in the spring of his 37th year Bruce Crampton made a remarkable if somewhat inconspicuous discovery. He discovered he wanted to be loved. Nothing exceptional, no extraordinary circumstances led up to this awakening. As had been his custom he was playing near the top of his profession, a $100,000-a-year man respected as a brilliant shotmaker and beloved by practically no one. Many of his fellow golfers actively disliked him, some for valid reasons, some from afar, on hearsay evidence.
Those who had experienced him on the golf course would, for the asking, gladly assemble the various negatives of his personality: "a surly person," a "pompous ass," a "miserable so-and-so." If the PGA kept records, they said, Bruce Crampton would hold them all for being rude to marshals, fans and photographers, and reducing lady scorekeepers to tears. Bruce Crampton was clearly a man who knew how to keep his best foot stationary.
In time the vinegary Crampton parables that made the rounds on the tour became, in their appositeness, ideal table-talk liveners:
Who's that out there playing by himself? That's Bruce Crampton having a practice round with his friends again.
June 17, 1973
Bruce Crampton? He drives in alone, stays to himself never buys anybody a drink. Of course, he doesn't want anybody to buy him one either, so the match is even.
Bruce Crampton knows the rules better than anybody, and he'll run across the fairway to refresh your memory.
Golf is, essentially, a loner's game. Within breathshot of its patrons it requires private acts of intense detachment, the ability to block out at an appropriate moment all but the process of hitting the ball. Those brief moments are isolated from the longer periods of gregarious fairway-walking that make golf palatable for the tagalong fan.
Bruce Crampton's requirements went further. An introvert to begin with, he seemed unable to accept at ground level anything less than a total vacuum. He did not want to block out distractions, he wanted them eliminated. He said the golf course was his "office." People do not converse idly or swirl the ice in their paper cups in a man's office.
Once, playing in a threesome with Sam Snead, Crampton delayed his shot on the first tee to walk 20 yards down the fairway to counsel a marshal about crowd control. On his way back he complained to a photographer who he sensed was on the verge of exploding the air with a shutter click. When he finally settled down to hit, he stopped once more, walked over to a lady and asked her to stand up like everyone else. Snead, off to the side with George Fazio, put his hand to his mouth and said in an amused whisper, "How'd you like to be him?"
On the surface, it seemed Crampton didn't mind. In the 17 years he had been in the United States as an alien touring pro from Australia, Crampton was able to win, with uncanny accuracy, the displeasure of some of the most respected names in golf. Julius Boros saw fit to dress him down in a locker room in Greensboro one year for what he (Boros) considered a gross rebuff (by Crampton) of a friendly newsman. Boros had had on-the-course encounters with Crampton as well, dealing mostly with where this or that shot went in this or that water hazard. Boros considered Crampton's all-round dockside manners reprehensible. "We all have double bogeys; we all blow tournaments," said Boros. "His kind of conduct is totally unnecessary."
Arnold Palmer was said to be "near rage" a couple times over Crampton's officiousness, though Palmer kept his control. Dow Finsterwald said he was reluctant to go on the course with Crampton, fearful of "what he might say" to someone. "He's just not any fun," said Tom Weiskopf. Gardner Dickinson, no word mincer, said that "If every golfer treated volunteers and the public the way Crampton does we'd be playing for $25,000 a tournament instead of $250,000."
John Montgomery knows more than a little about what golfers play for. Montgomery is an ex-FBI man who under the name Executive Sports runs 16 of the tournaments on the PGA tour, coaxing together as many as 1,500 volunteers for a major event. A rope-holding marshal often turns out to be the local bank president, and a foot-weary scorekeeper the banker's wife. "If we had to pay them, we'd be out of business," says Montgomery. "Most players realize this, but some don't."
In Crampton's case, Montgomery had suffered his share of "girls coming to me in tears over something he had said" and "marshals telling me flat out they wouldn't work another tournament that he was in." Montgomery had taken to assigning special marshals just to follow Crampton, "something we couldn't possibly do for everyone." But Montgomery had also had a second impression about Crampton that baffled him, just as it had others who had gotten to know the Australian as more than a pain in the pairings. In all his years in the FBI and in professional golf, he said, Crampton was the "closest thing I've ever known to a true Jekyll and Hyde personality.
"I've seen him off the course show the nicest manners, a real gentleman. In Cleveland in 1969, when he finished second to Charles Coody, he got up and made the most beautiful speech you ever heard. He spoke for 10 minutes. He was articulate, appreciative, generous—a speech that would have made Gary Player sound like a hick, and Player can lay the words on you."
Joe Dey, tour commissioner of the PGA, and Jack Tuthill, tournament director, express compassion in trying to account for Crampton's actions. Once, while watching the Hawaiian Open on television, Dey saw Crampton slam a club to the ground and phoned Hawaii to ask tournament officials to investigate. The result was a $150 fine, the only instant-replay long-distance-dialed penalty on record.
Yet Dey said he always found Crampton to be "an honest man. Scrupulously honest. If he is strictly business on the course, I have seen his good humor off it. What does Ecclesiastes say about a time for reaping and sowing? He keeps each in its place. It is his way. If it is a hard way, it is the one he has chosen."
Tuthill's dealing with Crampton had always been on "very precise terms," and "part of Bruce's problem is that very preciseness, particularly in his language. He's like Nicklaus used to be. Very businesslike and not entirely likable at first meeting."
Crampton came to Tuthill, almost pathetically, some seasons ago to ask what he might do to repair his image. Tuthill was taken aback, and for want of a thought-out solution suggested Crampton wear a hat to hide the severity of his expression. Though he is a handsome man with curly blond hair, Crampton's game face is contorted to the point of transformation. "He becomes the red-eyed fire-breathing image of an obsessed man," says a television executive who happens to like Bruce. "You can practically see hair grow on his cheeks."
Crampton tried Tuthill's cap idea, indicating a willingness for reclamation, but it didn't work.
Fred Corcoran, who was once Crampton's business manager, said, "I could have made money with him, but I couldn't get him to smile. People liked to watch him—a perfectionist with a perfectionist's swing. But they didn't root for him. He was totally colorless."
As his career bloomed (it was only a matter of time; his swing is clockwork and exceedingly powerful for a man 5'11", 180 pounds), so to a lesser degree did his defenders. They were like new sectarians to a minor religion. Many of them were younger players with whom he seemed more relaxed. Jim Jamieson credited Crampton with the "encouragement" he needed to make it on the tour and called him a "great guy." Gibby Gilbert and Lou Graham agreed.
Jerry McGee said Crampton was a "fantastic man" whom people "just don't know. Bruce gets into trouble because he says what he feels—no shortcuts, everything black and white. When you get to know him you see the real warmth in him."
Neither were all the veterans hardened in their judgment. Jack Nicklaus spent 45 minutes working with him on the practice tee at Pebble Beach the year (1965) Crampton won the Bing Crosby, an act of concern that thrilled Crampton, who idolizes Nicklaus. When Crampton's name was used in vain in a recent conversation, Nicklaus said (in what amounted to a ringing endorsement from Jack), "Oh, Crampton's all right."
And Crampton seemed to be doing all right at the start of this season. In January he won two tournaments in a row, the Tucson and Phoenix Opens. No pro golfer had won two in a row since Palmer in 1971. Before a quarter of the season was finished Crampton was within a putt or two of his sixth consecutive $100,000-plus year. (The total through May was $167,551, and he had moved to fifth on the alltime money list at $958,994.) His game was never better. Oil wells were pumping. Endorsements—a relatively new experience for him—were coming in.
And he was miserable.
When he got to Miami for the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic he told a doctor friend, a Miamian named Marshall Pepper, that he was "desperately unhappy." He said of the three things in life a man needed—success, health and happiness—he had found the first two "not worth a thing without the third." If he had made no new enemies that he knew of, he also recognized that his efforts to make a new image had gone largely unnoticed. He said he was still "misunderstood." Worst of all, his marriage of nine years was on the rocks.
Joan Crampton is a pale, delicate blonde girl, pretty in a fragile way. Her voice is soft and her manner uncertain, inconsistent with her background as an airline stewardess. She remembers, in her shyness, how she once hid under her bed in New Zealand when a boyfriend came to call, and her faux pas in meeting Jack Nicklaus for the first time. She had said, "You played marvelously, Jack," after he lost to Bruce in the 1970 Westchester Classic. "But not well enough," Jack replied. She was convinced Jack "must think me an imbecile."
Crampton's personality had dominated her own through their married life. The nine years had been crossed with emotional skirmishes. She told Bruce she was "afraid of him," not of what he would do but of what he would say. He admitted he had said a lot, and there had been times, most notably at the U.S. Open in 1970, when she had packed bags and son Jay (now 5) and flown home to their duplex in Dallas. Early this year she learned she had an ulcer.
A separation was imminent when Crampton checked in at Inverrary. He had flown cross-country from San Diego. Joan had driven the car from Dallas and immediately flown back for a doctor's appointment. They had already discussed divorce. Before he left Dallas for the West Coast Bruce had packed his trophies and, he said, "cried my eyes out."
His nerves were on edge, as they had been for some time. "It's amazing how well I've done, considering the state I've been in," he said. Crampton shot a 77 in the first round at Inverrary and withdrew from the tournament.
His official reasons were "mental fatigue" and "personal problems." A Fort Lauderdale newspaper account said he also blamed "bedevilment at the hands of the press." This was a flagrant fabrication; the writer admitted his facts were secondhand. "See?" said Crampton.
That night he poured out his troubles to Marshall Pepper. In an almost offhand way, as Crampton remembers it, Pepper said, "What you've been missing in life, Bruce, is affection. You need affection."
"Affection?" Crampton said.
He said the word rang in his head like a school bell.
The next day at lunch, Crampton was intoxicated with enthusiasm, as one who has emerged blinking from a long laboratory stretch, the news of a breakthrough on his lips. "Affection," he said. "It's the key."
He had gone immediately to his dictionary to look it up. He carries the dictionary to improve his grammar.
"I read it over and over," he said at the table in the coffee shop. A breakfast steak lay untouched on his plate. "I called Joanie long-distance and read it to her. It's true, I told her. It's what we've both been missing. It's the key to the whole thing. I think we solved our problem right there because it unlocks everything in my life. My marriage. The fans. The press. People I meet. Everything."
He had gotten so excited, he said, that he could scarcely wait to try it on people. "You get affection when you show it," he said. "It's the only way.
"I once told Joan it was her background, her shyness that caused me to feel lacking, but I see it differently now. I loved my Mum and Dad [his father is dead] as much as a boy could love his parents, and they were wonderful to me, taking me places, encouraging me. But I never once saw them show any affection for one another. Never in public. I was taught not to. I was chastised for holding hands with Joan in front of them.
"I think now it was more my background than hers."
Crampton's background, as he then related it, does not make a lighthearted narrative. That afternoon and through the weekend he let his memory graze over the high points. He seemed relieved at the chance, as one who has long hidden a love affair and is finally allowed to let it out. "This is good for me," he said.
Bruce Sidney Crampton was the only child of Hector Arnold and Beatrice Crampton, born in Sydney and raised in its suburbs. His father was a policeman for 37 years and at retirement was approximately the fifth-ranking officer in New South Wales.
"Other policemen used to tell me, 'Your father is tough and stern, but he stands up for his men.' " recalls Bruce. "I look very much like my father. People say as long as I'm alive Hec Crampton is, too. He was not a jovial person. He liked to stay home, putter in the garden. I see a lot of my father in me."
As a baby, Bruce suffered yellow jaundice and acute gastroenteritis and was twice written off for dead. His mother refused to let him be taken to the hospital. She said, "If he's going to die, he'll die here at home." Mrs. Crampton—who later was to be in the middle of some of the friction between Bruce and Joan—was the disciplinarian, administering justice in the form of spankings and punishments. "After some childhood mischief, some prank, I'd run to my dad for protection," says Bruce. "But I was not hard to raise. I gave them no big problems. We did things together—three-week fishing trips, camping trips, wonderful things."
From both parents he was taught the importance of "strong character. They made me do what I was told. We always went by the rules. I wasn't taught to drive until I was of legal age, no sooner, and then we started on the grass, not on the streets."
Taught thrift, he had to earn money to buy a golf club, a four-wood which he slept with for a week. He fished balls out of a drainage canal for profit, and was a full-time caddie at the Beverley Park course.
Taught the value of education, he labored long into the night to solve math problems. "I didn't always do them in the prescribed way, but I worked and worked until I got to the root of the answer. Plodding along. Much of my golf has been that way. It is just in the last two or three years that I have really learned things about the game. That may seem slow, but it's my nature." Taught honesty, he thought it a virtue capable of resolving almost any problem. "I can still hear my father. 'Son, don't be afraid to be honest. You can never hurt yourself being honest.' I have not always been rewarded, but so help me I've always tried."
The little winds of tragedy, the embarrassments that scarred him, blew early in his life. His eyeteeth (cuspids) protruded and the other kids called him "Fangs." The rest of his front teeth angled back in his head. If one thinks of buckteeth as the ultimate in happy smiles, his were the exact opposite of buckteeth. He hated the name, thinking it cruel and unjust. He tried to quit smiling.
(In recent years an orthodontist in Dallas has worked to overcome the trauma. The cuspids have been filed down. An intrusive malocclusion (overbite) is being worked on. Extractions have been made. "When I'm serious my jaw line recedes because of the overbite, and I look mad, which I'm not.")
As a teen-age golfing sensation, Crampton came under the eye of Norman Von Nida, the Ben Hogan of Australia. It was a highly beneficial association for Bruce, but eventually it added to his confusion.
Crampton remembers the first day Von Nida approached him, a vision in a black Jaguar with red cushions, driving up to the park where Bruce was practicing. "He got out and gave me a two-hour lesson. No charge. All the papers wrote it up."
Von Nida took him on tours throughout Australia, to Egypt, to Paris, to London, exposing him to things and teaching him. Many of Crampton's theories about golf were formed in those days: "That golf is a compromise between what your ego wants you to do, what your experience tells you to do and what your nerves will let you do." That it is "a game of opposites: hit down, the ball pops up. Sweep the club right, the ball hooks left." That it is a game where you "play the course and the elements, not your opponent."
"I learned to photograph a shot in my mind before I made it, and when it did not match the photograph it was no good. That's why I used to react so negatively when lucky shots were applauded. I was not satisfied, and I felt if the fans knew anything about golf they wouldn't be either. I expected them to do their homework, know as much as I did. I expected too much."
Von Nida's game matched his personality. He was flashy and abrasive, the delight of Australian golf. "For him, that was the way to be a star, and he told me I needed some of that. To be more colorful."
So Crampton embraced flashiness. He pounded clubs and showed his temper. He raged and pouted. He managed to become a colossal bore.
"My hair was longer then—this was about 1956—the way Peter Thomson wore his, and today people say it looks good that way, but for me then it wasn't right. People thought I looked queer or something." He won the 1956 Australian Open, but Thomson was not in the tournament, a point the press did not overlook. The next week both players entered the Speedo tournament on Thomson's home course and the papers made much of it, implying that now everyone would see just who was the real Australian champion. Crampton won that one, too.
The Australian championship got him an invitation to the Masters Tournament. With $2,500 in his pocket (expense money from his sponsor, Slazengers) and a deal to file newspaper accounts for the Sydney Daily Telegraph, he stopped first for a tournament in Houston, arriving late one February night in 1957 after 40 hours in the air. Until then his impressions of Texas were derived mainly from American movies. Australia had no television.
"Texas to me meant cowboys and Indians and shoot-'em-up, and here I am by myself, don't know a soul, and when the taxi brings me into town the streets are jammed with covered wagons and cowboys firing six-guns and raising Cain. I was wide-eyed with terror.
"The next morning I came down to breakfast at the hotel, and the waitress acted very suspicious. I knew what I wanted, I could see it on the wall menu, but I couldn't get it across. She seemed very hostile. All I could think of was those movies and what Texans did to strangers. Nine out of 10 they lynched. So help me, I was afraid I'd wind up getting lynched. For three days I stayed in my room, except to eat. I shoved a chair and chest of drawers against the door.
"Well, Jack Fleck explained the whole thing when we finally went out to the course Thursday. It was Stock Show Week in Houston, and they always do it up big."
In that first tournament Crampton shot an even-par 288, finishing 13th and winning $693. He had earned $520 for winning the Australian Open. There began for him then an appreciation for things American that grew virtually into a form of patriotism. "I wish every U.S. citizen had the chance to see the places I've seen," he said. "Nothing is better, nothing is as good."
Soon after Houston he went to Augusta to worship at the temple of American golf. "I'd never seen anything like it. I'd never been treated so well. I won $729 and I loved every minute." Then, alas, to Glasgow, Scotland and a headlong dive into trouble.
The stark contrast of what he had experienced at the Masters in Augusta and what he saw in Scotland hit him like a fist. The pros were not allowed on the Glasgow Golf Club premises during the weekend. He was told he could not even drop off his clubs. Once the tournament began, there was no parking on the grounds for the golfers, and they were barred from eating in the clubhouse. When it rained he ate lunch under a leaking tent and squished around in the mud. His file to the Daily Telegraph gave all the poignant comparisons. The next day his picture was on the front page of the London newspapers, column-to-column with Princess Margaret. "And you know which one was the villain."
The waitress in the coffee shop came to take away his plate, which Crampton had barely touched, and he smiled and thanked her and looked down at his startlingly large-fingered calloused hands.
"I told the truth, that's all. I was being honest, the way I was taught. And suddenly I was the worst s.o.b. in the world, even in the papers back home. I'd knocked Scottish golf, a sacred thing. And after that I really was scared. No matter what I do, I'm going to be wrong. And the more scared I got, the more tense I got. The more self-conscious I got. And the more defensive."
He retreated deeper into the cave that was his golf and became, on the tour, a lonely mercenary, trekking from tournament to tournament. At one point Crampton played in 37 consecutive events (so many that he got to be known as the Iron Man) and when he won his first, the Milwaukee Open in 1961, it was on his 80th try. And the heat he generated and the criticism that gathered around him were immense.
"Being defensive, I had a hard time giving myself to the fans," he said. "As a result, I interpreted their feelings as hostile. They were reacting to me, to my lack of affection. Instead of telling a gallery, 'Please, you wouldn't mind moving back a bit, would you?' I'd just say, 'Move back.' Or worse."
His wars with the press, he said, were mostly cold ones. "I was taught to respect my elders, be quiet unless spoken to. The writers who criticized me were older men. I didn't talk back, and at times I didn't talk at all."
More often than not, however, he would say just enough. In Charlotte one year he made an unfavorable comparison about the Memphis course. The remark (something about "day and night") jumped out at him from the newsprint the next day. It also jumped out at the Memphis tournament chairman, who wrote a strong letter of complaint to Joe Dey suggesting "Mr. Crampton play his golf elsewhere."
"I eventually got it straightened out, but the fault was with me. I am so much of a perfectionist that I can't stand imperfection of any kind. I can't stand incompetence. And for that matter I can't stand failure. Especially my own. That's why this marriage thing has become such a big thing with me. I don't want to fail at it."
Socially, he said, he knew he had been backward. It was not his way to "force" friendships. He would rather be alone. "Mum and Dad always liked their privacy, and I guess I'm the same."
But he said if he had been socially inept, it was also true that Gary Player "never bought me dinner." And if he snapped at other golfers, he had at least been indiscriminate. Sometimes his clashes passed unnoticed, sometimes they were with Arnold Palmer. It still irritated him that Palmer "never gave me the opportunity to putt out, never told me I had a nice round." These things, he said, weighed on him.
His luncheon companion said it seemed almost a landmark in human relations that, with all the antagonists he had cultivated, Crampton never went home with a bloody nose.
"It's not my nature," he said. "I've never been in a fistfight in my life. I fight with words, that's the only way to fix anything, to correct anything. I like being told when I'm wrong, so I guess I haven't hesitated to tell others. But I wouldn't fight. If I were challenged, I*d put my tail between my legs."
That particular posture came close to being tested two years ago at the Colonial Invitation in Fort Worth. The incident marks the low point in Crampton's relationship with his fellow pros, and caused him his greatest despair. After the cards were signed Crampton called a penalty that resulted in the disqualification of South African Harold Henning. The pros who were critical did not object to the ruling as much as they objected to Crampton.
Crampton said his side was never told—the principals were ordered silenced by the tournament rules committee—and that, like many of the debacles in his life, he was "terribly misunderstood."
The way it happened, he said, was that on the Friday of the tournament, playing in a threesome with Bob Lunn, Henning duck-hooked his tee shot on the 18th hole. The ball hit a tree and bounded into a hazard, a gully that ran beside a small bridge. The gully was marked with stakes and a yellow line. Crampton was on the bridge with his banker friend from Dallas, Joe Denton, and "about 20 other fans," 10 paces from Henning's ball; Lunn was already down the fairway. When Henning went into the hazard and addressed the ball, he grounded his club.
"I got such a shock seeing him do it I could hardly get my words out, and what I did say was a poor choice of words. I said, 'Harold, don't ground it, you're in the hazard!' What I should have said was, 'Harold, do you realize what you just did?' I should have left no room for doubt. I still expected him to say, 'You're right, but I've already grounded the bloody thing.' He didn't say anything, just pulled back and looked around.
"As we were moving up the fairway, I asked my caddie, Walter Montgomery, 'What the hell do I do now?' He said, 'Man, you have no choice. You've got to put two shots on him.' So when I got up to Lunn I told him what had happened. Lunn was Harold's marker. On the green when I was getting ready to putt, I noticed Bob and Harold talking. I don't know what they said but I understand Lunn asked Henning if he'd grounded his club, and Henning said he didn't think so."
When Crampton finally got to the scorer's table, Henning was already gone, but he had signed his card. Crampton glanced at it. Henning had not assessed himself the two-stroke penalty.
"Now I was really worried. I must have looked it because Terry Dill was there and he said, 'You look like you're in another world.' I was. My thoughts were back on that bridge. Twenty people or more saw what I saw. That meant my whole profession was in jeopardy.
"What if one of them goes to Joe Dey and says, 'Don't these fellows play by the rules? Crampton saw Henning ground his club.' Or what if one of them was a judge? What happens then? Right away people think, 'There they are, two foreigners sticking together.'
"Well, I had no choice, not in my own mind. I believe in the rules. I know exactly what my father would have done, no matter how much it might hurt."
Crampton called the penalty on Henning. A hearing before the three-man rules committee was held. Witnesses were called. Henning was disqualified for signing an incorrect card.
"Thirty minutes afterward, outside the clubhouse, I saw Harold standing with his wife. At first, I hesitated. I wanted to say something like, 'Harold, please don't think there was anything personal in this.' As soon as she saw me, his wife walked away. Harold turned on me and said, I'll tell you one bloody thing; I'm going to nail you if it's the last thing I do.' I felt I had to report that, too, which I did. I wanted it on the record.
"The next day some of the players tried to get a court injunction to stop the tournament. Some of them had evidently called Joe Dey. A special meeting was called in the tournament director's office, but the committee stuck by its ruling.
"The fans booed and hissed and honked their horns at me the rest of the week. I understand a lot of the players were mad as hell. But some of them eventually came around to tell me I'd done the' right thing. Bob Goalby was one of them. If I had it to do again, I'd do the same thing, but I'd hope to choose my words a little better."
With a little more affection?
"I guess you'd say that," Crampton said, and smiled.
"But it's always been a two-way street," he said. "I'd disqualify myself if the situation came up. I've done it."
In 1966 at an Indianapolis tournament a continuous-putting rule was in effect, but it was not until he was on the tee for the third round that Crampton found out.
"A PGA official said, 'Don't forget the continuous-putting rule is in effect, fellows.' I said, 'Why are we changing the rules in the middle of the tournament?' He said, 'It's been that way since the first day.' I said, 'If that's the case, I'm disqualified,' and I walked off the course. I'd expect anyone else to do the same."
In the days and weeks that followed the Miami tournament, the newly affectionate Bruce Crampton was like a sinner reborn. A warmer light seemed to gather around him. He was "continually amazed" by the responses he got. His effort (the "Big A," he called it) was almost unanimously rewarded: drugstore clerks returned his friendly greetings, fans laughed at his jokes, writers dispatched flattering reports. "It's amazing," he said.
At Orlando, a woman following the pro-am in a golf cart remarked, within earshot, "Isn't he delightful today!" On the next hole a young man in a T shirt asked him, "Will opening this beer can bother you?" Crampton replied, "What are you, a Palmer fan?" But he smiled when he said it. In the tournaments that followed he dispensed his instructions with careful politeness, and the boos and the "Miss it!" cries that had come to be the litany of his galleries were noticeably absent.
At home in Dallas he practiced on Joan, "showing her affection by being more considerate, more understanding." Joan seemed less strained in his presence. She said he "can do almost anything when he puts his mind to it."
Within himself Crampton was convinced he had "turned the corner." It had been three months, and good things were happening. He felt he could, realistically, now concentrate on his one remaining goal: to win a major title, a U.S. Open, a Masters, a PGA, a British Open. "If it is meant to happen, it'll happen," he said. "Meanwhile, I'm letting the Big A take over."
At the Byron Nelson tournament in Dallas he played the third round on Saturday with Palmer. Joe Denton was there. He said the two talked and laughed throughout the round, "a very nice sight." Crampton said he had "never had such a congenial round with Arnold." Palmer told him he was doing "a great job." A television reporter who had known Bruce for years said, "I always knew he was a nice guy."
But it would be unwise to judge dramatic conversions too quickly, Denton said. "He's doing better but he has a long way to go. He feels he can flip a page and people will forget. People don't forget. After a bad round, when some guy wants his autograph, he's going to have to bite his lip and sign it. People at the bank know him and excuse some of the things he does, but out there on the course nobody has to excuse him. And those are the people who buy the clubs he endorses and pay their way into the tournaments. Those are the ones he has to please."
At a luncheon table in Orlando, Jerry McGee and Tom Lewis, the chief marshal of the tournament there, were discussing the new Crampton when Gardner Dickinson joined them. Lewis had called Crampton "a warm, sensitive man, the most honest I've ever known," and McGee had said, "I think you're going to see a big change in him."
And Gardner Dickinson said, "If you're talking about who I think you're talking about, maybe I shouldn't open my mouth."
"Because you're asking a leopard to change its spots. That's a tall order."
"All right," said McGee. "What does he have to do?"
"Act like a human being. On and off the course. He's winning now. It's easy to act in a socially acceptable manner when you're winning. I'll reserve my judgment until he loses a few, the kind that really hurt. It happens. We all lose. Let's see what he does then."
But in the meantime Crampton was indeed winning (in May he added the Houston Open to his titles) and continued to amaze. A slightly bewildered John Montgomery said, "Every time I see Crampton these days he's smiling and being nice as pie. What's going on?"
Then at Fort Worth last month, in the exact same hazard where he called the penalty on Henning three years before (an irony he could not help noting), Crampton "lost one that really hurt." Leading the Colonial by a stroke, one hole away from another back-to-back tournament triumph, Crampton broke his sand wedge on one of the steel-reinforced concrete blocks that were strewn through the gully. Without the sand wedge he had to come out of a trap beside the 18th green with his pitching wedge, and he hit it short. His double bogey cost him the tournament.
What Crampton did not do then was sulk and blue the air with alibis. What he did not do in his disappointment was snub the winner and complain bitterly about the unfairness of the final hole. He warmly congratulated Tom Weiskonf. He called the hole "a beautiful one. The lake is named after me, you know. I hit one in therein 1962 that cost me the tournament then, too. Have you seen the plaque?"
And what Crampton did not do was point out that on the fateful shot out of the hazard he could easily have given himself a large break. His normal stance put him within a couple inches of a steel rod near his left foot. An official who was right there said if Crampton had stretched his stance slightly a rod would have been jabbing his leg and he could have gotten a free drop in a flat grassy area in the hazard.
When told later he should have done exactly that, Crampton said, "Oh, no, I couldn't. That would have been dishonest. I still have to look at myself in the mirror every morning."
Perhaps he really hasn't changed so much.