IT'S NOT so obvious today, but amateur participation is central to the Masters, in accordance with the wishes of Bobby Jones, the tournament's cofounder. Jack Nicklaus first played in the Masters as an amateur, as did Tiger Woods. Ken Venturi nearly won the Masters as an amateur. Most years a handful of amateurs play. There used to be many more. Bill Campbell played in 18 Masters as an amateur over a span of 26 years. No amateur alive has played in more. "Quantity," says Campbell, "not quality."
He's a truly modest man. Campbell, the only person to serve as president of the USGA and as captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, is 84 and one of golf's grand old men, not that he'd ever own up to the title. "What I am," he says, "is about the last man standing."
He played in his first U.S. Amateur in 1938 and in his last U.S. Senior Open in 1992. In his Masters years, as a competitor or rules official or honorary invitee, he met Jones in his Augusta National cabin, was paired with Gene Sarazen and ate at the same Amateur Dinner as Woods. Through the people Campbell has known, a long sweep of Masters play lies in the memory of one man.
His college years, along with his amateur golf career, were interrupted by the 42 months he served in the Army during World War II. When he returned to the golf team at Princeton, he was a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve. When he finally won the U.S. Amateur, in 1964, he was 41, with a Main Street insurance business, a wife, six children and a game that received only sporadic attention.
Yes, that mold's broken.
1 Mr. Roberts
As a semifinalist in the 1949 U.S. Amateur, I played in my first Masters in '50 and my second a year later, when my father and I flew from Huntington, W.Va., to Augusta together in our small plane, my clubs on the backseat. It was the Saturday before the tournament, and he accompanied me to the course, which was nearly empty. I asked my father, a lawyer and an 80s shooter, if he wanted to join me for my practice round, which he naturally did. We had only the one set of clubs, so the caddie master found a set for my father.
We played our round, and my father headed home. Inside the clubhouse Helen Harris, the club's office manager, said to me, "Mr. Roberts would like to see you in his apartment." She was referring to Clifford Roberts, the Augusta National chairman who started the tournament with Bobby Jones in 1934. I didn't know Mr. Roberts, but I knew, as many in golf did, of his reputation for being stern. I couldn't imagine why he wanted to see me.
He said, "Who were you playing golf with today?"
"My father," I answered. I was 27, a businessman and a member of the West Virginia State Legislature.