Bill Hyndmann IV was there, it is true, succeeding where his more renowned father, Bill III, had failed. Considering the vast concentration of youth at the top of the leader boards all week, it was also noteworthy that only two members of the eight-man All-America college team (Jack Lewis Jr. of Wake Forest and Allen Miller of Georgia) had qualified. Instead, the Amateur was populated by such fascinating figures as a cement-block multimillionaire who owns the Detroit Playboy Club; a tiny Indian duplicate of Lee Trevino; and a Los Angeles hot dog who is an ex-husband of Jill St. John. And don't forget all those kids with no names.
Until Fleisher's surge to the top, the Scioto focus had been mostly on Michael Bonallack, the debonair Englishman who is a combination of all the Albert Finney characters ever seen and who won practically every British amateur event there was to win in 1968. American galleries know him, too; Bonallack had played in two previous U.S. Amateurs (in 1961 and 1965), on five Walker Cup teams and in the 1966 Masters, where he missed the cut. He also made an appearance last January, while on a business trip, at the Kaiser Open in Silverado outside San Francisco, where he was the low amateur. But all of this had come before he changed his hurdy-gurdy swing to a more fluid, one-piece motion. "I was never really much of a golfer before this year," he said at Scioto. "But my wrists aren't rolling anymore, and I can hit it much farther."
Bonallack had previously hit the ball with the flippy wrist action at the top of his backswing that is so common among British players. Sometimes he was so flippy that he struck himself in the back with the club head. This habit prevented him from gaining both accuracy and the distance expected of a man of his proportions (6'1½", 190 pounds). But during the winter Bonallack had his swing changed at Leslie King's Golf School in London, and the results have proved dramatic. He won his Essex County championship by 19 shots. In June he destroyed Joe Carr in the finals of the British Amateur 7 and 6, and in July he led the British Open after the first round. He also shot a 61 in the morning round of a match for the English Amateur championship, which he then won 12 and 11.
Michael's wife, the former Angela Ward, was a Curtis Cup team member six times and the winner of the English women's title twice, and his sister, Sally Barber, is the present English women's champion. With all that golfing tradition and all that golfing family and a new, nonflippy swing as well, Michael Bonallack looked like a pretty good bet to win the U.S. Amateur.
When he arrived at Scioto for three practice rounds, Bonallack was greeted warmly and treated as a visiting celebrity, which he was, and housed extravagantly in a British castle, which it was, almost. He stayed with Gerald Gal-breath, the nephew of John Galbreath, owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Darby Dan Farm, whose home, with its five chimneys and seven bedrooms, resembles a royal English manor and sits just off the third green at Scioto.
In addition to the Galbreaths, Bonallack seemed to have brought along his own vest-pocket gallery. There was Ben Wright of the Financial Times, Pat Ward Thomas of The Guardian and Rex Bellamy of The Times of London, all of whom had come across the ocean to cover Michael. And then there was Ken Platt, an Englishman from nearby Worthington, Ohio, who carried a genuine Union Jack and a towel inscribed, "I'm backing Britain." They had figured on Michael's winning, as had many others who installed him as the favorite, but they had not figured on Scioto.
Universally recognized among the fine courses in America, Scioto was fully expected to be a demanding test even if left to its own resources. The second hole, a 436-yard uphill par 4 and the 14th, a 235-yard horror show of a par 3, are two of the toughest holes anywhere, but all week long much criticism had been leveled at the USGA for tampering with the course and, because of its passion for par 70 layouts, shortening the eighth hole from 510 to 450 yards, thus creating an impossible par 4.
"This is a great course, but it is difficult enough as it is," said Bill Campbell, who won the last match play Amateur in 1964. "The way they have set it up now, it is a U.S. Open course—a pro-type course—and we're all amateurs."
Of all the rounds played during the tournament, only five were under par, a fact that attests to Campbell's concern. The evil 8th was not impossible, but it was terrifying for anyone who, after walking down the fairway to his tee shot, looked up at the scene in front of him. There, not far away, was a wide creek that flowed left into a wider lake that funneled into the island green 180 yards away and then, moat-like, curled completely around it. A yawning trap guarded the right front of the green, and large willows wept along the rear. And then there was that water all around.
If a golfer paused long enough to stop trembling, he might appreciate the beauty of the hole, or at least be able to choose a club to hold the slick surface. But then there were those gray-haired, blazered officials, standing watch on the island like a flock of buzzards, just waiting to tell everyone where his ball went into the water and where he should drop it. And there were all those people gathered along the banks, joking and laughing at all the splashes and watching everybody drop it. And then, sure enough—plunk, plunk, plunk—you went in the water and then you dropped it. Oh, it was a helluva lot of fun, the 8th.