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golf's jekyll & hyde
John Underwood
June 18, 1973
Some say Bruce Crampton is cruel, officious and humorless, others, that he is warm, kind and helpful. Everyone agrees, however, that out on the course he has monstrous talent
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June 18, 1973

Golf's Jekyll & Hyde

Some say Bruce Crampton is cruel, officious and humorless, others, that he is warm, kind and helpful. Everyone agrees, however, that out on the course he has monstrous talent

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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.

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."

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