Larry E. Beck Sr., who defeated 17-year-old Jack Nicklaus on the way to winning the 1957 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, died on June 3 in Sanford, N.C., at the age of 79.
Beck was a Life Member of the PGA of America, having served as the head professional at Whispering Pines in the Pinehurst, N.C., area for 15 years. In 1966 he created and conducted a first-of-its-kind Junior Camp at Whispering Pines. He also served as a head professional and director of instruction at various other facilities in the Tar Heel State.
Born in Randolph County (N.C.) in 1939 and raised in Kinston, Beck spent a good portion of his youth on golf courses in the Pinehurst area. The first of his three consecutive Carolinas Junior titles came in 1955 at Sanford (N.C.) Golf Course.
In the 1957 U.S. Junior Amateur conducted at Manor Country Club in Rockville, Md., Beck, then 17, won seven matches to capture the 10th edition of the championship. He defeated future 18-time major champion Nicklaus in the Round of 32, 4 and 3, closing him out with an eagle 3 on the par-5 15th hole, before eventually beating David Leon, 6 and 5, in the 18-hole final.
Ten years earlier, Beck’s father, Avery, also nearly won a USGA championship, losing in the final match of the 1947 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, 6 and 5, to Wilfred Crossley, at Meadowbrook Golf Club, in Minneapolis, Minn. Avery Beck went on to become the head professional at Kinston Country Club.
Larry Beck attended both Wake Forest University and the University of Houston on golf scholarships and majored in elementary education. He also was awarded an associate of arts degree from Campbell University.
As a professional, Beck tied for 39th in the 1964 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., not far from where he won his Junior title. He also tied for 72nd in the 1966 PGA Championship at Firestone Country Club, his only other appearance in a major.
Teaching the game became Beck’s legacy. His obituary in the Winston-Salem paper said his happiness was gained by seeing others enjoy the game. It was his desire to be remembered for his cheerful disposition and his love of golf and people.
Beck is survived by his wife, Ellen, and son Larry E. Beck Jr. A visitation will be held on Saturday, June 15 at 12:30 p.m. at the Forest Hill Memorial Park Chapel in Lexington, N.C. A funeral service will immediately follow at 1 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in Larry’s memory to the Carolinas PGA, the American Heart Association or any charity of choice.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.