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"With the general sporting public, yes," says Joseph C. Dey, the highly efficient executive director of the United States Golf Association. "I hear people ask 'Who is the Amateur champion?" This is a question that never would have been voiced back when Bob Jones and Francis Ouimet were playing. But among people who play and really know the game, there is an opposite trend. The Amateur gets more and more entries every year, currently close to 2,000. The tournament may be poorly attended by spectators, but it is well attended by players. Early in the week we have more players than spectators, and this is just fine. We feel that the Amateur is purely a players' tournament, not a spectators' tournament."
Lean, 39-year-old Charlie Coe, the 1949 and 1958 Amateur winner who lost a semifinal match with Sikes on the 35th hole last week, agrees that the Amateur is not slipping, even if its public reputation is.
"There are more people playing golf, amateur golf, all the time," he says. "I doubt if professional golf will ever seriously riddle the ranks of the good amateur players. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus might be able to make a lot of money out of playing golf, but they are exceptional cases. I'll admit when I was younger I gave that phase of golf a thought, but not much of one. I'm like a lot of others. I like to enjoy life, take it easy, know what I'm going to be doing the next day. You can't do that when you're playing a lot of tournament golf."
Deane Beman, while he is hardly one to take life easy, is exactly the type of player that Joe Dey and Charlie Coe have in mind when they say that the supply of fine amateurs will not run dry. This year Beman has entered few events. "I simply haven't had the time to play," he says. "But I was hitting the ball well when I came here. What I forced myself to do was to concentrate extra hard."
When it came time to accept the big, gold winner's trophy, his concentration was still apparent. In fact, he did not seem unduly elated. But his pretty brunette wife, Miriam, was on the verge of tears.
"I know how much this really means to Deane," she said. "Much more than winning the first time. He's working up to 18 hours a day on his business now, but he has tried so hard to keep his golf game in shape. It was awfully hard. I was serving dinner plenty of times at 11 o'clock at night.
"But it's worth it," she added, clapping her hands gleefully. "Think how nice that gold trophy will look back on our marble coffee table again."