This week a fairly bizarre phenomenon is taking place: a group of 1,592 serious-faced young men from all corners of the nation is converging on Boston, yet culture is the last thing on their minds. They are the qualifiers for the 57th U.S. Amateur Championship, which will be held next week (Sept. 9-14) at The Country Club in Brookline, and if they are serious it is understandable: the Amateur is a match-play elimination tournament composed of six rounds of precarious 18-hole matches preceding the 36-hole semifinals and final, and providing he is smack on his game and his putter is purring, Monday's unknown upstart can be quickly metamorphosed into Friday's favorite.
It takes more than a very good player, it takes quite a great player to be somewhat invulnerable to the high fatality rate of the Amateur. Such a golfer was Harvie Ward, the convivial Carolinian, who won both the 1955 and 1956 championships to become the first man to score successive victories in the Amateur since Lawson Little was trampling out the vintage back in the '30s. Ward, however, will not be on hand to defend his title, having been suspended from amateur competition for one year when the U.S. Golf Association adjudged last June that he had accepted illegal travel expenses to several tournaments. With Ward absent, there will be no one outstanding favorite but five men in particular will bear watching: Billy Joe Patton, the eloquent lumberman, low amateur in this year's Open; Rex Baxter, currently the Trans-Mississippi and Intercollegiate champion; young Joe Campbell, the Indiana towhead, a semifinalist last year and a dogged match player; Bill Campbell from West Virginia, winner of the Mexican and the North and South championships this season; and Dr. Bud Taylor, a dentist from southern California, a very impressive shotmaker who was tied for low amateur in the 1957 Masters.
Every unknown in the field at The Country Club will be drawing strength and inspiration from the ever-present realization that it was on this course some 44 years ago that Francis Ouimet, a virtually unknown 20-year-old amateur, achieved the most stunning upset victory in all golfing history when he outplayed those two giants of British golf, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, in the 1913 Open (see page 31). Before Francis' epochal triumph, golf was viewed by most Americans as a fitting plaything for the rich and fragile. Francis' victory singlehandedly paved the way for golf's development into a great democratic sport, the game which today is played by 5 million Americans from all walks of life.