Daddy, what is an amateur?
An amateur, son, is a man of 25 or more who plays tournament golf for fun.
Well, Daddy, if he wants to play tournament golf, why isn't he a pro?
Because, son, he has $8,000 to $10,000 a year to spend on his golf.
What about all those young college boys, Daddy? Do they have that much money to spend on golf?
Watch the man hit the ball, son. I haven't got time for any more questions.
Last week, at the renowned Merion Golf Club outside Philadelphia, the U.S. Amateur Championship was played for the 66th time, the oldest golf championship anywhere in this country. No course in America has more tradition or golf history associated with it, so it was completely fitting that the 1966 Amateur should turn out to be not only exciting, but a tournament that showed the pattern of amateurs for years to come. There can be no doubt about it. Now that the old knockout match play is a thing of the past and the championship is decided by 72 holes of stroke play, it will henceforth become a contest of the old and the wise against the young and the strong. The middle ground of amateur golf is now clearly gone—they are all pros.
When you put the young ones on a big, wide-open course, such as Southern Hills in Tulsa last year, they can crash their drives out into the wild blue yonder, and there is no way for the old folks to keep up. But Merion is something else again. The winner at Merion must triumph through seasoned cunning or precocious guile. Power is not the answer. This course, which was so painstakingly and artfully created before World War I that it is almost the same today as it was then, will not allow you to take any youthful liberties. It is short by today's standards, but position is everything. It also has what Joseph C. Dey Jr. of the USGA calls the most difficult finishing holes on any championship course. The last three of these holes must be played across an abandoned quarry, and just the thought of them is enough to bring spastic jerks into the swing of the coolest golfer. Ask Deane Beman.
Beman is only 28, but he rates with the old folks because he is wise in the ways of the game. After all, he won his first major championship, the British Amateur, back in 1959, and he has won the U.S. Amateur twice since then.
Merion's closing holes, however, made Beman even older last week. He had played wonderfully consistent golf the first two days with an opening 71 on Wednesday followed by a fine 67 on Thursday. On Friday he was only one stroke over par playing through the 14th and sailing along so serenely that his four-stroke lead over 42-year-old Roger McManus, his nearest challenger, looked as safe as Philadelphia scrapple at a gourmet dinner.