point buffer heading into the Sunday singles.
More than a decade later Appleby and Thomson would once again join forces, both part of a consortium that redeveloped the Yarra Bend golf course and driving range that now stands as one of the most progressive golf facilities in Melbourne complete with an 18-hole course, driving range with TopTracer installed and mini golf for those who prefer fun with the flatstick.
It is a shared legacy that further entrenches their respective places in the proud history of Australian golf.
Career wins: 95
Major wins: 5 (British Open 1954-56, 1958, 1965)
Australasian Tour wins: 44
Australian Open: Won (1951, 1967, 1972)
Australian PGA: Won (1967)
Career wins: 17
PGA TOUR wins: 9
Australasian Tour wins: 3
Australian Open: Won (2001)
Australian PGA: T2 (1997)