All the important bunkers on the Old Course at St. Andrews have been accorded individual names. There is Hell Bunker—which explains itself—and Cockle Bunker, shaped roughly like a cockle shell, and, smack in the middle of the 16th fairway about 250 yards from the tee, there is a nest of three bunkers which a long time ago reminded some whimsical St. Andrewsian of the nose of the principal of the local college and which ever since has been called the Principal's Nose.
What a great many observers felt was the decisive sequence in the 15th biennial Walker Cup competition between the U.S. and Great Britain, held last Friday and Saturday, began at the Principal's Nose. In the lead match of the four foursomes traditionally waged on the first day of play—two men play alternate shots and drive at alternate tees—the American pair of Harvie Ward and Don Cherry came to the 16th hole, the 34th of the match, one down to the formidable, experienced team of Joe Carr and Ronnie White. It was Cherry's turn to play the tee shot, and he lined the ball into the Principal's Nose, into the forward left-hand bunker of the Nose, to be exact. The British ball, driven by Carr, lay nicely on the fairway to the left and 15 yards ahead, leaving White with a fairly routine pitch of 120 yards to the pin on this par four. Things looked very sanguine indeed for Britain.
A moment later they looked even better. Harvie Ward, the best amateur in the world, stepped down into the bunker to play the second shot for the Americans and succeeded only in slapping his attempted recovery into the front wall, from where it rebounded back into the wet sand. It was Cherry's turn then, and he played an explosion over the steep face and onto the fairway a few yards past the British ball. So there it was—Britain lying one, the U.S. three, at about the same point, and surely it was understandable if the victory-starved British fans anticipated with some certainty the winning of the hole, the gaining of dormie two, and, in due time, the winning of this vital first match.
READING THE UNREADABLE
May 29, 1955
A bizarre succession of shots then took place. White skied his simple pitch a full 40 yards short of the green. Ward's pitch was no bargain either. It finished at the very front of the green, 45 feet short, in the sizable dip below the plateaued deck on which the pin was positioned. Getting into the baffling spirit of things, Carr, a fine fighting player from Dublin, played his run-up far too cautiously and it petered out 20 feet short. The British pair, however, still had two putts for their five and that looked as if it would be good enough, for Cherry would have to hole a long unreadable putt over an uphill break and then across a side-hill break to give the Americans their five. Cherry did just that. The Americans had sneaked off with a half they should never have been permitted to entertain.
Cherry and Ward went on to win the 35th, the famous road hole, with a par four when Cherry, playing the bravest golf of his life, followed Ward's accurate drive with a superb two-iron to within 25 feet of the hole. All tied up with their inexplicable timorousness, White and Carr, never up, three-putted from 70 feet. The match was now even, with the 36th to play, a par four of 381 yards to another one of St. Andrews' terribly tempered greens, the pin set some 20 feet beyond the swale which forms the left center forefront of the green and which is known, with good reason, as the Valley of Sin. Cherry and Carr laced out fairly lengthy drives, Carr's a few yards longer. Ward dropped his pitch just over the Valley of Sin, 20 feet from the hole. And then White, with the winning or the losing of the match in his hands, once again played a woefully fainthearted approach, right into the Valley of Sin. It usually takes three putts to hole out from there, and three is the number the British pair required. Cherry and Ward got down in two, and so Carr and White, as they used to say of the Republicans, had snatched defeat from the very jaws of victory.
This collapse by Carr and White, particularly the latter, is detailed at this length not only because of its inherent drama but also because of its bearing on the entire picture. When the Americans subsequently won the three other foursome matches, Great Britain entered the second and final day of play trailing not by 3 to 1 but by 4 to 0, and there is a great deal more of a difference between those figures than first meets the eye. In other words, Great Britain was faced with winning six of the eight singles to tie and, to win, seven of the eight. Not even the most diehard British rooters could hope for such a landslide. On the evening of the first day, then, it was tacitly agreed by the partisans on both sides, neither group particularly elated, that the 15th Walker Cup competition had for all purposes been decided again in favor of the United States, for the 14th time. The events of the next day justified this prognosis. The well-balanced American team added six victories, and this made the final score United States 10, Great Britain 2.
That is the story, and yet it is hardly the story at all. Perhaps the key to the larger story is contained in a remark that the American Captain Bill Campbell made before the shooting began. "We expect a mighty tough fight," Campbell said. "When you meet a British team in Britain, it's always a hard match. When you meet a British team at St. Andrews, it's always a very hard match. And when you meet this British team at St. Andrews, it's an assignment." To tackle this assignment, Campbell had the youngest Walker Cup squad in the 33-year history of the event, a team that averaged 29. Moreover, it was the greenest American team ever to invade Great Britain. In the line-up were no Chapmans, Turnesas, Coes or Stranahans, no bearded veterans of foreign wars. Harvie Ward, to be sure, had won the British Amateur in 1952, but Harvie alone was a former national champion and, excepting Campbell himself, the only member of the team who had played in Britain before.
From the day of his appointment to the captaincy, Campbell had meticulously gone about the job of preparing his untraveled players for the exotic problems in golfmanship which St. Andrews presents. He wrote them detailed letters, supplying everything from an over-all description of how to play the Old Course to a listing of the heavy clothing they should carry with them. On board the America he held daily skull sessions in which he went deeper into the character and demands of the Old Course—the course no American likes on first sight, since it bears no resemblance to our domestic layouts, a treeless sea of green dunes whipped by ever-changing winds off St. Andrews Bay and the Firth of Tay, an unorthodox course with bunkers cut in the heart of the fairways and where 14 of the 18 greens are huge double greens, that is, one green serves both an outward and inward hole. The right portion of one green, for example, serves the 3rd hole, the left portion of it, the 15th; the right portion of another green serves the 6th, the left portion, the 12th. On the Old Course a golfer either becomes a good sailor or a man at sea. He must learn the best routes under the variable conditions for tacking his way back and forth among the hazards and through the ambiguous winds to the huge green. Campbell inculcated his team so efficiently in the unique difficulties of St. Andrews that when they saw the Old Course, they all felt they knew it well. Furthermore, they all liked it. As Bruce Cudd, at 21 the kid of the team, put it, "Bill has prepared us for everything. The only thing we've had to think about is our golf."
On the eve of the match, the British golfers were equally cheerful and inwardly confident. They gained a sense of a valuable edge in having on their team no less than six men who had previously participated in Walker Cup matches. The consensus was that, given a good start and a few breaks, they could definitely win. One of the breaks hoped for was a fine dose of British weather, a continuation of the cold winds and sporadic hailstorms that had been lashing the course. "I hope," said Alec Hill, the British captain, oh the eve of the battle, "that tomorrow will not be too windless and balmy."
Friday was neither windless nor balmy. A cold rain fell, abetted by a stiff breeze from the northwest, where snow still covered the distant peaks of the Grampian Hills. If the weather affected the Americans, however, it was not apparent. All four pairs got off to good starts, kept up with their British rivals, or barely ahead, into the mid-afternoon and then, match by match, asserted themselves, frequently with the assistance of loose play by their rivals just at those occasions when a strong thrust was needed. In the fourth match the Americans Bruce Cudd and Jimmy Jackson pulled away to win 5 and 4. In the third, Dale Morey and Lieutenant Joe Conrad wrapped up another point for the Americans, 3 and 2. Billy Joe Patton and Dick Yost closed out their match 2 and 1.
These tidings made it imperative that the first British pair, Carr and White, keep a very firm hold on their lead of one hole which they carried into the 34th hole. When they failed to do so, even after Ward and Cherry had trafficked with the Principal's Nose, Great Britain was down 4-0. It was the first time a British side had ever been shut out in the foursomes on their home soil, and no one was happy about it, not even the 50 Americans who had come over to cheer their team on.
The trouble was that the British play down the stretch had been downright generous. The Americans' ability to draw away represented fine play on their part but also a remarkable lack of tournament toughness on the part of their opponents. Ward & Co., with many stern matches under their belts, with plenty of experience digested in open tournaments against professional competition, played calmly and competently when they knew they had to. Most of the British players, on the other hand, appeared to be rattled by their overdetermination not to be rattled. This state of affairs might have been ameliorated had the players been exposed to more top tournament competition, and such a program will probably have to be initiated if the talented British players are to develop the competitive maturity our players exhibit.
With the outcome of the 15th Walker Cup match virtually assured, the second day's play was bound to be somewhat anticlimatic. For all that, each of the American players played sound, very sound, golf in a long day of rain, rain, rain. In the top match, Harvie Ward, a great tee-to-green player who is that rarity, a great putter, shattered White's record of victories in the singles by whacking him 6 and 5. Billy Joe Patton, playing No. 2, was in tiptop form against Phillip Scrutton, and he needed to be to defeat, 2 and 1, a fine golfer who bounced up with six birdies. Dale Morey eventually lost one down to Ian Caldwell after fighting back from three down with four to play. Cherry, up against Joe Carr in the No. 4 match, continued his sterling play.
And so it went. When the American team was picked, when it sailed for Britain and when it arrived, it was described as the "weakest team" ever to represent the U.S. in a Walker Cup match. This was nothing more nor less than the truth, going by the individual records of the players and contrasting them with the records of the amateur giants who populated previous teams. And yet, judged in its joint performance on the Old Course, the team was at least as strong as its star-studded predecessors and, in the eyes of many veteran British authorities, perhaps the best team ever to come across. This is a great tribute to Bill Campbell, who "stood down" in both the foursomes and the singles. Campbell is an extremely capable golfer, but he has never been and will never be as good a player as he was a captain. He turned in a terrific job, or, as one local inhabitant expressed it as Campbell stepped up to receive the Walker Cup for his team, "That tall mon is a verra, verra carmpartent leader."