Price came to the game from one of its most fertile fringes. Born in South Africa on Jan. 28, 1957, Price was the youngest of three brothers by seven years. The family soon moved to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where at age eight, Price began banging plastic balls toward a series of tomato cans that were buried in neighborhood lawns. Price remembers playing as many as 144 holes a day in mock tournaments with his friends for a garden variety version of the Open Championship.
In such an environment, the athletic Price progressed dramatically. In 1974, at age 17, he won the Optimist Junior World at Torrey Pines in San Diego. “I had no idea what I’d done,” he says, “but I knew right then I wanted to make golf my life.”
In 1978, Price joined the European Tour. Although he would win the 1980 Swiss Open, his largely self-taught swing was not suited to the rigors of professional golf. Desperate, Price in 1982 began working with childhood friend David Leadbetter, who had become a teaching professional in America, and made dramatic improvement. Six months later, Price stood on the 13th tee at Troon leading the final round of the Open Championship by three strokes. Although he lost to Tom Watson by one, Price remembers being disappointed but not discouraged. “I knew I was getting better.”
Sure enough, the next year he won the World Series of Golf in Akron. The resulting 10-year exemption gave Price the time to indulge his passion, perfecting the golf swing. But Price’s learning curve did not continue its dramatic rise. Although he nearly won the Open Championship again in 1988, losing by a stroke to Seve Ballesteros, Price was gaining a reputation as an underachiever in golf. Eight years passed until he recorded his second PGA TOUR win in 1991.