Dave Marr's early years were difficult. The namesake son of a PGA Professional Dave was fatherless at 14, and hopeful for a permanent club job when he left college at 18 and turned professional at 19. A fortuitous dinner with Claude Harmon in Palm Beach, Florida led to assistant jobs at Winged Foot and Seminole.
As Marr worked to join the ranks of PGA Club professionals he tried his hand at competitive play, and liked what he saw. He was hired to be the PGA Head Professional at Rockaway Hunting Club in New York and Rumson Country Club in New Jersey but the siren song of Tour life called him away.
His first Tour win came in 1960 at the Sam Snead Festival in White Sulfur Springs. The win at the Greenbrier has since been deemed unofficial but two subsequent victories still stand. Playoff wins at the 1961 Seattle Open and 1962 Azalea Open burnished the resume but success in the major championships eluded the Texan.
In April of 1964 Marr birdied the 72nd hole to tie Jack Nicklaus for second at the Masters, 6 back of Arnold Palmer. It began a 30 month stretch which saw top 10 finishes in all 4 majors including a win at the 1965 PGA Championship.
1965 was indeed Marr's greatest competitive year. The PGA Championship win qualified him for the Ryder Cup team where he and Arnold Palmer won two matches and lost two as a team and Marr added 2 more points in singles matches. Marr was also selected as the Player of the Year in 1965.
For all his success as a player it is as a commentator on the game that Marr made his lasting mark on generations of golfers. After injuries derailed his playing career he was hired by Frank Chirkinian at CBS then joined the ABC broadcast team full time in the early 70's. Calling the US Open, Open Championship, PGA Championship, US Amateur and Ryder Cup broadcast alongside host Jim McKay, essayist Jack Whitaker, on course announcer Bob Rosburg and others that ABC golf broadcast team remains the gold standard in the industry.
Dave captained the 1981 US Ryder Cup team, generally regarded as the greatest Ryder Cup team ever assembled. The team consisted of five additional Texas Golf Hall of Fame Members (Bruce Lietzke, Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw, Bill Rogers, and Lee Trevino) and won the contest at tWalton Heath in England 18.5-9.5.
Close friend Bryan Naugle created the Dave Marr Memorial Award the year after his death. It is awarded annually in conjunction with the Insperity Invitational Shell. Past winners of the award include Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus, Judy Rankin, Gary Player, Former President George H. W. Bush and Arnold Palmer.
On October 5, 1997 Dave Marr lost his fight to cancer with his wife Tally at his bedside at MD Anderson in Houston.
- 1965 PGA Champion
- 1965 Ryder Cup Team Member (4-2 record)
- 1965 PGA Player of the Year
- 1981 Ryder Cup Captain
- Main Analyst ABC Golf 1971-1992
- Analyst BBC Golf 1992-1997
- Analyst NBC Golf 1995-1997
- National Collegiate Hall of Fame 1977
- Partner Riviere-Marr Golf Course Design 1981-1997
- Gold Tee Award presented by the Met (N.Y.) Golf Writers in 1990
Dave Marr, Sr. followed his first cousin Jack Burke, Sr. from Philadelphia to Houston in order to teach golf and become a club professional. On December 27, 1933, while working at Baytown Country Club, Dave's wife Grace gave birth to David Francis Marr, Jr. in Beaumont. The family moved to Houston where young Dave attended St. Thomas High School. Though his father died in 1948 when Dave was only 14 he made the honor roll, was captain of the golf team and a member of the Letterman's Club. Following graduation, he enrolled in Rice Institute at only 16 years old then transferred to the University of Houston the next year so he could work to help support his family without the academic rigors of Rice University.
Fatherless at 14 with siblings sent to live with relatives in Louisiana the late 40's were a difficult and dangerous time for young Dave Marr, Jr. His late father's friend, and future Texas Golf Hall of Fame member, Robie Williams was the head professional at Houston's Memorial Park. Robie never let his friend's son stray and always had chores or caddying jobs to put a few quarters in the boy's pocket to bring home to his mother Grace. When itt was time for the boy to set out on his own Tommy Bolt had Dave drive his Cadillac to Florida for the new Tour season. Bolt was having dinner with Claude Harmon in Palm Beach and Dave was invited. Holding the door open for Claude's wife, Alice Harmon said to her husband as she entered the restaurant, "sit the boy next to me". At the end of the evening Alice insisted Claude hire him. The 1948 Masters Champion took a liking to Dave and served as a finishing school for the intellectually curious Texan. All the wonders of New York were unleashed on Dave and interpreted by Claude. It was a paternal relationship that lasted until Claude's passing in 1989.
The Pro of 52nd Street
Through almost the entirety of his Tour career Dave Marr lived in the suburbs of New York City. It was, in a phrase he often borrowed, "the city so nice they named it twice, New York, New York". Not many touring professionals ever made the New York area their home base but Dave had married a New York girl and fell in love with the city itself. Dan Jenkins recognized Dave's love for the town and the town's delight at having a prominent golf champion call it his home. Jenkins, while writing for Sports Illustrated, dubbed Marr "The Pro of 52nd Street" in honor of the thoroughfare that wass home to most of the city's most famous sports watering holes. Jenkins further described Dave as “a man who enjoys a good glass of whiskey when night-time comes, is not averse to a second one, and will wrestle any man in the house to get the check when it arrives. At 5 feet 9 and 155 pounds, he spends practically no time at all worrying about his muscles, and he eats only the food that tastes good.” Dave would return to Texas after his divorce in 1970 and while the man left the city, the city never left the man.
One week in Augusta
In early April of 1964 Dave had already won three PGA Tour events but had never fared well in a major. He wondered if he had what it took to stand too to toe with Nicklaus and Palmer. He was about to find out.
Marr trailed Arnold Palmer and others buy a shot at the end of the first round. But then Arnold began to pull away. By Saturday night Dave was six back and paired with Palmer in the final group. The lead was halved by the 11th tee but there was no denying Palmer on this day.
The lead was back to 6 on the 72nd tee when Arnold had the urge to help his friend. Nicklaus had birdied to move one ahead of his friend and Palmer knew that a runner up finish meant Marr's name would be etched beneath his on the permanent tournament trophy. As they stood on the tee Palmer asked Marr, "Dave, is there anything I can do for you?" Without hesitation Marr responded, "Yeah, Arnold, make a 12". Palmer burst out laughing and the two birdied the hole.
If you look at the permanent Masters trophy at Augusta National and find the year 1964 you will see two names beneath the champion Arnold Palmer; Jack Nicklaus and Dave Marr.
Years later, in an interview recounting his favorite moments on the course, Arnold Palmer would point to the 1964 Masters as his favorite. It was his final major victory but he would say two things stood out, first he had a chance to enjoy the victory while walking up the 18th fairway with a comfortable lead but as important, he got to share it and the presentation with one of his best friends, Dave Marr.
His Father's Championship
In early August 1965 Dave Marr told his wife "I don't think I'll ever win a big one. I have too much dog in me." He had just given up a late lead in Connecticut to Billy Casper. His spirits were low, his wife was almost nine months pregnant and he was about to relinquish his position on the tournament players board of the PGA of America. In an interview preceding the PGA Championship he spoke about how it was time for touring players to take a more significant role in the administration of the tournaments they were playing in order to ensure quality and consistency. The son of a club professional was at risk of being suspended by the PGA of America and banned from playing in the PGA Championship. The PGA relented and by the end of the week he had won the championship the same day his son Tony was born. Within three years wheels were set in motion to create the Tournament Players Division of the PGA of America to ensure the quality and consistency of the events, a precursor to today's PGA Tour.
By virtue of his 1965 PGA Championship win Dave Marr qualified for the 1965 Ryder Cup. With his hero Byron Nelson as captain Dave played his first match with close friend Arnold Palmer. They lost 6&4. At lunch Marr was disconsolate. Captain Nelson stopped by the table where the teammates were trying to shake off the loss. He looked at Palmer and said "Arnold, I wanted to talk to you about your partner for the afternoon". Without missing a beat Arnold responded "Byron, I have my partner right here" and pointed to Marr. Byron looked at Dave and winked, then turned to Palmer and said "I was hoping you'd say that". Palmer and Marr won two of their next three matches and Marr won both of his singles matches.
The 1981 U.S. Ryder Cup Team is generally regarded as the greatest team ever assembled. With 11 Major Champions, 9 World Golf Hall of Fame Members and 6 Texas Golf Hall of Fame Members the final score of 18.5 to 9.5 wasn't surprising. It was Bernhard Langer's first appearance and Jack Nicklaus' final appearance. Everything would change in 1983 but since the 1981 team that Dave Marr captained only one U.S. team has won overseas.
In the history of golf broadcasting there has never been an announce team quite like the ABC Sports golf team in the late 70's through the 1980's. Host Jim McKay, essayist Jack Whitaker and on course announcer Bob Rosburg teamed with others like Judy Rankin, Peter Alliss and more. They covered all of the most important championships in the game, with the exception of the Masters. The main analyst was Dave Marr, whose broadcasting abilities were discovered at a rival network by legendary golf producer Frank Chirkinian. Once ABC's Roone Arledge got a hold of Dave he never let him go. Dave followed his hero Byron Nelson into the main chair and for 22 years called the US Open, Open Championship, PGA Championship, US Amateur and Ryder Cup broadcasts. A generation of golfers learned the game listening to Dave Marr's homespun analysis.
Deep Dive Interview
Lee Trevino - Dave Marr
Deep dive video interview
Lee Trevino - Dave Marr
Lee Trevino - 1981 Ryder Cup