SI Vault
Herbert Warren Wind
October 27, 1958
The song the sentimental Scots sang to their old hero, Bobby Jones, summed up feelings about the first World Amateur Golf Championship. It was an unqualified success
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
October 27, 1958

Will Ye No' Come Back Again?

The song the sentimental Scots sang to their old hero, Bobby Jones, summed up feelings about the first World Amateur Golf Championship. It was an unqualified success

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

St. Andrews, the old gray town which is the cradle of the game of golf, is tucked away on the peninsula of Fifeshire on the cold eastern coast of Scotland where the Tay estuary flows into the North Sea. It is not an easy place to get to even for Scots. To reach it from London necessitates an overnight sleeper jump plus a short transfer. And, of course, for travelers coming from other continents, it seems (and it is) terribly remote even in an age that is entering on jet air transport. However, in the second week of October the broad streets and the narrow wynds of St. Andrews and the famous links below them were peopled with golfers from all over the world, many of them from places as far away as Malaya and Argentina and South Africa. The occasion was the first World Amateur Golf Championship, and St. Andrews, because of what it is, was the logical venue for this bright venture into a new era in international golf.

All in all, 29 nations (represented by four-man teams) took part in the championship, ranging from such populous and long-established golfing powers as Great Britain and Ireland (who fielded a composite team) and the United States, down through such comparatively new golf countries as Iceland and Brazil. The format of the championship is somewhat involved but essentially works like this: each day each country arrives at its total by adding up the three lowest rounds of its four players; each country's grand total for the 72-hole tournament is the sum of its daily three-man totals for the four days of play. The winner (and first recipient of the Eisenhower Trophy) was Australia, which beat the U.S. in a playoff after the two had tied. Only one stroke behind their first-place total of 918 was the Great Britain-Ireland team, which led after the first two rounds; and in fourth place, only three strokes behind, was a surprising New Zealand team, which on the third day had put together rounds of 72, 76 and 77 (for a day's total of 225) to bolt into the lead by three strokes over the United States and four over Great Britain-Ireland and Australia.

The playoff between the Australians and Americans took place on Monday the 13th, two days after the finish of the tournament proper, since no golf is permitted on the Old Course on Sundays. The weather was much more benign than it had been, and the Australian team took full advantage of it. Their winning score of 222, two shots lower than the Americans could manage, was a compound of a 75 by Peter Toogood, another 75 by the team captain, Bob Stevens, and a really remarkable 72 by young Bruce Devlin, who came sweeping home with eight consecutive 4s and then added a birdie 3 on the last hole. (Doug Bachli, the fourth member of the Australian team, had a 78, which did not figure in the scoring:) Devlin was playing in the second of the four twosomes; though his final birdie was extremely important, it was another birdie 3 on the home hole, registered some five minutes later by Bob Stevens, playing in the third twosome, which was the critical blow. As Stevens was preparing to putt his seven-footer on the 18th, Billy Joe Patton was standing by on the edge of that green, waiting for a crack at the slightly shorter putt he had for his birdie, and on the 17th green Charley Coe, playing in the last twosome, was about to putt the 10-footer he needed for his 4. Stevens holed and both Patton and Coe missed, but had it been the other way around, the United States would have won by one shot—the contest was that close and that hard fought right down to the wire. Coe finished with a 73, Patton with a 75, Bud Taylor with a 76, and Bill Hyndman, whose score did not enter into the figuring, with a 78.

The Australian victory was well earned and extremely well deserved. From tee to green in the playoff they produced very steady stuff, and on the greens they were a little more sure of themselves than the Americans. In the final analysis the putting made the difference, but then it usually does, and all credit goes to the quietly determined young men from Australia who traveled 11,000 miles to play in the championship, held their purpose after they had got off to a very rocky start on the first day of play and reached their peak in the playoff.

It was a hard tournament, however, for the American team to lose, not only because of their first-class job in Monday's playoff but also because of the storybook finish they had made on Saturday to tie the Australian team and so set up the playoff.

On that Saturday, the fourth and final day of the tournament proper, with only one threesome still out on the course, the chances of the American team seemed slim indeed. Bud Taylor, Billy Joe Patton and Charley Coe had brought in a 78, a 79 and a 78, respectively, for a temporary team total of 235, a full eight shots higher than the completed Australian aggregate. Playing in the last threesome were Eddie McDougall of New Zealand, Guy Wolstenholme of Britain and Bill Hyndman of the United States. How McDougall finished was not really important—the other members of the New Zealand team had posted such high scores that they were almost definitely out of contention. However, there was enormous pressure on both Wolstenholme and Hyndman. When all the arithmetic was boiled down it came to this: if Wolstenholme could come in with a 76 Great Britain and Ireland would finish in a tie with Australia. (Wolstenholme just missed, though his 77 was a commendable effort.) As for Hyndman, the tall, casual Philadelphian faced an almost impossible assignment. He needed to bring in a 72 to effect a tie with Australia and, standing one over par with two holes to go, that meant he would have to pick up a birdie 3 either on the 17th, the notorious road hole, or on the 18th with its treacherous green.

Bill Hyndman was a hero. To understand to what degree he was, it will help if you know something about the 17th. It is a fairly straightaway hole running 453 yards to a long, thin green that is only some 45 feet wide on its upper level, where the pin is invariably placed. In our American golf parlance the 17th is now rated as a par 4 but for years it was informally considered a 5, fours being so hard to come by. A stone wall runs the entire length of the hole along the right. Just in front of the wall is a road. This road continues right behind the green. In that area it happens to be paved. Between the road and the green is a bank of heavy rough. Behind it, of course, is the wall. There is no greater physical hazard (or psychological one) in golf than this combination of the bank, the road and the wall. Rare indeed is the golfer who, having gone over the green, is able to pitch or roll his recovery back onto the putting surface on his first attempt and not see his ball either expire in the bank of rough or dart over the thin green into the road bunker or other trouble on the far side. So many rounds have been ruined on the road hole that it has been intelligent practice for decades for a golfer to play his second safely short of the green, then chip up the slope to the higher terrace on his third and take his chances on holing his putt for his 4. Under the circumstances, though, Bill Hyndman had to accept the risk of going for the pin on his approach, regardless of what happened.

He had driven well and had a four-iron left. "I'm going to go for it," he said inquiringly to Bob Jones, the captain of the American team. Bobby nodded his approval. Bill then came through with a really beautiful shot. He hit it full with just enough left-to-right drift on it so that it would hold its line despite the heavy wind blowing across the hole from the right. The ball came down on the front edge of the upper terrace and came very close to hitting the pin as it ghosted by on the fast green. He was left with a terribly touchy five-foot putt for his 3. He thought he should play the ball an inch to the left of the hole. His caddie said no, play for the left center of the cup. He did, and he holed it. That 3 on what may well be the most fearsome par 4 in the entire world did it, for Hyndman went on to play a resolute par on the 18th and, in fact, came within inches of holing the 18-footer he had for his birdie. This heroic effort tied the match. During the four rounds of the tournament proper there was only one round below 72, a 71 by Peter Toogood of Australia on the third day. The Old Course is never easy to score on, but it has rarely been more ferocious for tournament play than it was for this championship. It was the weather, of course. On all four days a chill, gusty, whirling wind from out of the west and south swept boisterously over the unprotected links, frequently with the velocity and force of a gale. Any score below 80 was a mild triumph of navigation. Not that the wind ever really abated, but on the afternoon of the first day it was probably at its worst. It blew one player, a slightly built Filipino, right off a tee. It made putting, especially on the "loop holes," a nightmare. Several players had to call penalty strokes on themselves when their ball, blown by the wind, moved as they were addressing a putt. The tilted green on the short 11th could hardly be coped with. Arthur Perowne of the British team, for example, had a 10-foot sidehiller there for his deuce. He tapped the ball into the cup. It jumped out again and started trickling down the slope of the green. Before it stopped it was 20 feet below the hole. He then tapped his next putt uphill to the lip of the cup, ran up quickly and holed for his 4 before the wind could blow his ball down the incline again.

Despite the arduous conditions, the first World Amateur Championship was a wonderfully fine tournament, far more gripping and exciting than many people had guessed it might be but, good as the match was, it was the occasion and not the match that was significant. All during the week, when a golfer walked through the town, he saw golf friends from all over the world—Jacques Leglise, the dapper president of the French Golf Association, popping in at Laurie Auchterlonie's to try out a set of irons he had seen in the window; Shun Nomura, the head of the Japanese delegation, shepherding two of his young players back to their hotel for tea; Bud Taylor, from Pomona, trying on spiked shoes in a local bootery since his own pair had been packed in his golf bag, and the bag, as luck would have it, was delayed en route and arrived only on the eve of the tournament; and so on and on. During the four days of play, threesomes made up of players each from a different country poured over the links, and all week, when you leaned against the fence behind the vast 18th green in the chill gloaming and watched the threesomes coming up the last hole, you took in an endless series of brief and powerful vignettes: young Ashok Malik of the Indian team, who had finished earlier in the day, watching ever so intently as his father, Iqbal Malik, gray-bearded and blue-turbaned, sighted the subtle roll of his putt; Chang Tung-Chang, from Nationalist China, walking off the home green into a pack of Scottish schoolboys who insisted he autograph their books not with his "Western" signature but in Chinese characters; Archie Compston, the old lion himself, over in the capacity of coach of the Bermuda team, squinting dourly down the fairway to the distant tee and proclaiming with his usual rumble, "That little Filipino chap, that Luis Silverio, can't weigh more than 130 pounds, but he drives that ruddy ball a good 20 yards farther than any of the boys on my team" and so on and on.


Continue Story
1 2