Mario Gonzalez, father of golf in Brazil, is dead on 96

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When the Rio Summer Games approached in 2016 and golf was first designated as an Olympic sport since 1904, the man was known as the father of the game in Brazil was celebrated again.

Brazil had won five football world championships and produced international cycling and tennis champions, but golf had largely remained a niche sport in the country reserved for wealthy businessmen and former patriots.

But when the Reserva Marapendi golf course was built for the Olympic Games in western Rio, it would later be turned into a public course in the hope that the Brazilian golf could propel a bright future, the exploits of Mario Gonzalez, who died Monday in Rio at 96, was remembered and told again.

Gonzalez won the Brazil Open eight times and competed in 1948 as an amateur for the British Open championship. In 1941, at the age of 19, he had hired it at Bobby Jones – the winner of the original Grand Slam golf (the United States and British opens and two amateur tournaments) in 1930 and the co-founder of Augusta National, home of the Masters, in 1934 – and played him for a draw in an exhibition competition.

And he defeated Billy Casper, winner of the United States Open 1959, in a head-to-head, made for TV event in 1961.

But Gonzalez had missed opportunities to thrive on PGA and European tours. He concentrated on the Brazilian championships and was happy to remain the head pro at the Gávea Golf and Country Club in Rio, where he taught from 1949 to 1984. He also said he preferred to spend time with his family to spend, including his son, Jaime, who went to play on the European tour and briefly the PGA Tour.

"If he had played more on the PGA Tour, I am sure he would be in the Gallery of Honor", Roberto De Vicenzo of Argentina, The leading golfer of Latin America in the 40s and 50s and winner of the British Open in 1967, Golf.com told in August 2016.

Alexandre Rocha, a leading Brazilian player who appeared on the PGA and European Tours, called Gonzalez "a legend".

"Mario is the beginning," he said in an interview with Golf Channel prior to the 2016 Games. "I'm not here without him."

Once, Rocha said, in a nine hole round with him, Gonzalez put "stroking the most incredible display of ball strokes I have ever seen."

Mario Gonzalez was born on November 11, 1922 in Sao Paulo, where his father, José, designed golf courses and was an instructor. Mario only weighed 125 pounds or so as a young man, but hit powerful discs.

After winning the Argentine Open in 1940, the Brazilian president sponsored him on a four-month American tour. Gonzalez played in the 1941 United States Open in Forth Worth, missed the cut, but kept Jones tied with an 18-hole play tie on East Lake, Jones & # 39; s home course near Atlanta. After that exhibition, Jones called him & # 39; a great young player & # 39 ;.

Gonzalez won the Grand Challenge Cup at Royal St. George & # 39; s in England in May 1948 and participated that summer as an amateur at the British Open at Muirfield in Scotland.

In the third round, on a cold, rainy Saturday, he shot a 70, the lowest round of the day, and set him on the hunt for victory. But his final round of 75 put him in 11th place for the tournament, for the third time won by Henry Cotton of Britain. But Gonzalez ended up being one of the two low amateurs in the Open and shared that distinction with an American, Capt. Ed Kingsley, who was stationed in Germany.

"When he didn't win, I was surprised" the five-time British Open champion Peter Thomson from Australia once remembered. "The poor man told me that he shivered all the time because he was not used to the cold."

Gonzalez played in two United States Opens and two Masters and won the Argentinian Open twice, the second time in In 1953, when De Vicenzo became number two.

Jaime Gonzalez won four Brazilian amateur titles, played on the PGA and European tours and taught Rocha at the São Fernando Golf Club.

Mario Gonzalez, who became a professional in 1949, was in the international sports spotlight in 1961 when he played in Gávea in the first episode of "Shell & # 39; s Wonderful World of Golf". It turned out to be an internationally broadcasted program every year with competitions on courses around the world in which a prominent American golfer faced a foreign top professional.

Gonzalez shot a 68 for a three-branch win over Casper and was hoisted onto his shoulders by the crowd.

As Rocha once said, "Casper wins the United States Open, he goes to Brazil." Who is Mario? "Mario just hits him."

Gonzalez & # 39; s death announced by the PGA Tour Latino Americano, who said he had cancer.

In addition to his son Jaime, the survivors of Gonzalez include his wife, Pilar, and his sons Rafael and Mario. Both Jaime and Rafael are among the leading education professionals in Brazil.

The family patriarch continued to teach after his playing career.

"No regrets," Gonzalez told Golf.com. because he has not fully tested himself on trips abroad. “I consider myself a fully accomplished person. I was proud then and today I am proud. "

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