Tributes have started flowing in from the golfing and NRL ranks for lovable larrikin Jack Newton who has passed away from health complications at the age of 72.
The former Australian Open champ who came agonisingly close to winning the British Open and US Masters, lost his arm and eye in 1983 when he ran into an aeroplane propeller at Sydney Airport.
Newton was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia on 11 June 2007 for services to golf, particularly through his roles in executive, youth development, and fundraising.
The Sport Australia Hall of Fame inducted Newton as a general member on 13 October 2016, recognising his contributions to junior golf development.
He held an annual competition for golfers and celebrities to raise money for diabetes charities that was famously attended by former Australian PM Bob Hawke and Newton continued to play the game he loved, even with just one arm and one eye.
The loss of Newton was felt heavily in the golfing community, with PGA of Australia CEO Gavin Kirkman leading the chorus of tributes.
Jack Newton in action during round 1 of the Jack Newton Celebrity Classic at the Cypress Lakes Golf Resort in 2012
Jack Newton [right] of Australia shake hands before the playoff to decide the winner of the British Open Golf Championship, in Carnoustie, Scotland in July 1975.
‘Jack has been such an influential figure in Australian golf and his contribution and legacy will live on for many decades to come,’ Kirkman said.
‘He was as tough off the course as he was on it yet underlying everything was his deep passion for the game of golf and the positive impact it could have on people’s lives, particularly young people.
‘Today, our thoughts and best wishes are with the Newton family and the countless friends he met along the way but Jack Newton’s name will forever hold an important place within Australian golf.’
Aussie golfing legend and 2021 PGA TOUR Champion at the Boeing Classic Rod Pampling said: ‘Sad to hear the news of Jack Newton, a lot of great memories off the course at dinners. Rip’.
Australian professional golfer Ewan Porter said he was ‘absolutely gutted’. ‘
‘Jack Newton gave so many young Aussies opportunities – not just in golf but in life. What an inspirational human he was and a fabulous legacy he’s left. A true Australian icon.’
Aussie golfer James Nitties said that Newton will be remembered for his influence and work for charity organisations along with his golfing legacy.
‘Jack Newton not only an amazing golfer but what he and his family did for charity and junior golf in Australia was truely amazing. Rest in peace,’ he said.
Leading Network TEN golf commentator Luke Elvy shared memories of Newton from his youth as an aspiring golfer and also from his adult years.
‘As a young boy playing golf in NSW, Jack Newton’s Jr foundation was great fun. As an adult getting to know Jack & work with an Aussie legend was everything. His rare golf talent, charisma & larrikin behaviour was intoxicating. Shattered for Jackie & family,’ he Tweeted.
Newton’s son, Clint, played for NRL club Melbourne Storm and the footy side have also paid tribute to the golfer and offered their support to the premiership winner.
Geoff Trappett Chair of The National Inclusive Transport Advocacy Network (NITAN) also paid tribute to Newton for his work in working toward inclusion for amputees across Australia.
‘Rest in [peace] Jack. We can’t overestimate the influence he had not only as a golfer but as an amputee with profile. Visible and not backing down,’ he said.
Newton was also involved in rugby league and NRL circles. His son Clint Newton played 273 first grade games for the Newcastle Knights, Melbourne Storm, Penrith Panthers and Hull Kingston Rovers in the English Super League.
The Storm released an official statement on Friday.
‘We are deeply saddened by the passing of Jack Newton OAM. Our thoughts and prayers are with former Storm premiership player Clint and the whole Newton family at this difficult time. Rest in peace Jack,’ the club Tweeted.
Veteran reporter Buzz Rothfield and NRL commentator Andrew Voss also paid tribute to Newton.
‘Great golfer, great commentator, great man and such a loveable larrikin and legend. Hugely influential in the early success of the Newcastle Knights,’ Rothfield said.
Voss added: ‘Rest in Peace Jack Newton. Loved his family, golf, footy and a beer. Admired by so many.’
The Newton family released a statement thanking the community for their love and support following Jack’s passing.
‘Dad was a fearless competitor and iconic Australian, blazing a formidable trail during his professional golfing career between 1971 and 1983 before his career tragically ended following an accident involving an aeroplane propeller at the age of 33,’ the statement read.
‘He fought back from tremendous adversity as only he could, and chose to selflessly invest his time, energy and effort towards giving back to the community through his Jack Newton Junior Golf Foundation, sports commentary, golf course design, and raising significant funds for several charities, most notably, diabetes.
‘His passion for sport and contributing to future generations of golfers and the Australian community demonstrates the character of our father, beloved husband, proud brother, adoring grandfather and maverick mate.
‘Dad’s legacy will live on through his wife Jackie, daughter Kristie, son Clint, grandchildren Matilda, Hope, Jessie, Noah, Paige and Indie.
‘In true Jack Newton style, we will celebrate his incredible life; however, for now, our family asks for privacy and we appreciate everyone’s love, support and friendship throughout his life.’
Australia’s Jack Newton [left] and USA’s Tom Watson are pictured with the Claret Jug trophy prior to a play-off after finishing tied in first place at the British Open Championship in 1975.