Remembering the great Bill Campbell

Distinguished amateur champion golfer Bill Campbell, left, accepts the trophy after winning the prestigious North & South Amateur at Pinehurst in 1953. Campbell won the North & South four times, good for the second-most all-time in the 113-year history of the prestigious amateur championship.

Distinguished amateur champion golfer Bill Campbell, left, accepts gifts after winning the prestigious North & South Amateur at Pinehurst in 1953. Campbell won the North & South four times, good for the second-most all-time in the 113-year history of the prestigious amateur championship. Photo courtesy of the Tufts Archives

BY LEE PACE

The news of the passing of amateur golf eminence William C. Campbell on Aug. 30 sent me to my file drawer to pull the manila repository of notes, letters, photos and clippings on the gentleman from Huntington, W.Va.

I met him in the winter of 1991 while writing the book Pinehurst Stories, and he proved over more than two decades to be a font of insight, color and detail on the rich lives of Pinehurst and amateur golf from the mid-20th century and beyond. A four-time winner of the North and South Amateur, the 1964 U.S. Amateur champion and at various times the head of the USGA and the R&A, Campbell embodied the skills of running a business, raising a family and playing expert golf—the latter for the pure enjoyment of it without financial return. Campbell was 90 years old upon his passing.

Among the highlights from my notes and conversations over the years is this excerpt from a talk he gave to the Tin Whistles Club of Pinehurst in 1990:

“Indeed it is a pleasure for me to return to Pinehurst, where I left part of my heart long ago—another part having been left in St. Andrews. I regard Pinehurst as the golf capital of the New World, our own St. Andrews, if you will, each inspiring pilgrimages from afar. Pinehurst is more than good golf courses; it is a state of a mind and a feeling for the game, its aesthetics, courtesies and emotions.”

Bill Campbell, who won the 1964 U.S. Amateur, won his first and fourth North & South Amateur championships a staggering 17 years apart - the longest span between championships in the Amateur's history.

Bill Campbell, who won the 1964 U.S. Amateur, won his first and fourth North & South Amateur championships a staggering 17 years apart – the longest span between a single player’s victories in the North & South Amateur’s history.

‘And this from that initial interview about his annual springtime visit to Pinehurst for the North and South Amateur:

“I made a point to make that pilgrimage every year, except for one year when I was running for Congress. In 1950 I was invited to play in the Masters—what a great combination that was, Augusta and Pinehurst. I attached myself to Pinehurst. I relished the relationships, the fixtures at the club, the caddies, the fellow golfers. Pinehurst was a pure experience, you got back to basics, basics in the sense of playing golf for the pure enjoyment of the game, the competition and the fellowship.”

On the flavor and personality of No. 2:

“It had many characteristics of a true seaside links and you had many fast-running, bouncing approach shots. I played well over a hundred competitive rounds there and never got tired of the strategic choices you had to make.”

And from a 2011 conversation about his ancestral home of Scotland and its position as the birthplace of golf:

“Life wasn’t always easy for the Scots. They had a lot of fight in them. They had to. They had to fight for everything. They learned that life was not always fair. But as long as you had a chance, you were all right. Golf is like that. You hit a bad shot, you get a bad bounce, what do you want? A chance for a recovery, a chance for redemption.”

Lee Pace is a regular contributor to the Pinehurst Blog. He latest book, “The Golden Age of Pinehurst—The Rebirth of No. 2,” is available in all retail shops at Pinehurst.

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