Walker Cup Memories: William C. Campbell

 WalkerCupMemoriesBillCampbell --- William C. Campbell, Captain of the R & A, in September of  
William C. Campbell participated in eight Walker Cups, with his USA teams going 7-0-1. (USGA Museum)  
William C. Campbell participated in eight Walker Cups for the USA in which the team compiled a 7-0-1 record against Great Britain and Ireland. Campbell also served as a playing caption for the victorious 1955 USA Team. Campbell was 11-4-3 in combined singles and foursomes play. His first Walker Cup was in 1951 and his last appearance came in 1975.

What are your fondest memories of the Walker Cup?

Campbell: My most vivid Walker Cup memories would include two team dinners after U.S. victories in 1953 and 1955. The dinner in 1953 was at the Hebron Academy [near The Kittansett Club in Marion, Mass.], where The R&A captain, Lord [John-Moore] Babrazon of Tara offered a toast to Ike [Grainger], Joe [Dey], Dick [Tufts] and [USGA President] Totton Heffelfinger, calling them the “USGA’s Impregnable Mono-Syllabic Quadralateral.”

In 1955 when I was captain of the winning team, 10-2, at St. Andrews, the winning team and I took strong exceptions to the way the British press criticized the British-Irish Team, from selectors to captains. I responded to my opponent’s critics by saying if in another life I were asked to be captain of the British-Irish Walker Cup Team I would accept the position only on the condition that the name of the team members not be announced until they were at the site of competition. And thereafter, nobody could read a newspaper. After I spoke, I would not forget Ronnie White, the best player on the other side, who came forward to shake my hand. There were tears in his eyes. I had struck a chord. Ronnie White quit championship golf not long thereafter. Remembering that evening as a USGA official, I made sure to invite Ronnie to play in our [USGA] Senior [Amateur] Championship, waiving the qualification requirements. Sadly, he declined our invitation.

What do you remember about you first tee shot in 1951?

 Campbell: I was chosen to hit the first shot [in foursomes] and I killed it.

Was the atmosphere different playing in the United States versus Great Britain?

Campbell: Not really. We were always inspired by the same values – to further friendship and sportsmanship among golfing people.

Do you recall a specific match or opponent?

Campbell: I recall all of them. Playing Joe Carr and Michael Bonallack. I played against those guys a lot.

What makes playing in the Walker Cup so special?

Campbell: It’s a special honor and experience to represent the country.

Your last Walker Cup was in 1975. How much did the Walker Cup change from 1951 to 1975?

Campbell: It only got better.

What was it like being named playing captain in 1955?

Campbell: We had suffered an unfortunate home fire in 1954, causing me to go to Augusta [for the Masters] with cocoa butter and cotton gloves. Perhaps this influenced the USGA to designate me as [Walker Cup] captain, so that I could decide whether to play or not. I chose not [to play]. It must have been the right decision because we won 10-2 on the Old Course [at St. Andrews]. It was a special treat to lead a team of such talent and good humor.

How many friendships were formed while playing in the Walker Cup?

Campbell: An endless list. But there is an end to friendships because so many of my teams have departed. I’ll soon be among them.

Was there a special venue that stood out?

Campbell: No question about it as five of my eight team matches were played in Great Britain and three on the Old Course [at St. Andrews].

- David Shefter