The Owen name is one synonymous with golf in Whanganui, but it is Simon Owen, 67, who has achieved the most in the professional golfing world.

He turned professional in 1971 and has won several tournaments in Australasia. He played on the European Tour from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, winning the 1974 German Open and the 1976 Double Diamond individual championship. His best finish on the European Tour order of merit was 11th.

Since 2001 Owen has played seniors professional golf and his name is on the NZPGA Seniors Championship trophy twice.

But his stellar career moment was his runner-up finish to Jack Nicklaus in the 1978 Open played on the Old Course at St Andrews. In the final round, the then 27-year-old Owen chipped in on the 15th to take a one-shot lead over Nicklaus.


On to the 16th, the Whanganui pro hit a great iron but it went through the green. From the ninth to the 15th holes he'd made five birdies and was in the zone. But he left the 16th with a bogey while the "Golden Bear" sank a birdie putt to take a one-shot advantage - a lead he never relinquished.

Owen tied for second with Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw and Raymond Floyd.

In a later interview, the genial Whanganui golfer said he'd never complained about that Open finish.

"If you've choked on a shot, that hurts and you can carry that sort of thing around as baggage for years. There wasn't one shot in that last nine holes of golf that I choked on. I hit every shot just about exactly how I wanted ... I had a chance to win the British Open and, while I didn't quite do it, I gave it a good shot. I've got no regrets about it."

Owen now lives at Kinloch.