Practically everyone in amateur golf has come to understand that the biennial Walker Cup, born in 1921 to stimulate international competition and foster goodwill between the United States and Great Britain, has in reality become nothing so much as a chalice from which Americans drink heaping portions of ego juice every two years. Unlike a few of our other foreign escapades, the good old U.S. of A. does the kicking around in the Walker Cup.
What always happens is that the British come over to the States for a few days, take off their sweaters and get the tea beat out of them. Two years later, our guys go to Britain, put on rain parkas, unfurl the umbrellas and beat the British again. It is an adventure in yawning. You know, awfully good show and all that. Until last week American teams had lost only once in half a century of cup competition, and nothing blowing in the heather of St. Andrews indicated that this year's outcome would be any different. A U.S. team member said sadly, "The Walker Cup should be the biggest thing in amateur golf but, let's face it, nobody cares. I guess we just win too much."
Somebody cared this time. What happened Wednesday and Thursday was exhilarating golf competition that caused, as one St. Andrews man said, anguish, excitement and nervous exhaustion. The British underdogs came spectacularly from behind late in the second day to win six of eight singles matches and their first Walker Cup since 1938. Three newcomers to cup competition—a doughy-faced Scot, Hugh Stuart and two fearless young stylists, Roddy Carr and Warren Humphreys—carried the fight. Stuart, an insurance inspector from Ayr, and Carr, the son of Ireland's former Cupper, Joe Carr, went unbeaten in singles and combined for their side's only foursomes' victory on Thursday. Humphreys, a tousle-haired 19-year-old with sparkling teeth and a look remindful of Bobby Sherman, the teen dream singer, edged America's powerful Steve Melnyk in a crucial singles match on the final day.
It would be wrong to say the British were without optimism before the matches. They knew that the USGA had an unusually difficult time picking this year's team, that Hell Bunker, the Principal's Nose and the other little potholes John Farquhar of the U.S. called "grenade pits" would take their toll and that the weather would inevitably deteriorate to standards favorable to the British: rainy, cold and miserable.
"Technically we are as good as the Americans," said John Jacobs, the distinguished British golf teacher. Michael Bonallack, the British captain, also liked his chances. "I've never known a more balanced British side," he said.
In that spirit the challengers swept the alternate-shot foursomes Wednesday morning to give Britain a 4-0 lead, the first time that had ever happened in Walker Cup play. Young Humphreys played beautifully despite what he called "the shakies" to carry Bonallack to a 1-up victory, and Carr and Charlie Green defeated the top American pair, Melnyk and Vinny Giles, by the same score.
In the afternoon, not 15 minutes after the final singles matches were off the tee, a day that had begun clear and sunny turned into porridge. The green dunes of the Old Course were whipped by the changing winds off St. Andrews Bay, and the rain poured down. Paradoxically, the American fortunes immediately perked up, especially at the 466-yard 17th—the famous Road Hole.
No. 17 takes no prisoners. Green, a Scot from Dumbarton who distributes Ballantine's Scotch and, it is said, drinks a wee bit o' it, too, hit short there and lost his match to Lanny Wadkins. Allen Miller of the U.S. ran in a 14-foot putt to beat Geoffrey Marks. And in between came Giles, who hit over the green in three, then chipped from an impossible lie off a gravel path and stood in shock as the ball took one bounce, hit the pin and—that's all, folks—dropped in the cup for a stunning par. Bonallack hurled his own ball to the ground in despair and, when he respotted it on the green, missed a five-footer and lost 1 up. Melnyk finished off his opponent before 17, and only Farquhar (beaten by Stuart) and veteran Bill Hyndman (who halved with the stubborn Carr) lost points in the singles. The United States had taken the lead 6� to 5�.
Giles was speechless about the shot that won his singles match. "What can I say?" he asked. "I was dead." "We're O.K. now," said Melnyk that night over dinner. "I'd say we'll win at least nine of the 12 points tomorrow."
Thursday morning thousands of Scots—including bicyclists, babies in carriages and uncounted leashed hounds—turned out to watch another British defeat. The Americans won two of the foursomes—one when Miller topped a ball that skipped over the burn onto the green anyway, leaving Farquhar with a 70-foot putt that he dropped for a birdie. Still, Britain halved one match, and a 1-up victory by Carr and Stuart sent them to the afternoon singles behind only 9 points to 7.