Southampton summer people with late-August tans and visiting Britons with sunburned noses stood together in a semicircle at the west end of the gray-shingled Shinnecock Hills clubhouse on Long Island last Saturday, smiling and applauding indulgently like parents at a graduation ceremony, as Harry Easterly, the soft-spoken Virginian who is president of the USGA, presented the Walker Cup to one of the youngest American teams in the 55-year history of the competition.
Six college boys, who will all be pros before long, and a lawyer, a stockbroker, a golf-course operator and an insurance salesman, who will not, had just dashed the hopes of a highly praised British team, winning 16 of 24 matches over two days, thereby becoming the 23rd American team to win the old silver loving cup with a dent in its side. The British, to whom the Walker Cup has become something of a Grail, have won it only twice since it was established in 1922—in 1938 at St. Andrews and again there in 1971.
That such a lopsided competition has not passed unmourned into golfing history is a tribute to its charm as a sporting event and to the fact that the USGA and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, the ruling bodies of the sport, are nothing if not traditionalist. Take the dent, for instance.
It was put there in 1932 by Leonard Crawley, a member of the British Walker Cup team, during the matches that year at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. In his morning match Crawley, who later became the golf writer for the London Daily Telegraph, hit a perfect two-iron second shot that soared straight into the wind and came to rest in the middle of the 18th green. That afternoon, when his match reached the 18th hole, Crawley prepared to hit the same shot again, having failed to note, however, that the wind had shifted 180 degrees. This time his two-iron so far exceeded his needs that the ball sailed over the green and the grassy slope behind it until, still on the fly, it struck the big silver cup on its display table near the clubhouse. Dented the Walker Cup is, thanks to Crawley, and dented it will remain, praise be!
September 4, 1977
The youngest of the American college boys this year was Gary Hall-berg, 19, who has finished his freshman year at Wake Forest and who looks so young that guards at the U.S. Open in Atlanta last year kept refusing to let him on the grounds. Hallberg has a good record in amateur events this year, but he lost both his foursome and singles matches the first day at Shinnecock Hills and was left out of the foursomes on the second day. This meant that he had to win his singles match Saturday afternoon to keep from being shut out, the worst fate that can befall a Walker Cupper. (People are still talking about how Jerry Pate, who took the U.S. Open 13 months later, lost all of his.)
Hallberg's opponent was Peter McEvoy, the current British Amateur champion, a 24-year-old law student from Warwickshire of whom big things were expected. But McEvoy had had a bad time of it, too, having lost two foursomes and one singles match. Hallberg beat him 4 and 3 with birdies on the 14th and 15th holes. As it turned out, the Hallberg win clinched the cup for the Americans, although six other singles matches were still in progress.
It was really over by the end of the first day. The British, led by their fiery little captain, Sandy Saddler, a 41-year-old master baker from Forfar, Scotland, had put a great deal of pressure on themselves. They, and the British sporting press, too, felt that if ever there was a British team that could, win, this was it. The American team was not as strong as usual, they thought, and Shinnecock Hills, a links-type course similar to many in Great Britain, would probably aid them. "Sandy's Tartan Army," as it was called by the Scottish Daily Express, psyched itself up with brave words during the practice rounds: When McEvoy was asked what he thought of the Americans, now that he had seen them play a little, he said, "They don't look like much. I can't remember when I've been less impressed." Saddler said of his team on Wednesday, "If they produce the golf on Friday and Saturday that they have all week, we'll be home and dry on Saturday night."
But Friday was a disaster for the British. They won only one of the four foursome matches and two of the eight singles—three points out of a possible 12. And poor McEvoy bore the brunt of it. He and Sandy Lyle, the 19-year-old son of a Scottish teaching pro, lost 4 and 3 to Americans Vance Heafner and John Fought (rhymes with boat). Heafner, who is 23, owns a golf course in North Carolina and is the son of the late Clayton Heafner, a touring pro in the 1940s. Fought, a recent BYU graduate, has already made the cut twice in the U.S. Open and once in the Masters.
McEvoy also lost that day to Lindy Miller, who was low amateur at this year's Open. When Miller was 13 or so, he used to shag balls for Ben Hogan at Fort Worth's Shady Oaks Country Club. In losing to Miller, McEvoy shot an eight-over-par 78, or "70 bloody 8" as Pat Ward-Thomas of The Guardian put it.
There was one bright moment on Saturday for the British. As the foursomes made the turn in the morning, all the British pairs were leading, some by healthy margins. But they lost two of the four matches. With eight singles matches to play in the afternoon, the British would have had to win seven of the eight to tie. They won only three.
The Americans produced most of the best moments. Mike Brannan, a 21-year-old who is also from BYU, hit the outstanding shot of the first day, a 190-yard two-iron from the 18th fairway to two feet of the pin. Scott Simpson, the two-time NCAA champion from USC, who was unbeaten in three matches, sank a putt from clear across the green on the 17th hole Saturday that broke the back of his foursome match. And that afternoon Lindy Miller holed a 50-foot putt from the back of the 18th green that rolled like a freight train downhill into the cup.
Only those who follow amateur golf closely have heard much about these college boys, but this will not long be the case. They all plan to turn pro, some as soon as next week. The others will continue to play golf the amateur way, part-time and for the love of it—Dick Siderowf, 40, the New York stockbroker who last week was playing in his fourth Walker Cup; Jay Sigel, 32, a Pennsylvania insurance salesman; Fred Ridley, 24, a recent law-school graduate and 1975 Amateur champion, who has been hired by Mark McCormack; and Heafner, who is going to try being a businessman, at least for a while.
Looking on from the audience at the closing ceremonies last Saturday, as the light faded and fog began to blow in off the Atlantic, were a handful of people who had watched the first Walker Cup matches 55 years ago. One was a tall, stately, white-haired woman, now Mrs. Joseph C. Dey Jr. of Locust Valley, N.Y., but then 15-year-old Rosalie Knapp of New York City. She remembers standing near the 1st tee at the nearby National Golf Links, watching Cyril Tolley, Roger Wethered, Francis Ouimet and Jess Sweetser hit their tee shots. "They were giants to me then," she says. "I'm afraid I don't know these boys at all."
For the moment, though, the boys were heirs to the giants.