As the sun sank behind the 18th tee at the St. Louis Country Club one day last week, it seemed entirely possible that the four semi-final spots in the 60th National Amateur golf championship would soon be occupied by fuzzy-cheeked kids. Leading the way at one point in the quarter-finals was a relatively old gentleman of 22 named Deane Beman, closely followed by three teen-agers.
As it turned out, of this group only Beman and Charles Francis Lewis III, who is 19, made it into the semifinals. But a third survivor, John Farquhar from Amarillo, Texas, was only 24 years old, and along with the defeated defending champion, Jack Nicklaus, and a dozen or so other players, he helped make it quite clear that tournament golf, at least on the amateur level, is becoming a young man's sport.
Lewis is a case in point. Called Junior Junior to distinguish him from his father, a pro at the Little Rock Country Club, he has a swing that belongs in a bowling alley. He crouches low over the ball, then leans way back on his right foot, his head swaying like a metronome. His back-swing is exceptionally short, his down-swing begins with a loop and a violent lurch to the left. But, oddly enough, the results are good, and he plays with such confidence that it never occurs to him that he will lose. Lewis met Defending Champion Nicklaus (SI, Sept. 12), only 20 himself, in the fourth round of match play. Nicklaus was 10 under par for the first three rounds, had been playing brilliantly, and apparently was headed for his second championship in a row. What did Lewis think? "I knew he was playing good," Lewis said, "but I thought maybe he'd have a letdown and I'd beat him." He did, too, when Nicklaus' putting went sour.
His victory made Lewis the story of the tournament. Large, appreciative galleries goggled at his peculiar style, and then gasped as he hit many shots close to the cup. He sailed through the fifth and sixth rounds, and it wasn't until he met Bob Gardner, 39, a former California and New York Metropolitan champion, that he faltered. Gardner was meeting his third consecutive 19-year-old and his game was beginning to tire. Time after time he and Lewis failed to cash in on their chances. Finally, on the 35th, Gardner banged in an 11-foot putt for a winning par, and the match ended. "I'm all worn out," he said as he tottered off the green toward the quiet sanctity of his hotel room. "I'm a nervous wreck."
The one person who wasn't a nervous wreck, of course, was Beman, whom Gardner would meet in the final. Beman's only scare in the tournament came in a hard fought quarter-final match—the week's best—with Bill Hyndman III, the tall 44-year-old long-ball hitter from Philadelphia. Hyndman, second to Beman in the 1959 British Amateur, is one of the finest golfers in the country, but until he absorbs some of the courage of youth on the putting greens he will never win an important event.
Beman took a three-hole lead after only four had been played. Hyndman, following approach shots that bounced to within two, six, 10 and three feet from the hole, scored four birdies to even the match after nine holes. But Hyndman was working very hard over every shot and every putt. The physical strain finally affected his usually faultless swing. Lashing into an iron shot to the 188-yard 16th, he shanked the ball far over into the 17th fairway and lost the hole. The next two holes were halved in par, but the match ended on the first extra hole when Beman stood up to a 15-foot putt and rapped it into the cup as casually as if he had been taking a practice swing.
Against Gardner in the final Beman shot a 3-under-par 68 in the morning for a three-hole lead he never gave up. Gardner played very good golf (he was two over par for the day), but Beman chipped two more strokes from par in the afternoon and closed out the match, rather decisively, on the 32nd hole.
Between now and next year's Amateur at Pebble Beach in California, Deane Randolph Beman, who is the ninth person to have won both the U.S. and British Amateurs, will be a busy man. He will play next week in the World Amateur Team championship at Merion, outside Philadelphia, and this winter he will try to keep his game in shape while supporting his wife Miriam, a 2-year-old daughter Amy, and a child the Bemans expect in January. He has a degree in business administration to earn at the University of Maryland and is holding down two jobs in insurance sales and public relations. By the time September 1961 arrives, an older and, hopefully, mellower Deane Beman will enter the Amateur and discover there 50 previously unknown youngsters, who, like Junior Junior Lewis, are quite eager and quite capable of beating him, or Jack Nicklaus, or anybody else.
BEMAN SKIPS AS CRUCIAL PUTT DROPS