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AMATEUR HEROES
Herbert Warren Wind
September 30, 1957
Billy Joe Patton, Reid Jack, Hillman Robbins, Bud Taylor were four of the many who emerged in the Walker Cup and the National Amateur
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September 30, 1957

Amateur Heroes

Billy Joe Patton, Reid Jack, Hillman Robbins, Bud Taylor were four of the many who emerged in the Walker Cup and the National Amateur

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"They're jest farn where they are," Patton answered with a smile. "Now you folks," he added with all the poise of Sir Laurence Olivier as he turned his attention to the spectators jammed in the rough in a long line parallel to the intended flight of his ball, "you jest stand where you are. Everything's under control. Have confidence in me."

Hooding his four-iron to keep the ball under the overhanging limbs, Patton eyed his narrow opening, quieted himself over the ball, swept the club back with golf's fastest backswing...and almost before you realized that the ball had been struck, it had shot the gap cleanly and was buzzing on a low line right for the green. It bounded onto the green but had just a little too much legs and rolled on over to end up a yard or so in the rough behind the green.

How that Patton wears you out! First he all but canceled out his remarkable recovery by fluffing his chip barely onto the green. Then he holed the 20-footer he had left himself. When Reid Jack missed his try for his bird, Patton had scrambled a turbulent half and was once more in a position to force his counterattack.

Here are just a few of the routines which golf's most talented (and practiced) escape artist came up with from that point on:

On the 27th, 510 yards, most of them uphill, he reached the green with two great woods. His birdie squared the match. (He was out in 32.)

On the 30th, a medium-length par 4, Jack hit a fine drive, another wonderful iron about eight feet from the hole, just missed his putt. Patton pushed his drive into the trees, manufactured a recovery into the rough in the vicinity of the green, chipped to four feet and sank the putt. On the card: two 4s. Match still square.

A deeper draught of the same bitter mixture for Jack on the 31st. The Scot seemed in a position to go out in front again on the 536-yard par 5 when two good woods placed him about 10 yards short of the green. Billy Joe, having crisscrossed the fairway twice with a pulled tee-shot and a faded if prodigious iron, was playing three from a slippery downhill lie in the wooded rough 40 yards to the right of the pin. It was Jack who needed three to get down and Patton only two, for Billy Joe played a lovely running pitch that took the roll of the green perfectly and died 18 inches from the stick. Patton, 1 up, ahead for the first time.

On the 34th, still holding a one-hole lead after losing the 32nd and taking the 33rd, Billy Joe again hooked his drive deep into the rough. The task confronting him was to slash his ball out in such a way that it would start off low enough to stay under the branches of the trees surrounding him and still get up quickly enough to clear the tops of the tall trees which, from his novel avenue of approach, blocked the way to the crown green on this 407-yard 4. Well, that's just what the man did, except that he not only hit the green, he dropped the ball 10 feet from the hole. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Jack had played a fine five-iron from the center of the fairway to within nine feet of the hole. There is such a thing as justice in this world and here, I think it was done. Patton's try for his birdie trickled an inch or so below the cup, and Jack holed his, his ball kissing off Patton's (which he left for just such a contingency) and ralling in. Match square again.

And there was no doubt that justice was done on the 35th where the match was decided. As usual a bit shorter and considerably straighter than Patton, Jack elected to play a nine-iron for his second on this drive-and-pitch 4 where the large green sits about five feet above a long trap that guards it the full width of its front entrance. The pin was set up front about 18 thin feet beyond the trap. Knowing he had to be up above everything else, Jack hit too full a shot; it finished well past the pin, about 55 feet past. Patton's shot now. Standing in the edge of the rough about 100 yards out, he punched a low wedge that came down softly on the front porch of the green and stopped 12 feet to the left of the cup. Billy Joe did not make that putt but it was the match anyway, for Jack rimmed the cup from eight feet on his all-important second putt. On the 355-yard 36th Billy Joe had his par all the way, and Jack could do no better. Patton, 1 up.

Patton and Jack both made their exits rather early in the Amateur, Pat-ton losing in the second round after he had spent more time in the woods than Thoreau, Jack having the bad luck to run up against another hot opponent who was out in 32. By Thursday afternoon when the voluminous field had pared itself down to the eight quarter-finalists, so much had happened so rapidly that the many brilliant personal exploits of the first three days seemed as remote as ancient history. That is the way it always is in the Amateur. The round of eight, though, will be long remembered, I think, for in the opinion of old and calloused golf hands it was the finest quarter-finals the National Amateur has ever produced, both in the uniformly high caliber of the golfers who reached it and the first-class golf they shot at each other in all four matches—Bud Taylor vs. Gene Andrews, Mason Rudolph vs. Dick Yost, Hillman Robbins vs. Dick Chapman, and Rex Baxter vs. Phil Rodgers.

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