PGA fans will recognize the name Fred Couples, though many don’t know much about the golfer’s personal life and hard times. Opening up in a 2008 interview, Couples expressed understandable exhaustion and negative public perceptions he experienced. Here’s how a series of personal tragedies affected his life and career.
Fred Couples’ golf career
The 61-year-old American pro golfer was born and raised in Seattle. Couples’ father was a groundskeeper for the local parks department. He and his siblings lived near a golf course. He spent many hours there learning golf.
In 1977, Couples played on the men’s golf team at the University of Houston. Interestingly, he was on the same team as the CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz, and he was roommates with another future PGA player, Blaine McCallister.
At just 19 years old, Couples played as an amateur in the Washington Open. He ended up winning the whole tournament, beating PGA tour player Don Bies in a playoff. Couples began his PGA Tour career in 1983.
Couples enters the Hall of Fame
After his first PGA Tour appearance in the early ’80s, Couples got right to work by winning the 1983 Kemper Open and 1984 Tournament Players championship. Couples won his first and only major in 1992, taking home the green jacket by finishing 13 under. This likely felt overdue for the golfer, who finished in second or third in other majors in 1990 and 1991.
Couples became the PGA Tour Player of the Year in 1991 and 1992. He was also appointed to the United States Ryder Cup in 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, and 1997. Couples’ final PGA Tour win came in 2003 at the Shell Houston Open, where he finished 17 under and won by four strokes.
He’s been active in the PGA Tour Champions, winning several events throughout the 2010s, with Couples’ final win in 2017 at the American Family Insurance Championship. The golfer has also still played in the Masters Tournament but has not made the cut since 2018.
According to the PGA Tour, Couples entered the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2013, giving an affirming stamp to his incredible golf career. Outside of the triumphs Couples experienced throughout his career, he dealt with many hard times off the course.
Fred Couples faces repeated heartbreak
Fred Couples has endured his fair share of tragedies throughout the years, and the 90s and early 2000s were a particularly rough patch for the pro golfer. According to Golf Digest, Couples’ mother passed away on Mother’s Day in 1994 of cancer. Three years later, his father died of leukemia. Couples was famously close to both parents, and those losses no doubt took a huge emotional toll.
Amid these difficult times, Couples was also undergoing a divorce in 1992. They had met at the University of Houston in 1979 and were married two years later. Sports Illustrated reports that in 2001, Deborah ended her life by jumping from an LA building.
Couples married Thais Baker in 1998, and she had been diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after the pair started dating. Baker went into remission, and Couples seemed happy to serve as the stepfather to Baker’s two children from a previous marriage.
Couples ended up moving out of their shared home in 2005, and Thais’ cancer returned not long after. Couples and Baker remained apart for over a year before attempting to reconcile, but they didn’t last very long. After their final breakup, Couples told Golf Digest:
And I’m glad she’s doing really well with her health. But it’s over. It’s too combative. I ask myself, What is my purpose here? And the answer is, there isn’t one. I tried very hard. I’m exhausted. I’m not smart enough to figure it out. But I think it comes down to: Life is too short to be unhappy.Fred Couples on several personal losses
Baker passed away in 2009 from breast cancer while they remained estranged but not officially divorced.