A team of British amateur golfers came out of the woods and up the valleys of some rolling Baltimore countryside last weekend to spring surprise upon surprise at the Americans. Their goal was to capture the Walker Cup, a three-foot stack of Tiffany silver that was conceived in 1921 to "stimulate golf interest on both sides of the Atlantic," but which had essentially stimulated acute British frustration as the Americans won 18 of the 19 team matches held since then. This time, to be surprisingly strong, the British trained for months, running on beaches and slogging through moors. To be surprisingly young, they used a team whose average age was 26 (compared to the Americans' 34—half were over 40). And to be surprisingly good, they arrived with a happy pair they called the "Terrible Twins"—18-year-old Peter Townsend, a Hertfordshire schoolboy, and 20-year-old Clive Clark, a Scarborough architectural student.
"There is no way to say what hopes and dreams have gone into this thing," explained a British newsman. "It is as if the Walker Cup for years has been some kind of Holy Grail on a mountaintop, and our men have been struggling and clawing upward to reach it." What they clawed through last week was the most rousing cup competition in years. For a day and a half the British threatened to turn the matches into a rout, only to get so surprised themselves in the last afternoon that they were lucky to salvage a tie. An American called it the greatest comeback since D-day, an Englishman said half a cup is better than none, and everybody went home half happy and fully certain that the British are Walker Cup patsies no more.
There is a temptation to say it was a whiff of Baltimore that put all that moxie into the British. After all, the last time they visited the city in any force, they were chased out of town by a ragtag bunch of volunteers, bumpkins and whatnots. That, however, was back in September of 1814. At the flag-raising ceremonies on Wednesday, the British players may have recognized the song that Francis Scott Key wrote on the earlier occasion, the thing about bombs bursting in air, but they had a lot more determination than they did 151 years ago. From the moment they walked down the ramp of their Pan Am jet at Baltimore's Friendship Airport eight days before the matches began, they acted as if they had come to win.
The British arrival was, literally, a red-carpet affair. When they stepped off their 707 they found themselves walking down a red carpet lined with British and U.S. flags. Out came the cameras, and everyone, guests and hosts alike, started taking pictures of everyone else in the friendliest fashion, it having become customary to be awfully, awfully nice to British Walker Cup players because the poor chaps always lose. The British were then loaded aboard an air-conditioned bus and whisked off to the creaky old Sheraton-Belvedere Hotel, an establishment whose arcane accommodations and services should have made them feel at home. By 7:30 that first night they were all downstairs at the hotel for dinner, looking extremely well turned out in their navy blue blazers with a rampant red British lion stitched on the breast pockets. But they didn't linger. Joe Carr, their captain, saw to it that they were on their way to bed by 10:30. "We can't play our best if we don't sleep nine hours," he said.
If this showed an ominous sense of purpose, it was just the beginning, for Carr was the kind of captain who made his presence strongly felt. Having been on the losing side for nine straight Walker Cup matches, he had no intention of making it 10. Three times the British Amateur champion, Dublin Dress Manufacturer Carr is, without doubt, the outstanding amateur golfer to appear in Europe in the last generation. Tall and darkly handsome, he is a swashbuckler of an athlete, and there is something about the lilt of his clipped brogue that makes you realize this man trifles not. At 43, he was 11 years older than the next most senior member of his squad, and his authority and credentials were subject to no second-guessing by anyone. What Joe Carr wanted from his team, Joe usually got.
Among the things Joe Carr had wanted most was top physical condition. He himself is a bug on fitness, and for some months before the matches he ran several miles each morning on the beaches back home. He wrote all the British players that he expected much the same kind of thing from them. "The legs are the first thing to go when you have to play two 18-hole matches a day," he explained. "That has been one of our problems."
In the very first practice round Peter Townsend played on the rolling Five Farms Course of Baltimore Country Club he gave fair warning to the Americans of trouble ahead by shooting a three-under-par 67. Soon, however, most of the British found themselves baffled by the speed and undulations of Five Farms' large greens. "When you get the ball within six feet of the cup," said Gordon Cosh, a smooth-faced young Scotsman with bushy black hair who pronounced cup like coop, "you like to think you can have a go at it. But often you can just barely touch the ball and hope it will hit the cup before it rolls six feet past."
Each day the British were out early, hitting plenty of balls off the practice tee, playing 18 holes or more and working for hours on the slippery greens. Most nights they dined early at the hotel and were in their rooms by 10 o'clock, an exception being Saturday night when Jack Emich, the tournament committee chairman, took them all to dinner at Baltimore's Center Club. The club affords a spectacular 22nd-story view of the city and its harbor. "Have you looked out the window?" Emich asked Townsend, whose Beatlelike playfulness was keeping the British loose. "Oh, no," said Peter. "I couldn't stand the height."
"Peter," one of the other Britons asked him, "docs your mother know you're up so late?"
"This is a different kind of British team," Joe Carr kept telling everybody, and the jocularity was a symptom of it. The players kept teasing Townsend and each other, and acting as happy as winners even though a shot had not been hit. Ronnie Shade, a 26-year-old Scotsman, got badgered for the superfluity of initials in his name—Ronnie D.B.M. Shade. His teammates decided that D. B. M. stood for "down the bloody middle." Nobody kidded Peter Michael Paul Townsend or Michael Stanley Randle Lunt, four names representing no surplus by British standards. Another target for fun was Sandy Saddler, who is a master baker from Angus, Scotland. At 5 feet 2, Saddler is often scarcely visible among his companions. While introducing his team at the flag-raising ceremonies, Carr said to the audience, "I can't see the next player, so I don't know who he is. Oh, yes, there he is. Sandy Saddler." A serious Scotsman, Saddler took this in the best of humor, but earnestly protested that he is really 5 feet 3.
The British succeeded in doing what Joe Carr hoped they would, carrying their mood into a triumphant Friday, throughout which they belabored the Americans. U.S. Amateur Champion Bill Campbell won a singles match as did Deane Beman, but the Terrible Twins led a rout of the rest. Clark won 5 and 3 over Mark Hopkins, America's best college player last year, and Townsend had four straight birdies on the first nine to ice his match against Billy Joe Patton. After winning, the tall, good-looking Townsend attracted a small covey of pretty girls who followed him out on the course to watch his teammates complete their matches. When his friend Michael Lunt sank a difficult putt to close out another British victory, Peter said to one of the girls, "Come on, let's rush down on the green and give him a big kiss." In all, the British took six of eight singles matches and two of four team matches for a seemingly safe 8-3 lead (one match was a draw, which scores no points).
Throughout Friday, Joe Carr, who had decided to be a nonplaying captain, dashed from fairway to fairway, binoculars swinging from his shoulder, spurring his players with little remarks of encouragement. "Nice shot, Peter," he would call. He paused to watch a drive of Clive Clark's sail down the middle of the fairway. "There he goes," shouted Carr admiringly, "straight down the hi-diddle diddle," and he was off at a trot to examine the progress of another match. At one point in the afternoon, when the British had already built a 5-3 lead with three tight matches still left on the course, Carr rushed breathlessly up to some reporters and said, "I can't keep track of the bloody thing."
"You'd better," said one of the newsmen. "You're winning."
"Ah, but I wouldn't be satisfied against you fellows," said Carr, "even if we were leading 12 to 0. I know how you chaps can recover."
Joe Carr's apprehensions over his team's early lead seemed more rhetorical than real, but he knew a few things about American golfers that a lot of other people had forgotten. After all, it was only two years ago at Turnberry that the Americans had turned a first day's deficit of 3-6 into a 12-8 victory.
On Saturday morning the British held firm in the four team matches to take a 10-5 lead, and now they needed to win only two of the eight afternoon singles matches to crate the cup and send it home. Once more they got off to early leads and victory looked sure, but suddenly, hole by hole, it began to slip away. Bill Campbell started it by beating Rodney Foster on the 16th green. Little Sandy Saddler—perhaps the only golfer Deane Beman can look down on—lost to Beman on the 18th green. Gray-haired Ed Tutwiler of Indianapolis got three down to Ronnie Shade after four holes, and then won seven straight to beat him. By now the drops of sweat were showing on the not-so-stiff upper lips of Joe Carr and the British rooters in the gallery.
There was momentary relief when Gordon Cosh clobbered Don Allen of Rochester, for just behind this twosome Peter Townsend was involved in a furious battle with Downing Gray. At the 11th, the irrepressible Peter holed out a bunker shot from 45 yards away to take a one-hole lead. If he could just hold on he would be the man, or boy, of the hour. But Gray caught him with a birdie at the 14th, and went on to beat him 1 up. Finally the British disaster reached the point where salvation rested on the imperturbable Clive Clark, who had to tie Mark Hopkins to save his team. Two down at 15, he finished 3-3-3, sinking a 35-foot birdie putt on 18 to catch Hopkins and make the 20th Walker Cup Match end in a tie.
That final, glorious putt of Clark's saved the British but failed to gain the cup. Speaking afterwards, a deeply disappointed Joe Carr said, "If I live to be a hundred, I'll never be prouder than I was of our golfers. But I'll never make a hundred if I have to live through two more days like the last two."