Amateur legend William C. Campbell passes away
After serving as USGA president, William Campbell
was elected Captain of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club
of St. Andrews in 1987. (USGA Museum)
FAR HILLS, N.J. – William C. Campbell, a West Virginia native who rose to become one of the most accomplished amateur golfers of all time and a leader of golf’s major governing bodies, died today at his home in Lewisburg, W.Va. He was 90.
“Mr. Campbell was one the game's great champions and finest gentlemen,” said USGA Executive Director Mike Davis. “His contributions to amateur golf and to the USGA have been many and profound. We owe a great debt of gratitude for his outstanding example and generosity of spirit. In so many respects, he represented all that was best about our game.”Campbell was born in Huntington, W.Va. on May 5, 1923. Following a stint in the U.S. Army during World War II, he graduated from Princeton University in 1947 and promptly began compiling an outstanding record at all levels of amateur golf.
His biggest win was the 1964 U.S. Amateur, which he captured at age 41 at Canterbury Golf Club in Cleveland. Campbell played in 37 U.S. Amateurs, including 33 in a row from 1941 to 1977. He also won two USGA Senior Amateurs, in 1979 and 1980, along with four North & South Amateurs, 15 West Virginia Amateurs and three West Virginia Opens.
The Walker Cup Match, the biennial team competition between the U.S. and Great Britain & Ireland, was another event in which Campbell distinguished himself. He played on eight Walker Cup Teams – 1951, ’53, ‘55, ’57, ’65, ’67, ’71 and ’75 – and served as the playing captain in 1955. He compiled an individual record of 11-4-3, including 7-0-1 in singles matches, and was never part of a losing team (the 1965 Match ended in a tie).
Though he remained a lifelong amateur, Campbell had many opportunities to compete against the best professionals of his era. He played in 14 U.S. Opens (best finish, tie for 23rd in 1954) and 17 Masters Tournaments (best finish, tie for 36th in 1955 and ’66).
Campbell’s success in the highest levels of competition was matched only by his service to the game. He sat on the USGA Executive Committee from 1962-65 and again from 1977-84, serving as treasurer in 1978-79, vice president in 1980-81, and president in 1982-83. In 1987, he was elected Captain of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland, just the third American to hold the post and the only man to lead both governing bodies.
Campbell received the Bob Jones Award, the USGA’s highest honor, in 1956, and in 1991 the Golf Course Superintendents of America bestowed upon him the Old Tom Morris Award. He was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1990 and the West Virginia Golf Hall of Fame in 2009.