Consistency has always been the hallmark of Tom Kite's game. From week to week and year to year, his performance has seldom wavered. His reward is more than $9 million in PGA Tour earnings.
Kite came out of Austin, Texas, a year ahead of Ben Crenshaw (they shared the same teacher, Harvey Penick, and also shared the 1972 NCAA Championship).
Kite joined the PGA Tour in 1973 and established a pattern by making 31 of 34 cuts. While a steady money earner, it took Kite a while to become a winner, with just two victories through 1980.
Kite's breakthrough year came in 1981, even though he won only one tournament. He had a phenomenal 21 top-10 finishes in 26 starts, led the money list, and won the first of two consecutive Vardon Trophies.
With the exception of 1988, Kite would win at least one tournament in every year from 1981-93, including three in 1989 (when he won his second money title) and two in 1984, '92, and '93, running his career total to 19 victories. He slipped out of the top 10 money winners only three times in that 14-year stretch.
For much of his career, Kite's only shortcoming was his inability to win a major championship. He finally earned his first in the 1992 U.S. Open, where he shot an even-par 72 on Sunday at Pebble Beach when most contenders were being blown away by severe winds.
His best chance before that came in the 1989 U.S. Open at Oak Hill, where he led through three rounds before finishing with a 78. He was a perennial contender at the Masters for a long stretch, with 10 top-10 finishes from 1975-86 and finishing second in 1983 and 1986.
At a slender 5'8'', Kite isn't able to overpower courses, though he gets more distance off the tee than his frame might suggest. He has an excellent short game and for much of his career was one of the top putters, but he has struggled on the greens in recent years.
While he has earned nearly $10 million in a quarter-century on Tour, Kite views golf more as a recreation than an occupation. "Golf has never been work for me," he said. "You don't work golf. You play it."