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James Rodney "Rod" Funseth (April 3, 1933 – September 9, 1985) was an American professional golfer who played on the PGA Tour and the Senior PGA Tour (now PGA Tour Champions).[4][5]

Rod Funseth
Personal information
Full nameJames Rodney Funseth
Born(1933-04-03)April 3, 1933
Spokane, Washington
DiedSeptember 9, 1985(1985-09-09) (aged 52)
Napa, California
Height5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Weight170 lb (77 kg; 12 st)
Nationality United States
SpouseSandi (Hawkins) Funseth[1]
(m. 1965–1985, his death)
Children1 son, 1 daughter
CollegeUniversity of Idaho
(briefly attended)[2][3]
Turned professional1956
Retired1985 (illness)
Former tour(s)PGA Tour (1962–79)
Senior PGA Tour (1983–84)
Professional wins9
Number of wins by tour
PGA Tour3
PGA Tour Champions1
Best results in major championships
Masters TournamentT2: 1978
PGA ChampionshipT8: 1965
U.S. OpenT10: 1977
The Open ChampionshipDNP

Amiable and low-key but less than confident,[6] Funseth was one of longest hitters and fastest players of his era,[2][5] but better known for a pessimistic attitude toward his game,[7][8] He claimed that his "I'll never be able to make that shot" mental attitude of lowered expectations helped motivate him to play better. He was especially self-deprecating on his lack of putting prowess.[9][10]


Early yearsEdit

Born and raised in Spokane, Washington,[11] Funseth's father was a men's clothing store operator and salesman, born in Sweden.[2][12] Rod competed with his older brother Carl for city junior titles[13] and graduated from North Central High School in 1951.[14] Funseth briefly attended the University of Idaho in Moscow[3][15] to study civil engineering, but did not graduate.[16] He was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.[17]

Funseth returned to Spokane after a semester and worked in various jobs in Washington while competing as an amateur.[18] One of these brief jobs was as a civilian draftsman at the Bremerton Navy Yard, west of Seattle.[2] He won the British Columbia Amateur in 1956 and turned pro that fall, first in Palm Springs, California.[19] In 1959, Funseth became an assistant pro under Masters champion Claude Harmon back east at Winged Foot,[20] north of New York City and later at Thunderbird in Palm Springs.[21] Funseth entered a handful of tour events in 1962, and received sponsorship of $800 per month from Spokane's Athletic Round Table (ART) in 1963 to allow him to play full-time. He played out of Esmeralda, a municipal course in east Spokane built in the mid-1950s. It was initially funded by ART (land and clubhouse) and was named for the group's mascot, a grinning cartoon mare.[21][22] Funseth had the smiling horse insignia on his tour bag for several years, which invited frequent inquisitions.[23] Keeping meticulous records of all his earnings, he reimbursed the ART to the last dollar.[24][25]

PGA TourEdit

Funseth played full-time on the PGA Tour from 1963 through 1979 and won three tour events. The first was the Phoenix Open Invitational in 1965 at the Arizona Country Club, which came a week after losing a final round lead at the Bob Hope Classic in Palm Springs.[26] Funseth's second win came eight years later at the Glen Campbell-Los Angeles Open, the season-opener in 1973 at Riviera.[27] His final PGA Tour win came at age 45 in 1978 at the Sammy Davis Jr.-Greater Hartford Open,[11] which paid for his horse barn.[28][29]

His best finish in a major championship was just months earlier, a tie for second at the Masters, one stroke behind Gary Player.[30] Funseth was in the last pairing on Sunday and had a three-under 69, but Player carded a record-tying 64 (−8) for his third green jacket.[31][32] Funseth birdied the par-5 15th hole, but parred the last three, with a putt left on the lip at the 16th and another narrowly missing on the final hole to force a playoff.[33]

Funseth was known on tour as an avid fisherman,[3][15] a passion shared by Johnny Miller,[34] his next-door neighbor in Napa,[1] and Jack Nicklaus.[23] The three played in an exhibition golf match in Spokane in 1975,[35] a rarity for Nicklaus at the time.[36]

Senior TourEdit

Funseth became eligible to play on the Senior PGA Tour after reaching age 50 in April 1983. He had a great deal of immediate success, winning the unofficial Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf (team event with Roberto De Vicenzo) in early May,[37] and a nine-stroke victory at his tour debut at the Hall of Fame Tournament three weeks later in North Carolina at Pinehurst No. 2.[6][38] Funseth also finished second to Billy Casper in a sudden-death playoff at the U.S. Senior Open in July.[39]


His career on the over-50 tour was cut short by terminal cancer, attributed to exposure to asbestos at the navy yard in Bremerton in his late teens.[11][40] Told by physicians in January 1984 that he had four months to live, Funseth continued to play well on tour,[41] and returned to defend his team title at the Liberty Mutual Legends in late April.[42] He competed in 17 events in 1984, with three runner-up finishes and nine in the top-10, despite losing weight and strength. Funseth won a match play event in October in Maine, besting Bob Toski 2-up in the final for a winner's share of $30,000. Although a non-tour event, it included most of the top senior players of the day.[43][44]


Funseth's condition declined in 1985 as his body weight was reduced to 100 lb (45 kg) by September and his breathing assisted with oxygen.[25] He died at age 52 at his home in Napa, California, beside the 12th hole of the Silverado Country Club,[4] next door to friend Johnny Miller.[1] In 1999, he was inducted posthumously into the State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame.[45]


Funseth was survived by his wife Sandi (née Hawkins), a former competitive water skier from San Diego,[1] and their two children, Lisa and Mark, in their late teens.[7][11] He met Sandi during the rainy Crosby event at Pebble Beach in January 1965, when she was a spectator in a long leg cast (from a snow skiing accident) and had been offered shelter in a tournament tent;[2] they were married later that year.

Professional wins (8)Edit

PGA Tour wins (3)Edit

No. Date Tournament Winning score To par Margin
of victory
1 Feb 14, 1965 Phoenix Open Invitational 71-68-68-67=274 −14 3 strokes   Bert Yancey
2 Jan 7, 1973 Glen Campbell-Los Angeles Open 73-69-65-69=276 −8 2 strokes   Don Bies,   David Graham,   Tom Weiskopf
3 Jul 30, 1978 Sammy Davis Jr.-Greater Hartford Open 65-67-68-64=264 −20 6 strokes   Dale Douglass,   Lee Elder,   Billy Kratzert

PGA Tour playoff record (0–1)

No. Year Tournament Opponents Result
1 1971 Greater Greensboro Open   Buddy Allin,   Dave Eichelberger Allin won with birdie on first extra hole

Other wins (3)Edit

Senior PGA Tour wins (1)Edit

No. Date Tournament Winning score To par Margin
of victory
1 May 22, 1983 Hall of Fame Tournament 66-67-65=198 −18 9 strokes   Charlie Sifford

Senior PGA Tour playoff record (0–1)

No. Year Tournament Opponent Result
1 1983 U.S. Senior Open   Billy Casper Lost to birdie on first extra hole after 18-hole playoff (Casper:75, Funseth:75)

Other senior wins (2)Edit


  1. ^ a b c d McKenzie, Mike (April 10, 1977). "Rod's clods". Tuscaloosa News. Alabama. p. 2B.
  2. ^ a b c d e Bingham, Walter (June 12, 1978). "Look for the man early, not late". Sports Illustrated. p. 51.
  3. ^ a b c Barrows, Bob (August 22, 1975). "Funseth recalls steelhead fishing". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. 1B.
  4. ^ a b "Professional golfer Rod Funseth dies of cancer at his home in Napa at age 52". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. September 11, 1985. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Boling, Dave (August 25, 1994). "Funseth gone, but Spokane golfer's spirit lives on". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). p. C1.
  6. ^ a b Brown, Bruce (June 8, 1983). "Rod Funseth: A nice guy once again finishing first". Spokane Chronicle. Washington. p. D2.
  7. ^ a b "Funseth loses battle with cancer". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. September 10, 1985. p. B1.
  8. ^ "It's Rod Funseth in a breeze". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. January 8, 1973. p. 8.
  9. ^ McKenzie, Mike (April 10, 1977). "Rod's clods". Tuscaloosa News. Alabama. p. 2B.
  10. ^ "Johnny Miller Talks Golf". Golf Digest. October 2005. Archived from the original on November 1, 2006.
  11. ^ a b c d "Rod Funseth, 52, Pro Golfer Earned More Than $600,000". New York Times. September 11, 1985. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
  12. ^ "Carl L. Funseth taken by death". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. November 9, 1968. p. 5.
  13. ^ "Carl Funseth trims brother Rodney, 5 and 4, for city junior title". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. August 16, 1948. p. 9.
  14. ^ "Rod Funseth, 1951". North Central High School Alumni Association. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  15. ^ a b "Sports celebrities tackle LCC". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. August 23, 1975. p. 1B.
  16. ^ Ashlock, Herb (July 16, 1954). "From the Bench". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. p. 13.
  17. ^ "Sigma Alpha Epsilon". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1952. p. 284.
  18. ^ Ashlock, Herb (July 16, 1954). "Young Rod Funseth wants to turn pro this fall". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. p. 13.
  19. ^ "Funseth joins pro golf ranks". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. September 30, 1956. p. 3, sports.
  20. ^ "Funseth leads Open test in huge Metropolitan field". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. May 19, 1959. p. 14.
  21. ^ a b Missildine, Harry (January 8, 1963). "ART backs Rod Funseth". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. 10.
  22. ^ "Round Table donates $75,000 for Esmeralda golf house". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. March 20, 1954. p. 1.
  23. ^ a b Missildine, Harry (October 13, 1965). "Pair of charmers meet luncheoneers". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. 16.
  24. ^ "Rod Funseth set for tour". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. December 16, 1963. p. 19.
  25. ^ a b Boling, Dave (August 25, 1994). "Funseth gone, but Spokane golfer's spirit lives on". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. C1.
  26. ^ "Funseth winner". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. Associated Press. February 15, 1965. p. 15.
  27. ^ "Sandi confident Rod would win". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. Associated Press. January 8, 1973. p. 13.
  28. ^ "Win by Funseth pays for barn". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. Associated Press. July 31, 1978. p. 17.
  29. ^ Missildine, Harry (August 2, 1978). "While you were out". Spokesman Review. Spokane, Washington. p. 13.
  30. ^ "Golf Major Championships". Retrieved January 7, 2013.
  31. ^ Jenkins, Dan (April 17, 1978). "And then there was one". Sports Illustrated. p. 16.
  32. ^ Parascenzo, Marino (April 10, 1978). "3rd win to Player in Masters". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 17.
  33. ^ "Player comes through". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. Associated Press. April 10, 1978. p. 21.
  34. ^ Missildine, Harry (November 11, 1976). "Miller needs friendly neighbor". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. 12.
  35. ^ Brown, Bruce (April 30, 1975). "Golf superstars thrill throng at SCC". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. p. 31.
  36. ^ Brown, Bruce (April 29, 1975). "Nicklaus limits exhibition golf". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. p. 1.
  37. ^ "De Vicenzo, Funseth take Legends title". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. May 2, 1983. p. 13.
  38. ^ "Funseth breezes to title". Spokesman Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. May 23, 1983. p. 13.
  39. ^ "Funseth loses on 19th". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. July 26, 1983. p. 17.
  40. ^ Blanchette, John (September 11, 1985). "Rod breathed life into golf". Spokane Chronicle. Washington. p. C4.
  41. ^ "Funseth battles deadly lung cancer". Wilmington Morning Star. North Carolina. April 24, 1984. p. 2D.
  42. ^ "Funseth still playing despite lung cancer". Gadsden Times. Alabama. Associated Press. April 29, 1984. p. 3C.
  43. ^ "Funseth holds on to win". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. October 8, 1984. p. 16.
  44. ^ Barber, Dave (October 8, 1984). "Rod Funseth beats Toski for Unionmutual crown". Bangor Daily News. Maine. p. 19.
  45. ^ "State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame: Golf". Retrieved January 7, 2013.

External linksEdit