A more important reason for reverting to match play was that by 1973 control of the 15-man USGA executive committee had fallen to a group of relatively young traditionalists such as 55-year-old Frank D. (Sandy) Tatum Jr., of whom an associate says fondly, "In Tatum's mind, Bob Jones is going to rise again." To Tatum golf is a calling, as to the priesthood, and the preservation of its traditions is more important than public opinion or the size of any gallery.
"We are aware," says Frank Hannigan, the USGA's assistant director, "that if you polled the field now, 175 out of 200 players would vote for stroke play. They don't want to lose in an early round. But that doesn't mean the inmates should run the asylum. We say that for the purpose of naming a national champion, match play is just as valid as stroke play. Does match play identify the best 16? Probably not. The top 16 at stroke play would probably beat the final 16 from match play. But naming the best 16 is not our goal. Naming a champion is. Match play is very personal and terribly hard on some psyches. It's hard to flat-out lose. In stroke play if you finish 10th you don't lose."
Andy Bean is the kind of golfer who is very much on the minds of the USGA's blue coats these days, the kind of college player who has dominated the amateur ranks in recent years, helped by the growth of scholarship programs. For nine months of the year, as members of college teams, they play every day and compete every couple of weeks, all expenses paid. They are not pros. They do not win prize money or give lessons for money. They pay their own way to the big amateur events. But they fall somewhere between the letter and the spirit of the USGA's rigid amateur code. As Bean says, "I couldn't do it if my father didn't finance me. You can't work and play golf."
If the whole point of segregating amateurs and pros is to provide fair competition for people who work for a living and play golf for fun, where does the 6'4" Bean belong right now? Before long he and the rest of this year's crop will probably have turned pro. But meanwhile they are changing the face of the hoary U.S. Amateur. The average age of the field at Richmond was 21�. Fifteen percent of the golfers were teen-agers. There was no defending champion because Jerry Pate turned pro in July. In fact, Vinny Giles and Gary Cowan are the only champions in 10 years who have not turned pro. The USGA is dismayed but it has no remedy. Former USGA President Phil Strubing suggested, facetiously, that no one be allowed to be an amateur until he is out of college. Hannigan puts the blame on college presidents who, he feels, exploit golf as a cheap method for placating athletically ambitious alumni.
"It's our conundrum," says Hannigan, "and it's beyond us. We are hoping that Title IX and college economics in general will slow the trend and pull us out. The kids have developed mannerisms that appall us Peter Pans in the USGA. At the Walker Cup, which is really a lovely thing, a kid missed a putt and the jerk threw his putter off the green. At the British Amateur a caddie dropped another kid's bag and said, 'I've had enough of you.' I put that caddie on my Christmas card list."
Whatever way the wind blows in college golf, the U.S. Amateur will go on and the real amateurs will continue to play. Golf is, after all, a game for dreamers and there is no discouraging dreamers.