With the exception of the Army-Navy Country Club in Washington, D.C., whose membership is legion, the Country Club of Virginia, on the outskirts of Richmond, is perhaps the largest of the species in the United States. At the moment it has a membership of something over 4,100. If all of these members were golfers, the club would need a dozen or so courses to take care of them but, as it is, some live on the tennis courts, others on the edge of the swimming pool and a great many regard the club primarily as a social headquarters. About 800 of the members, however, do play golf, and so the club maintains two courses. One 18 hole layout, the original course built in 1910, is routed over the hilly land below the elongated, red-brick-and-white-columned southern colonial clubhouse. The second 18, built in 1928 to take care of the overflow, is situated about six miles away on the site of the old Dietrich plantation, a lovely stretch of golf terrain that tumbles down a soft slope toward the James River. In the distance, on the opposite bank, stands what was once the Bellona Arsenal, the famous Confederate ammunition depot which was the goal of more than one Union foray during the Civil War.
This second layout, which is called, as you might guess, the James River course, was the 'scene last week of the 55th National Amateur Championship. In a setting of such regional flavor it was more than appropriate that the winner should be Harvie Ward, the first golfer from the Deep Sayuth to win the Amateur since Bob Jones did it for his fifth and last time precisely 25 Septembers ago. Harvie, 29 now and making his ninth bid for the title, is currently a resident of San Francisco but in all essential ways he is the boy from Tarboro, North Carolina, a town of about 9,000 people in the heart of the tobacco country where he grew up and played his first golf and where his father runs a drugstore in whose front window the British Amateur trophy was proudly displayed when his son won it back in 1952. From that victory on, his first in a major championship, Harvie's performances have marked him as the best amateur golfer in the world. Accordingly, his emergence last week as our new Amateur champion was a gratifying one for golf fans everywhere. After a somewhat shaky start, Harvie played beautiful golf in match after match and was at the very top of his form in the final, in which, seven strokes under even fours for the duration of the match, he defeated William Hyndman III of Philadelphia by the score of 9 and 8.
From start to finish, the 55th Amateur was a much better than average Amateur. One of the chief contributory reasons was the quality of the course, as sturdy and provocative a test of golf as the championship has provided in quite a number of years. As the accompanying map illustrates, the James River course has a nice pace to it—outgoing nine requiring plenty of length, the incoming nine putting the premium on control for the first six holes and concluding with three anything-but-routine holes on which each player, if he happens to be down, has a chance to get back in the ball game. In midsummer the course was hit and hit hard by the hurricanes, but a first-class tournament committee headed by Richmond Gray—who, as if the Richmond and the Gray (as opposed to Blue) were not sufficient, goes by the nickname of "Dixie"—dug in assiduously. By the week of the Amateur, everything was in pecan-pie order. The Bermuda fairways were in great shape. The Bermuda rough was everything that could be demanded by Joseph C. Dey of the USGA, "The Father of the American Rough." With one or two exceptions, the bent-grass greens began to take on body (and good grass) just in the nick of time, and I swear, suh, that you never would have guessed that, scarcely a month beforehand, Miss Connie and Miss Diane had been out in their full destructive force.
As everybody knows who has attended a protracted match-play tournament like the National Amateur, the long, long week of eight rounds of golf generally breaks down into three distinct patterns. First of all, since just about everyone who qualifies for the Amateur is capable of beating anyone else in the field on any given day, there are the upsets. This year four "names" were eliminated in the very first round: Billy Joe Patton, Don Bisplinghoff, Dick Chapman and Charley Coe. Then four more went in the second: Doug Sanders, Bruce Cudd, Frank Strafaci and Bob Sweeny (as well as Robert Sterling of the movies and television, who got in as an alternate from the New York area and played creditably for all his nervousness). In the third round four more experienced players who might well have gone further made their exodus: Frank Souchak (the older brother of Mike), Ted Bishop, Bill Campbell and Jimmy Jackson. Rex Baxter went out in the next round, the fourth, and so did Willie Turnesa. Before leaving, Turnesa gave an exhibition of trap play that reminded any of us who might have forgotten that no amateur—and few pros—has ever achieved his mastery with the wedge. As long as Willie kept off the fairway he was never in trouble.
Of all this gang who left the party early, the departure of Patton undoubtedly hurt the tournament most, for he and his fellow North Carolinian, Ward, have a colossal hold on the affection and admiration, not to mention the ticket-purchasing predilections, of southern golf fans. Opposing George McCallister, Billy Joe was two down and two to play. After taking both the 17th and 18th with a typical demonstration of his ability to function in almost impossible situations, he halved the first three extra holes in pars, and on the 22nd green the match that had once seemed irretrievably lost was right in his hands. He needed only to hole a three-footer. He missed it, and on the next green he missed one a foot shorter, and that was it for Billy Joe.
The next day, playing his first match after a bye in the first round, Ward was within one good whiff of extinction. One down and one to play against Ray Palmer, Harvie took the 18th with a regulation par when Palmer mis-hit his drive and his chip. On the first extra hole Ward was in serious trouble again. He was on in two, about 25 feet from the cup, but Palmer's approach put him really in birdie range, just eight feet above the hole. Ward had scarcely struck his putt when he did the most extraordinary thing. He leaped joyfully into the air, an activity that usually follows instead of precedes the holing of a long critical putt. Sure enough, the ball rolled smack into the cup, and when Palmer missed his short downhiller, Ward was safely through. "If Harvie had been eliminated right on the heels of Billy Joe," a member of the club sighed with relief that evening, "we'd have lost both of our star attractions. To get the crowds here the rest of the week, we'd probably have had to set off fireworks."
The second of the patterns found in every Amateur is the reverse side of the coin from the expulsion of the favorites: the hardy survival of golfers whose names mean nothing to you unless you come from their districts. Arthur F. Butler? Who is he? You learn that he is a fellow from New Hampshire who has defeated three Virginians in a row and has been dubbed "Ulysses S. Butler" by a Boston sportswriter. Okay. Now who is this Waryan fellow from St. Paul who put out Ted Bishop? "Oh, I thought his name was W. A. Ryan," exclaims another Boston writer—a demonstration of how environment conditions mankind. Who is this fellow John Miles who's playing Hillman Robbins in the fifth or do-I-get-to-qualify-for-an-invitation-to-the-Masters round? That one you know. He's an advertising salesman for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Billy Booe, who defeated W. A. Ryan? That's an easier one, too. He's the squat fellow who, about seven years ago when Yale had good football teams, used to trot out on to the field and place-kick the extra point with a deftness and regularity that wasn't Ivy League standard at all. Of all the new young faces—and 44 of the 200 starters were under 23, including a 15-year-older who was helpfully listed in the program as "single"—Joe Campbell of Anderson, Ind. appeared to be the best bet for marking down in your golf futures book. A towheaded youngster of 19 whose taste in clothes runs to such "outdoor George Raft" combinations as pink shirt, black slacks, pink-and-black socks and pink-and-black shoes, Joe this year won the National Intercollegiate, the Indiana Junior, the Indiana Amateur and the Indiana Open. He has a sound swing, a flair for putting, poise and a real will to win. In his match with Bill Hyndman in the quarter-finals (which Campbell eventually lost two down), Hyndman, standing 1 up as they came to the 18th, found he had run out of tees. He asked Campbell if he could borrow one. "Glad to," Campbell smiled, "and I hope you have to borrow another."
The third pattern that annually emerges is briefly this: for all of the inchoate flurry of the first four days, by the morning of the semifinals four pretty stalwart golfers remain to fight it out. Last week in the semifinal round—36-hole matches—Bill Hyndman faced Hillman Robbins, and Billy Booe faced Ward. A lean, seasoned young man from Memphis with a fine, compact style, Robbins is capable of very hot golf. He had to play some in his quarter-final match, where he edged by Ed Hopkins of Abilene, Tex. by holing a 55-foot chip on the 17th for a birdie and a 10-foot putt on the home green. He was around in 68 and ruled a slight favorite to beat Hyndman, a 39-year-old insurance executive who, while more or less a weekend golfer, has a solid district record, has twice been a semifinalist in the North and South and, definitely on his game at Richmond, had ousted such tough customers as Frank Souchak, Jimmy McHale and Joe Campbell. Hyndman pulled out this match with Robbins 4 and 3, a fair indication of how the golf had gone. In the other semi, Booe (who had gotten there by defeating Charley Kunkle, who had defeated a far-off-form Joe Conrad) lost to Ward 4 and 2. Here the final score was no indication whatsoever of the tenor of the match.
All week long the pressure had been on Ward as it has seldom been on anyone in recent Amateurs. From the Palmer match on, he had driven consistently well, covered the flag with his crisp, unwavering irons and was putting nicely with that old wooden-shafted Pennant putter he discovered 16 years ago in an abandoned locker back in Tarboro. In succession, then, he had won his matches 5 and 3, 6 and 4 (after starting with four straight birdies against Rex Baxter), 3 and 2, and 6 and 4. Sizable margins, and Baxter was the only name player he came up against, and yet the pressure was never off Harvie for a minute. He realized clearly that he probably would never have such a formidable chance again to win the Amateur, and that is where the pressure came from.
Harvie was expected to have little or no trouble in his semifinal with Bill Booe, who had played a ragged 82 the previous day and was just lucky that his opponent had been even more staggered at the thought of becoming a semifinalist. In their morning round, Harvie methodically clicked off 17 pars and one bogey. And where was Booe? Right on his tail, only 1 down, staying right in there with some courageous recoveries and some very neat work around the greens. After lunch Harvie continued to hit green after green, but he couldn't draw away. He was having some trouble with his short putts, but nothing else was amiss. After the 30th hole he was still only 1 up, and Booe—all right, he was as tenacious as a bulldog, if you insist—was playing with ever-increasing confidence. You felt he felt he might beat Ward. On the 31st, a short par four 333 yards long where the fairway slopes gradually downhill from the tee and then breaks sharply down about 240 yards out where the hole dog-legs to the right, Ward, swaying (for him) just a fraction on his backswing, pulled his drive into the rough. It left him with a relatively simple pitch of some 110 yards to the green below him. He played his wedge, intending to pop the ball just over the trap guarding the entrance to the green on the left. Harvie missed this shot. The ball, underhit, slipped off to the right, landed on the fairway a full 25 yards short of the green, seemed headed for the trap before the green on the right, miraculously evaded that trap, trickled off a hummock and onto the green and subsided 10 feet short of the cup. Harvie rapped that putt in, and when Booe, who had played two fine shots, missed the eight-footer he had for a half, Ward, instead of being hauled back to even, was 2 up. On the 33rd and 34th, he came up with two birdies of more authentic plumage but it was that terribly lucky break on the 31st which had definitely decided the match.
OUT IN 31
In the final against Hyndman, a tall, blue-eyed fellow who resembles Dutch Harrison in physique and who plays his shots allowing for a considerable right-to-left draw, Harvie settled matters much earlier in the day. The match, in truth, was over after the first nine. Hyndman was out in 36, a score that would have placed him 1 down to par. He was 5 down to Ward. Harvie, of course, was playing absolutely marvelous golf. Zip, zip, zip—as easy as that. On the first, a drive, a five-iron close to the pin, two putts, his par. On the second, a drive, a perfect six-iron, a 15-footer for his birdie. On the third, a drive, a four-iron, two putts, his par. A four-iron 12 feet from the cup on the fourth, one putt, another birdie. On the fifth, a drive, a nine iron up close to the pin, two putts, his par. On the sixth, a temporary interruption. His second shot, a four-wood, carried over the green, bounced off a newsreel truck and ricocheted back on to the fringe. From there, down in two, par. Back to that beautiful monotony. On the seventh, a drive, a seven-iron seven feet from the pin, his third birdie. A four-wood to the fringe on the eighth, down in two, par. A wedge, his third shot, four feet from the pin on the long 9th, and his fourth birdie. On the in-nine Hyndman had several chances to win a hole back, for he was inside of Ward on four greens with very holeable putts but he could drop nothing. By noontime he was eight down to Ward's approximated 66—31 out, 35 back.
It was once written of Bobby Jones: "This afternoon they wound up the mechanical man again and...." The way Ward continued to play in the afternoon brought this phrase to your mind. He rattled off 10 pars on the 10 holes he needed to close out the match, but it was more the manner in which he did it. Two of his drives finished in the edge of the rough, and on the 25th hole his approach hopped off the green and onto the apron, but otherwise it was spectacularly errorless golf, every shot strictly on line and struck with that sweet precision (and with that fine left hand, firm but relaxed) that makes the new champion one of the most satisfying players to watch, a model of the simplified golf swing.
On the first day of the tournament a story went the rounds that a local businessman, taking off from his office for the week, was asked by his secretary, "Where can I reach you if I need you?" "Very simple," he replied. "Just find out what hole the Ward match is on." In golf nothing is inevitable, and Harvie Ward's superb victory was certainly not, but there was no mistaking that the championship was his for the winning. He won it with a wonderful display of precision golf.
*Desired tee-shot lie 250 yards from tee
1 424 YDS.
2 415 YDS.
3 434 YDS.
4 167 YDS.
5 382 YDS.
6 449 YDS.
7 388 YDS.
8 212 YDS.
9 534 YDS.
10 417 YDS.
11 412 YDS.
12 423 YDS.
13 333 YDS.
14 199 YDS.
15 325 YDS.
16 524 YDS.
17 215 YDS.
18 460 YDS.