Blast From The Past: Former Champions Return To U.S. Junior
By David Shefter, USGA
Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. – Some of the names engraved on the U.S. Junior Amateur trophy are highly recognizable. People such as Tiger Woods, David Duval, Gary Koch and Brett Quigley have all made a name for themselves in golf. Woods currently is the world’s No. 1 player with 10 professional majors to his credit.
But many of the individuals whose names adorn the large sterling-silver bowl are not quite household commodities. Some went on to fruitful, but not stellar professional golf careers. Others remained career amateurs and enjoyed success in other career endeavors.
No matter what transpired after the championship, for these precious winners, the U.S. Junior victory remained an indelible memory.
Five of those former champions attended the Players’ Dinner for the 2006 U.S. Junior at Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club on Sunday night. That group included Tommy Jacobs (1951), James Wiechers (1962), Jack Renner (1973), Foster "Bud" Bradley (1954) and Dean Lind, who won the inaugural U.S. Junior in 1948 at the University of Michigan Golf Club in Ann Arbor.
Lind was a 17-year-old high school graduate from Rockford, Ill. He had been competing in tournaments since the age of 12, but at the time, there weren’t a lot of national competitions. There was the Western Junior conducted by the Western Golf Association and the Junior Chamber of Commerce put on a national event, but otherwise the competitions were limited to state and local events.
The inaugural Junior had 128 qualifiers from 41 sectional sites, and the entire championship was conducted at match play, meaning there wasn’t any on-site stroke-play qualifying. Lind had to win six matches just to reach the final, where he faced Ken Venturi of San Francisco, Calif., who 16 years later would win the U.S. Open.
Lind registered a 4-and-2 win over Venturi, but his most important victory came just after the competition when the University of Michigan offered him a full golf scholarship.
“My parents were just ecstatic that was going to get a scholarship,” said Lind. “I was going to go to Northwestern [in Evanston, Ill.] and the coach would never look at me.”
Of course, the Junior has evolved quite a bit since those early days. The first Junior attracted just 495 entries, a far cry from today when the event annually attracts more than 3,000 entries.
“We didn’t have a players’ dinner,” said Lind after enjoying his meal at the posh Rancho Santa Fe Inn. “It was nothing like this.”
Lind went into the military for two years after graduation and later got involved in building a couple of golf courses in Illinois. He turned pro at 34, but never reached the PGA Tour. Today, he lives in Carlsbad, Calif., and still plays three days a week.
But he still has fond memories of that week in Michigan when he knocked off a future PGA Tour star in Venturi.
“I have got the little one at home,” said Lind, referring to the small replica trophy he had made. “It’s a great thing.”
Jacobs, like Lind, also has dear memories from his three U.S. Junior appearances. In 1950 at Denver (Colo.) Country Club, the Montebello, Calif., native lost to Eddie Merrins in the third round, 4 and 3. Merrins would later become the head pro at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles and the head coach of the UCLA men’s golf team that produced PGA Tour winners Corey Pavin, Duffy Waldorf, Steve Pate and Tom Pernice Jr.
The following year as a 16-year-old at the University of Illinois Golf Course in Champaign, Jacobs edged Woody Rowe, 1 up, in the opening round and then cruised past his next six opponents, including Floyd Addington, 4 and 2, in the final.
In the round of 16 of the ’51 Junior, he defeated Don Blispinghoff of Orlando, Fla., 3 and 2. Blispinghoff would avenge that loss a year later at Yale Golf Course in New Haven, Conn., by eliminating Jacobs in the semifinals by that same 3-and-2 score.
“It was great,” said Jacobs looking back on his three Junior appearances. “I’m sure it is no different than it is now except back then, the USGA would normally have these tournaments at university courses (eight of the first 14 Juniors were played at campus venues).
“From what I have seen of it, the National Junior has just grown tremendously. I mean, look, it’s on national television now. I remember that somebody would come by with an 8-milimeter camera and take our picture every once in a while.”
During his junior career, Jacobs also won the national Junior Chamber of Commerce tournament in 1952 and he competed in the Hearst Newspapers Group national junior competition. “It [Hearst event] dropped off, then the JC (Junior Chamber) dropped. But these kids [today] are on tour with the amount events they play.”
The American Junior Golf Association certainly wasn’t around back in the 1940s and ’50s when Lind and Jacobs were playing junior golf. Back then, they had to worry about the military draft more than they did about their short games. Jacobs was drafted into the Army at 18 and was sent to Salzburg, Austria before returning home to attend L.A. City College. He turned pro in 1956 when he joined Eric Monte’s staff at Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles. Seven or eight months into his job, Monte realized that Jacobs should be applying his wares on the PGA Tour, not behind a shop desk.
Jacobs got his card in 1957 and posted five career PGA Tour wins. In 11 U.S. Open appearances, Jacobs had three top-10s, including a second-place showing in 1964 at Congressional Country Club. The winner that year was a U.S. Junior alum and the same guy Lind defeated 16 years earlier in that inaugural final: Venturi.
When he turned 50, Jacobs did spend some time on the Senior circuit, but he has also gone into other ventures within the golf industry. He helped build a high-end country club near the site of this year’s Junior (Rancho Santa Fe Farms). His younger brother, John Jacobs, still competes on the Champions Tour.
As for the Juniors competing this week, Jacobs did have a message: “I personally feel they all should get the experience that comes from school,” said Jacobs. “Getting out [in professional golf] too soon is a mistake. Get some maturity. You see, I had the service. That will mature you in a hurry. You learn the hard way.
“[This week] there are going to be winners and some who are going to be disappointed. I hope the ones that are disappointed will take that and make it a positive because [playing in the Junior] is a positive.”
David Shefter is a USGA staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
U.S. Junior Amateur
PAR AND YARDAGE Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club is set at 6,936/6,923 yards and par is 36-3672.
THE ARCHITECT Max Behr, a disciple of Dr. Alister Mackenzie, designed the golf course, which opened in 1927.
COURSE SET UP:
ENTRIES A total of 3,174 entries were accepted for the 2005 championship. The championship is open to male amateur golfers who will not have reached their 18th birthday on or before July 22, 2006, and who have a USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 6.4. Entries close June 7.
THE SCHEDULE Following 36 holes of stroke play (July 17-18), the field will be trimmed to the lowest 64 scorers, who will advance to match play. From there, the schedule is as follows:
July 19 (Wednesday) First round, match play
FREE ADMISSION Spectators are invited to attend the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship free of charge.
ENTRIES: The USGA accepted 3,267 entries to the 2006 championship. This is the 11th consecutive year that entries have topped 3,000. The largest entry was 4,508 in 1999.