The Middle Ages of Pinehurst

pg. 6

Part IV – (cont’d)

“I never felt like Harvie got a fair shake at all.” – Byron Nelson

It was during Richard’s tenure as USGA president that Harvie was brought before the committee about his status as an amateur. This issue in question was that he had accepted money from his employer for travelling to tournaments. He was part of a group of championship amateurs who didn’t possess the personal wealth to pursue their golfing endeavors out of their own pocket. In this gray zone the employer would pay the travelling expenses and the golfers would conduct cursory business meetings so that they would be able to say the monies they received were compensation for work. Certainly, this was not the cleanest manner in which to operate. However, such practices had traditionally been tolerated as practical and necessary for vitality within the amateur ranks. There had been some flash points along the way with the likes of Francis Ouimet and even the immortal Bobby Jones himself. Such situations had been handled in a gentlemanly manner with the result that they had been able to continue to pursue their interests without having a scarlet letter branded on their chest.

Further, in the case of Harvie, the employer in question was none other the Eddie Lowery. Eddie was on the USGA board and told Harvie their funding process was within the parameters of acceptability. Coming from a board member, this was naturally good enough for Harvie – especially since Eddie was the famous caddy for Francis Ouimet’s epochal victory over the Brit’s at the 1913 U.S. Open.

And so our hero made his way up to Illinois to meet with the ‘blue coats’ from the organization without a great deal of concern. In fact, according to one of his best friends, Tufts told Harvie that he was going to receive “a slap on the wrist”. However, as soon as Harvie saw the look on Richards’ face when he entered the room of the inquisition he knew bad news was coming. That was indeed the case as his amateur status was stripped from him. To Harvie it seemed more like his honor had been stripped from him. That is a very serious thing to do – and not one without consequences. In this case the ramifications went far beyond the matter at hand.

The manner in which Harvie was treated is one of golf’s great tragedies. The factors behind this treatment of the reigning U.S. amateur champion can not be entirely discerned. What is known is that there had recently been government investigations regarding some of the very large wagering which had always been a not so noble part of the sport. Even though this did not involve Harvie directly it was on some level a factor of the committee’s disposition. There were undoubtedly a variety of factors which culminated that day in the Illinois. Although it is not entirely possible to pinpoint all of these factors it is extremely clear that the action they took was unconscionable.

And the effect on Harvie…well, it’s best just say it was far reaching and leave it at that.

With piercing irony, the result of this indelicate attempt to purify the amateur ranks is that it was the event which ended the glory days of amateur golf.  As with the reconfiguration of the four courses, the result of the action was the precise opposite of the intention.

“It certainly changed the state of golf forever. I mean, at that very moment, you had Hogan and Snead and Byron coming to the end of their remarkable reign but amateurs like Billy Joe Patton, Ken Venturi, and Harvie making a great case for the validity of amateur golf. But taking into account what happened next, the year after Harvie Ward was sanctioned, Arnold won his first Masters and suddenly everyone wanted to be him.” – Herbert Warren Wind