Obituary: Dave Marr

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The Independent Online
David Francis Marr, golf player and television commentator: born Houston, Texas 27 December 1933; twice married (two sons, one daughter, and two stepsons); died Houston 5 October 1997.

When Justin Leonard won the Open Championship at Royal Troon in July, his name was added to the line of great Texas golfers. Even in the short time since then, the game of golf has lost two others, first Ben Hogan, and now Dave Marr.

Best known as a television commentator, Marr was not in the same class as his friend Hogan as a player. But what he lacked in talent, he made up for in heart and courage. His fourth and final victory on US Tour came at the 1965 USPGA Championship at Laurel Valley, deep in Arnold Palmer country in Pennsylvania, where he held off Jack Nicklaus and Billy Casper. Not until Davis Love this year did another son of a club professional win the USPGA.

Golf was far from Marr's whole life. In contrast to the majority of modern pros, he was based for much of his career in New York and passed the evenings with friends from show-business and sports writing, one of whom dubbed him "the pro from 52nd Street".

His connections and gift for storytelling brought Marr to ABC TV in 1970, where he took over from Byron Nelson as the network's main golf analyst. The highlight of his career came, however, when he was invited to captain the American Ryder Cup team in 1981 at Walton Heath, Surrey.

That was the year the visiting team read like a who's who of golf - Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Ben Crenshaw, Ray Floyd, Larry Nelson and this year's captain Tom Kite among them - and they duly delivered a nine-point thrashing over the Europeans. Yet, Marr could not have been a more courteous, gracious or well-liked captain.

After being unceremoniously dumped by ABC in 1991, Marr was out of work for only 24 hours. He was hired by the BBC, where his soft Texan drawl fitted in perfectly alongside the mellifluous tones of Peter Alliss, and later by NBC, where he complimented the sometimes acerbic, always strident Johnny Miller.

"Dave Marr is an ambassador," Miller told Golf World recently. "The greatest gift he has is that he always makes everybody feel comfortable. As an announcer, he'll be constructive in his criticism, but it always comes in mild sprinklings. He's always appreciated the good shots, and it's not that he's flattering the players. He just sees the good in most things."