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Hall of Famer Bolt dies; beat young Player to win '58 U.S. Open

CHEROKEE VILLAGE, Ark. -- Tommy Bolt, the 1958 U.S. Open champion who had one of golf's sweetest swings and most explosive tempers, has died. He was 92.

His wife, Mary Lou Bolt, said he died Saturday after "his liver shut down."

"He was the best man I ever knew," she said Wednesday.

Bolt was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2002, which he called the highlight of his career. He won 15 PGA events and several more titles on the seniors tour. Yet his temper gained him the most notoriety.

Nicknamed "Terrible Tempered Tommy" and "Thunder," Bolt was often fined and suspended by the PGA Tour for slamming clubs and using abusive language. He set up a special fund from his winnings to pay the fines.

"That's been ballooned out of proportion a little bit," Bolt said when he was selected for the Hall of Fame. "Now, I threw a couple of clubs. I'm human, just like the other guys. But I threw them at the most opportune time, it seemed like. They always had the camera on me when I was throwing one."

Bolt attended the U.S. Open at Southern Hills in 2001, and someone asked if tales of his temper were overblown. "I couldn't have possibly broken as many clubs I was supposed to have broken. They haven't made that many," he said.

During his induction in 2002, Bolt regaled the crowd with his favorite story about breaking or throwing clubs. He was playing the Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach one year when he had 135 yards left to the 16th.

Bolt turned to his caddie and asked for a 7-iron, and the caddied replied, "It's either a 3-iron or a 3-wood. Those are the only clubs you have left."

Bolt joined the PGA Tour in 1950 and won his first title, the North and South Open, the next year. Bolt won at least one tournament per year through 1955, a year he won four times, and won 15 tour events in all, missing just six cuts in more than two decades.

In 1958, he won the U.S. Open by four strokes over 22-year-old Gary Player. Bolt also won the Colonial Open that year. His last PGA win came at the Pensacola Open in 1961.

"Today's players owe a debt of gratitude to Tommy Bolt and his fellow pioneers," PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement Wednesday. "His golf prowess was only matched by his formidable and colorful personality and he helped launch an era of the game's popularity that has continued for nearly half a century."

Bolt also played on two U.S. Ryder Cup teams and for years was co-owner of the tour scoring record, having shot 60 in 1954 at Wethersfield (Conn.) Country Club in the second round of the Insurance City Open. In 1971, at age 52, Bolt took Jack Nicklaus to the wire at the PGA Championship, losing by three shots on the back nine.

Years later, he played a key role in the formation of the Champions Tour (then known as the Senior PGA Tour). A seniors tour did not begin officially until 1980, but the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf began two years earlier. In 1979, Bolt and playing partner Art Wall lost to Roberto De Vicenzo and Julius Boros on the sixth extra playoff hole.

"We showed that the old guys could still play," said Bolt, who won the U.S. National Seniors Open five times, the PGA Seniors and the 1978 Australian Seniors.

Bolt was an ardent admirer of Ben Hogan. One quote was often attributed to Bolt: "Somebody asked me once, 'Who's better? Jack Nicklaus or Ben Hogan?' Well, my answer was, I saw Nicklaus watch Hogan practice. But I never saw Hogan watch Nicklaus."

Bolt was born March 31, 1916, in Haworth, Okla. He served overseas with the Army during World War II and turned professional in 1946.

Survivors include a son, Thomas Walker Bolt.

Information from ESPN.com golf writer Bob Harig and The Associated Press was used in this report.