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JOLLY BOB FINDS HIS GAME

Sept. 27, 1965
Sept. 27, 1965

Table of Contents
Sept. 27, 1965

The Fearsome Packers
Giants
People
Horse Racing
Frank Ryan
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over

JOLLY BOB FINDS HIS GAME

A University of Florida senior, who did not even play golf until forced to give up football and baseball, Bob Murphy chain-smoked cigars to calm his nerves and got hot enough to win the U.S. Amateur

The United States Golf Association was formed back in 1894 to conduct an amateur championship, and in the 64 times it has done so since, the event has been won by nice, normal match play scores of 1 up, or 4 and 3, and once even 12 and 11. It was time for a change. Last week at Tulsa the country's oldest golf event had a new format, new rules, bizarre penalties, a wandering wedge, withering weather and—strangest of all to the eye of the traditionalist—a winning score of 291. That was the total turned in by Bob Murphy Jr., a 22-year-old University of Florida senior, and if it must be reported that he is a renegade football quarterback and baseball pitcher who only took up golf four years ago because he hurt his shoulder, that too is in keeping with events at this year's Amateur.

This is an article from the Sept. 27, 1965 issue Original Layout

The major alteration from match play to stroke play was made by the USGA in the hope that it would attract greater public interest—i.e., TV, which will broadcast next year's championship. But at Southern Hills Country Club last week, it may have saved lives. "Yesterday's temperature," a radio announcer said one morning, "was 104, and the forecast for today is continued cool." If the tournament had been decided by the old six-day knockout competition, wherein the finalists had to play as many as 36 holes a day for the last four days, the winner would quite simply have been the sole survivor. Even Charlie Coe, the two-time champion who lives just down the road a piece in Oklahoma City, found the weather a bit much. "I don't see how anyone my age [41] could play 36 holes a day in this heat," Charlie observed, after finding himself leading the tournament at the end of the third round. "But any of us can play 18 holes a day. What we are lacking in stamina we can usually make up in experience."

At this point the previously formless tournament was finally taking shape as a battle between the elderly, led by Coe, and the pups, a growling gaggle of unknowns, as pups always are. Two strokes behind Coe was Bill Campbell, the 42-year-old defending champion. Tied with Campbell was Jim Vickers, a 36-year-old Wichita, Kans. oil executive who had won the NCAA championship way back in 1952. The youngsters were Jim Grant, 23, a Texas college boy who lives near Hartford, Conn.; Cesar Sanudo, 21, a Texas college boy who lives near San Diego; Bob Dickson, 21, an Oklahoma college boy who actually lives in Oklahoma and, naturally, Bob Murphy.

In the final round on Saturday—pick your cliché—youth refused to be denied, or age could no longer keep up. Coe began hooking tee shots that started for Wyoming and ended in Mexico. Campbell and Vickers retreated more reluctantly but just as surely, when each shot 38 on the front nine.

That left it up to three of the pups—Grant having slipped to a 40. The most impressive was Dickson, who had earlier assured himself a place in golf history when he hit into a sand trap on the second day of play. He reached into his bag for a sand wedge and found two of them. In this case, two wedges equaled a vice, for it meant Dickson had 15 clubs in his bag, one over the limit. He had to be assessed four penalty strokes, two for each hole he had played. Dickson had never seen the extra wedge before, but someone in the caddie shop had carelessly shoved it into his bag. A tall, meaty and impassive young man, he accepted his bad luck and continued resolutely on about his business. Now, by the 9th hole of the last day, he had, remarkably, managed to fashion himself a three-stroke lead over the field. Sanudo, meanwhile, had been sneaking up on the leaders for a long time, but it still hardly seemed credible that when he reached the 70th hole this bouncy, cheerful man had suddenly caught Dickson and was tied for first.

Murphy was the real surprise, though. He was ahead at the end of the second day's play, but a 76 on Friday cost him dearly, and there was nothing in his appearance that made you think he would catch up. He is 5 feet 8 and 195 pounds. In golf terms he is a cross between a Porky Oliver and Jack Nicklaus, and in any other terms he is a Huck Finn grown up, with a round, Irish face, curly red hair that forever struggles out from under his white hat and a big cigar clenched in his teeth. At the University of Florida, where he was only the No. 2 man on the golf team, they call him Jolly Bob. But along with his youthful air he has a solid and powerful golf swing. (He finished ninth in this year's NCAA tournament, yet the coaches spotted something in his swing; many called him the No. 1 college golfer.)

When the tension increases Murphy smokes harder, and the 14th hole on the last day ranked as a three-cigar job. He kept lighting them and throwing them away in the course of making a bogey. He finished fairly steadily and was standing on the edge of the 18th green as Dickson bogeyed 17. When Dickson bogeyed 18 as well, Murphy puffed happily on cigar No. 10, victor over Dickson by a stroke and Sanudo by two.

It may have been the heat and it may have been the stroke play, but never has a U.S. Amateur had so many rule infractions. There was, of course, Dickson, whose extra wedge obviously cost him the championship. On Wednesday Gene Dahlbender of Atlanta, an ex-pro playing in his tenth Amateur Championship, hit a seven-iron off the tee to the 11th green. He showed Ray Terry, with whom he was paired, what club he had used. This violated the rule that forbids a competitor in stroke play from giving advice, so Dahlbender got a two-stroke penalty.

The ruling that caused the most mirth involved Bob Sanders of Amarillo, Texas. His ball was among some rocks in a hazard. Just as Gus Benedict, the USGA president, was driving up in his golf cart, Sanders tossed one of the rocks out of the hazard. "Are you planning to play that ball?" Benedict asked.

"Yes, sir," Sanders replied cheerfully.

"Well, then, add two to your score," said Benedict, driving on.

Mark Hopkins, the fine young Texas golfer who played on this year's Walker Cup team, ran into an unusual double penalty of three strokes. He had hit a shot so deeply into a sand trap that he decided it was unplayable. He lifted the ball and dropped it for a one-stroke penalty. The trouble was he dropped it outside the bunker. That cost two more strokes. Then there was the shot by Bob Douma of Tulsa that caromed off a tree and struck his own bag. Add on a couple of strokes. Michael Bonallack, the British Amateur champion, played somebody else's ball. Again: two strokes.

On the relatively safe terrain of the putting green there were troubles, too. Bill Campbell called a penalty on himself when the wind blew his ball as he was about to putt. And early in the first round Mike Good of Huntington, W. Va. putted his ball to within three feet of a hole, marked it with a coin and picked it up. "What are you doing?" an official asked him.

"Positioning my ball," Goodanswered.

"Two-stroke penalty," said the official. This happened because in order to speed up play at the Amateur the USGA was experimenting with two new rules. One required a player to putt continuously until he holed out unless this involved standing in the line of a fellow competitor's putt. The other stated that a ball could be lifted only once for cleaning on the putting green. Because Good said he lifted his ball to position it, he violated the second rule. The changes, incidentally, speeded up play considerably.

Even though the Dickson penalty may have cast an ever-so-slight shadow over Murphy's victory, there is no faulting the stolid, unflappable golf of the new champion—or his unsophisticated rural charm. Although Brooklyn-born, he now hails from Nichols, Fla. which, as he puts it, is "in the heart of the phosphate country. We all live in these little old shanties, so you can't say exactly how many people are in Nichols, but maybe 75."

Murphy's father is a low-handicap golfer, but football and baseball were Robert Jr.'s high school sports. A shoulder separation ended those careers, so, as a Florida physical-education major, he tried golf in his freshman year. "My first semester I averaged about 85 or 86 wearing sneakers and playing with an old set of clubs a man gave me," he says. "For Christmas my dad got me some golf shoes, and next semester I averaged 78.5." He has kept improving.

Not since 1911 has a player won the U.S. Amateur on his first try, but Murphy took the achievement in stride. He even predicted it. Eating a sandwich in the clubhouse after his first-round 73 on Wednesday, he was overheard drawling, "Ah'm gonna win this here tournament." Once again amateur golf has come up with an interesting champion. The pros will be glad to get him.

PHOTOWinner Murphy hugs his new hardware next to runner-up Bob Dickson, who lost by a wedge.