Baker-Finch's tribute to "hero" Thomson

Evin Priest
Ian Baker-Finch (R) credits his mentor Peter Thomson (C) for his success in golf

Former British Open champion Ian Baker-Finch says his successful career may never have taken off without guidance from his mentor and hero Peter Thomson.

Baker-Finch has joined with the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Greg Norman as tributes continued to flow around the world for Australian golf legend Thomson, who died on Wednesday, aged 88.

Golf's governing body and British Open organiser, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, flew the Australian flag at half mast during the British Amateur Championship at Royal Aberdeen on Wednesday.

It was their mark of respect for Thompson, who won five British Open titles between 1954 and 1965 and, in one golden stretch, was either winner or runner-up for seven consecutive years.

Baker-Finch, who called Thomson a close friend, said a lesson from him at the 1982 New Zealand Open played a large part in his career, which yielded 17 worldwide victories.

"I was hitting balls on the range and he told me to put the ball back in my stance and swing around my body so I could hit the ball lower with a draw (right-to-left shape)," Baker-Finch told AAP.

"That was really the start of my career as I stopped hitting high fades (left-to-right) and really became competitive on the world stage."

The 57-year-old said Thomson passed on a wealth of knowledge Baker-Finch used during his nine-year purple patch at the British Open, which included a 1991 victory at Royal Birkdale among three top 10s and two other top 20s.

"Through the mid 1980s, he was a guiding light for me as I was developing," Baker-Finch said.

"At my Open (debut) in 1984, I played four practice rounds with Peter (and Australian golf greats) Kel Nagle and Graham Marsh; you couldn't get better guidance than that and I went on to co-lead that Open through three rounds.

"I had a lot of close calls and was down on myself for not winning, but Peter assured me my time would come.

"He was a hero and a mentor to me, but also a friend - like an uncle or a father figure."

Norman, a two-time British Open champion, said Thomson inspired generations of major winners from Australia.

"Australian golf was the benefactor of his five Open Championships which paved the way for golfers (including) David Graham, Ian Baker Finch, Jason Day, Adam Scott and myself," Norman said.

In retirement, Thomson served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, as well as designing and building Australian and international golf courses.

In 1979, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service

"He was a leader of men," Baker-Finch added.