Take him off the motorcycle and the surfboard or take the beer out of his hand and the girls off his back and Bruce Fleisher will go out and hit the golf ball a ton—250, 265, 280 yards, way out there, anywhere. He will hit it off gravel roads to save a par or out of gaping sand to make a birdie, or he will even hit it off the fairways and finesse it on the greens to win the U.S. Amateur Championship.
That is just what golf's new Golden Guy, 19-year-old Bruce Fleisher of Miami, did last week at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio. He did it with his shirt napping out at the waist, his frayed wool tattersall pants low on the hips and the coeds gathered all around him. And he did it with his Robert Wagner face grinning at all the skirts, his Steve McQueen saunter eating up the ground, and his movie-star style just knocking everybody stone dead. Swagger and sway, Bruce Fleisher did, and damn those old fossils of The Establishment, anyway. Teen Angel is back; sex appeal has returned to amateur golf.
Fleisher shot 73-70-71-70—284, four over par, at beautiful Scioto last week, and only a brilliant 65 by Vinnie Giles on the final day prevented him from spread-eagling the field and sending America's best amateurs cowering to the clubhouse in embarrassment. Giles's 65, which brought him to within one stroke of Fleisher (and to a second straight second place finish in the Amateur) was ironically a clarion call for maturity. Vinnie, at 25, was the oldest of the top seven finishers. Among the mystery kids way up there were John Bohmann, 21, of Texas Lutheran, and Hubert Green, 21, of Florida State, who finished third and fourth, and two Texas collegians, Bob Barbarossa and Rik Massengale. But it was the 6'3" sandy-haired Fleisher, who came from the deepest pit of obscurity—the National Junior College Championship—to stardom at the Amateur.
Apart from his beautiful swing and controlled hand action which had purists in the crowd marveling at his every move, Bruce came on with a certain flash seldom seen around the USGA tents. "Broads, great broads are all over the place. Broads about drove me crazy," he said after one round. "I'm from Miami-Dade Junior College. I'm retarded," he said after another.
Bruce wore white tape on his left wrist ("for the fans") and those fringed-bottom pants to all the press meetings, where he would sing into the microphone a little and then talk about his attire. "They're Miami style. They're my style," he said with a laugh.
Bruce Fleisher laughed a lot last week, mostly right out there on the course while he was taking a share of the halfway lead, then holding the third-round lead alone and finally winning the whole ball game. He was not exactly underconfident about it, either. "Tough luck," said a friend after a double bogey on the first day. "Stick around, I'll be back," said Bruce Fleisher.
The fact that Fleisher and a few of his closest pursuers were, up until last week, nameless, faceless wonders who had come out of Everytown, USA to find themselves at the peak of amateur golf in this country was not as astounding as it seemed, nor at all difficult to explain.
Many USGA officials agree that it is becoming harder and harder for the most consistent of the "name" players in amateur golf even to qualify for the tournament, much less win it. There were a record 2,086 entries at the 40 qualifying sites three weeks ago, playing for 147 open spots at Scioto. Some locations had an abundance of slots to fill, and some fields were easier than others, but the national average of survivors balanced out to a hard, brutal figure: one out of 14 made it to Columbus.
Though two places were reserved for national champions of the past five years and one place for the British Open champion, only 32 of the 150 men who teed off on Wednesday had returned from the field that started play in the 1967 Amateur at Broadmoor in Colorado. The percentage of turnover at the Amateur has been moving steadily upward for several years, especially since the event was transformed into medal play in 1965, but this year's figure (79% new faces) is certainly a modern high.
However, some old faces were immediately recognizable. Familiar ones like Campbell, Tutwiler and Gray made it to Scioto, even if others such as Coe, Updegraff and Hyndmann did not.