Inspired by the exploits of famed Georgia golfer Bobby Jones, Tommy Aaron began playing golf at age twelve. After a successful amateur career Aaron also achieved success as a professional golfer, playing on two Ryder Cup teams and winning one of the sport’s most prestigious events, the Masters Tournament at Georgia’s Augusta National Golf Club, in 1973. He earned induction into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1979 and the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame in 1989.
Thomas Dean Aaron was born in Gainesville on February 22, 1937. As a high school student, he advanced to the quarterfinals of the 1954 U.S. National Junior Championship. In 1955 he won the state high school individual title and the first of three Georgia Opens.
After high school Aaron attended the University of Florida, where he won the 1957 and 1958 Southeastern Conference individual titles and was runner-up in the 1958 U.S. Amateur. Other amateur highlights include victories in the 1957 and 1960 Georgia Amateur, 1958 and 1960 Southeastern Amateur, and 1960 Western Amateur. He played with and helped secure a victory for the United States team in the 1959 Walker Cup Match, which pits American amateurs against amateur teams from the British Isles.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1960, Aaron joined the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) Tour the following spring. From 1961 to 1973 Aaron placed in the top sixty on the tour’s list of money earners, but he gained a reputation as a perennial runner-up, finishing second in fourteen tournaments. Finally, he won at the 1969 Canadian Open. Although the Canadian Open was not an official tour event, his eighteen-hole play-off win over Sam Snead earned him a place on the 1969 Ryder Cup team.
He won again in 1970 at the Atlanta Classic and placed ninth on the 1972 money list, finishing second at the Masters Tournament that year. In April 1973 he reached the zenith of his career when he defeated J. C. Snead by one shot to win the 1973 Masters. (Until then Aaron had been most recognized for mistakenly marking Roberto DeVicenzo’s score card during the 1968 Masters. DeVicenzo did not notice the mistake and subsequently lost the tournament to Bob Goalby by one shot.) Aaron ended the 1973 season with a second Ryder Cup appearance, but afterward his career waned. By the end of the decade he was spending less time on tour than at home in Gainesville.
In 1987 he joined the PGA Senior Tour (now Champions Tour) and won his only tournament with the tour at the 1992 Kaanapali Classic in Hawaii. In 2000 he won the Super Seniors Lightpath Long Island event for players aged sixty or over. Perhaps his most remarkable achievement as a senior came at the 2000 Masters Tournament, when, at age sixty-three, he became the oldest player to make the thirty-six-hole cut. Since then he has rarely toured. In 2004 he played in only one tournament, the Masters, where he failed to make the cut.
Aaron and his wife, Jimmye, whom he married shortly after joining the PGA Tour, have two children.