Peter Alliss, the BBC’s legendary ‘voice of golf’, dies at 89

Peter Alliss, the former BBC commentator known as ‘the voice of golf’, has died at the age of 89, the European Tour has announced.  

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.

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

‘Having enjoyed great success as a player, Peter began his legendary broadcasting career with the BBC in 1961, going on to become our lead golf commentator in 1978. 

‘His knowledge and love of the game, along with his exceptional ability to tell stories, cemented him as one of the best in the business, and he became known as simply ‘The Voice of Golf’. 

‘His inimitable tone, humour and command of the microphone will be sorely missed, his often legendary commentaries will be long remembered.’

Born in Berlin on February 28, 1931, where his father Percy worked as a club pro, Alliss followed in his father’s footsteps and quit school at 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.

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.

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

The father of six children was expected to retire after the Ryder Cup in September 2021. 

Director of BBC Sport Barbara Slater said: ‘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. 

‘Following a highly distinguished playing career, his broadcasting career spanned an extraordinary 60 years. Just last month, at the incredible age of 89, he was doing what he loved – commentating for the BBC on the Masters Golf. 

‘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.’

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley added: ‘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.’ 

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