Tom Kite: The PGA Tour's 'Mr. Consistency'

Tom Kite displays the US Open trophy he won in 1992.
Tom Kite displays the US Open trophy he won in 1992. Gary Newkirk/Getty Images

Tom Kite was one of the top performers in golf in the 1980s and into the 1990s, then a success on the Champions Tour.

Kite was one of the most consistent money winners during his best years on the PGA Tour. He was known for his excellent short game and was one of the first modern pros to begin carrying a third wedge (in addition to his pitching and sand wedges).

  • Date of birth: Dec. 9, 1949
  • Place of birth: McKinney, Texas
  • Nickname: Mr. Consistency

Number of Wins by Tom Kite

  • PGA Tour: 19
  • European Tour: 2
  • Champions Tour: 10
  • Major Championships: 1

(Kite's wins are listed below.)

Awards and Honors for Kite

Tom Kite Biography

Tom Kite was born near Dallas and began playing golf at age 6, winning his first tournament at age 11. And he made acquaintances in those early years that he maintained for decades to come.

Kite and Crenshaw

Kite's family moved to Austin during his childhood, and there Kite met Ben Crenshaw. Kite and Crenshaw became rivals first, later friends, as they battled in junior golf and high school golf. Both were pupils of legendary golf instructor Harvey Penick.

After high school, both played college golf at the University of Texas, where they tied to share the individual trophy at the 1972 NCAA Championship. And as pros, both won 19 times on the PGA Tour, both were Ryder Cup captains, both were elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Which had the better career?

Many will say Crenshaw, because Crenshaw won two majors to Kite's one, and because Crenshaw had the flashier game. But Crenshaw once answered that question by saying it was Kite. He cited Kite's consistency: Kite's career (unlike Crenshaw's) didn't have many downs - he was, year after year, and for a long span of time, among the top performers on tour.

Kite's Consistency

They didn't call Tom Kite "Mr. Consistency" for nothing. In the 1980s, few players matched Kite's consistency. Most of his 19 career victories came during that time period. He won the Vardon Trophy for low scoring average in 1981 and 1982; the money title in 1981 and 1989; and Player of the Year in 1989.

Kite won at least once every year from 1981 through 1987, then twice more in 1989 (including The Players Championship).

After finishing 20th on the money list in 1980, Kite missed the Top 10 only once the rest of the decade. He added a couple more Top 10 money finishes in the early 1990s.

Kite's final PGA Tour win happened in 1993. Over the course of his PGA Tour career, Kite made 590 cuts - second-most in Tour history. In addition to his 19 wins, Kite had 29 second-place finishes and 209 career Top 10s. For the sake of comparison, Jack Nicklaus had 286 career Top 10s and Crenshaw had 144.

Kites Wins the US Open

For much of his career, the only thing missing for Kite was a major championship victory. He was runner-up at the British Open in 1978 and at The Masters in 1983 and 1986, and had a slew of Top 10 finishes. But no wins through 1991.

When asked if winning a major would complete his career, Kite replied, "I think a career is complete when you finish it."

But when you're tagged as "the best golfer without a major," getting that major is even more important. And Kite finally got one by winning the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. The tournament was played in largely brutal conditions, good for a grinder like Kite.

After opening 71-72, Kite moved into a tie for second place following a third-round 70. In a final round marked by high winds and burned-out greens, Kite's 72 was one of the better rounds of the day.

He won by two strokes over runner-up Jeff Sluman.

Kite and the Ryder Cup

Kite was a regular member of Team USA during the era in Ryder Cup history when Team Europe started getting more and more competitive and then began regularly winning. Kite was on Team USA in every Cup played from 1979 through 1989, and again in 1993, a total of seven times.

And he was team captain at the 1997 Ryder Cup, where Team USA lost in Spain to the Seve Ballesteros-captained European side.

As a player Kite was one of the most successful in Ryder Cup history. His overall record was 15-9-4 in Ryder Cup matches, and he was undefeated (5-0-2) in seven singles matches.

Kite's Later Career, Including the Champions Tour

Kite's final tour win before senior golf was at the 1996 Oki Pro-Am on the European Tour. In 2000, he joined the Champions Tour, and it didn't take long for him to win: Kite claimed the title at The Tradition, a senior major, that year.

In 2001, the 52-year-old Kite finished fifth at the U.S. Open - not the senior one, the main one - the best finish by a senior golfer in a major since Sam Snead placed third at the 1974 PGA Championship.

Kite eventually won 10 times total on the Champions Tour.

Kite has co-authored several instructional books and appeared in instructional videos. He has also developed a golf course design business. His best-known golf course as an architect is Liberty National.

Tom Kite was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004.

Tom Kite Trivia

  • In three of Kite's first six wins on the PGA Tour, Jack Nicklaus was the runner-up.
  • Kite made 590 cuts on the PGA Tour, second-best all-time behind Jay Haas' 592.
  • At the 2012 U.S. Senior Open, Tom Kite set a 9-hole scoring record for not just the Senior Open but all USGA championships. In Kite's first-round 65, he opened with a front-nine score of 28.

Quote, Unquote

A few quotable comments by Kite:

  • "Discipline and concentration are a matter of being interested."
  • "It's a heck of a lot harder to stay on top than it is to get there."
  • On preparing properly to play each shot:"Give luck a chance to happen."
  • "Every kid learning to play golf dreams about winning the Masters and about winning the Open, not about being the leading money winner."
  • After losing the 1986 Masters to Jack Nicklaus: "I hit every shot the way I dreamed about today. But that's the strange thing about golf: You don't have any control about what your opponent does."

List of Tour Wins by Tom Kite

PGA Tour Victories

  • 1976 IVB-Bicentennial Golf Classic
  • 1978 B.C. Open
  • 1981 American Motors Inverrary Classic
  • 1982 Bay Hill Classic
  • 1983 Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
  • 1984 Doral-Eastern Open
  • 1984 Georgia-Pacific Atlanta Golf Classic
  • 1985 MONY Tournament of Champions
  • 1986 Western Open
  • 1987 Kemper Open
  • 1989 Nestle Invitational
  • 1989 The Players Championship
  • 1989 Nabisco Championship
  • 1990 Federal Express St. Jude Classic
  • 1991 Infiniti Tournament of Champions
  • 1992 BellSouth Classic
  • 1992 U.S. Open
  • 1993 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic
  • 1993 Nissan Los Angeles Open

European Tour Victories

  • 1980 European Open
  • 1996 Oki Pro-Am

Champions Tour Victories

  • 2000 Countrywide Tradition
  • 2000 SBC Senior Open
  • 2001 Gold Rush Classic
  • 2002 MasterCard Championship
  • 2002 SBC Senior Classic
  • 2002 Napa Valley Championship
  • 2004 3M Championship
  • 2006 AT&T Classic
  • 2006 Boeing Greater Seattle Classic
  • 2008 Boeing Classic
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Kelley, Brent. "Tom Kite: The PGA Tour's 'Mr. Consistency'." ThoughtCo, Jun. 8, 2017, thoughtco.com/tom-kite-biography-1563765. Kelley, Brent. (2017, June 8). Tom Kite: The PGA Tour's 'Mr. Consistency'. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/tom-kite-biography-1563765 Kelley, Brent. "Tom Kite: The PGA Tour's 'Mr. Consistency'." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/tom-kite-biography-1563765 (accessed November 20, 2017).