Harvie Ward experienced some of the most glorious moments in amateur golf, as well as one of its most inglorious.
E. Harvie Ward, who died Sept. 4 at age 78 of liver cancer in Pinehurst, N.C., won two U.S. Amateur Championships, a British Amateur and a Canadian Amateur in the 1950s. Known for his warm smile and razor-sharp short game, Ward also participated on three Walker Cup teams (1953, ’55 and ’59) and won numerous city, state and regional amateur events.
“Harvie was, first of all, a good friend,” said Arnold Palmer, a fellow collegian and amateur in the late 1940s and early ’50s. “He was an extremely fine player and one of the fiercest amateur competitors I ever knew. He was a great guy, and one who certainly made his niche in the world of golf as one of its finest players.”
Ward played in 10 Masters as an amateur from 1948-58. He competed in eight U.S. Opens, finishing sixth in 1955. Ward entered eight U.S. Amateurs before finally winning in ’55 at the Country Club of Virginia, beating Bill Hyndman, 9 and 8, in the final. He successfully defended his championship at Knollwood Club outside Chicago the following summer, beating Chuck Kocsis, 5 and 4.
Ward and fellow amateur Ken Venturi competed against Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson in a 1956 match at Cypress Point Club in California, arranged in part by Lowery. When Hogan eagled the 10th hole, Ward and Venturi were 9 under par but trailed in the match by one hole. Only the first, 11th and 14th holes were halved in pars, and there was only one bogey among the four. Hogan and Nelson won, 1 up, by matching the amateurs’ birdies on the last four holes. Hogan shot 9-under 63, Venturi 65, Nelson 67 and Ward 67.
“It was the best golf I’ve ever seen,” Venturi said years later. “And that’s the only team who ever beat Harvie and me. We would have challenged the world. Come to think of it, that was about what we did.”
Ward also was a lead player in one of the game’s most regrettable chapters.
The 1957 season began with great expectation for Ward when he finished fourth in the Masters. But during a routine tax investigation of his employer, San Francisco car dealer Eddie Lowery (who had gained fame as Francis Ouimet’s caddie during his 1913 U.S. Open victory), it emerged that Ward had been receiving expenses, essentially to enable him to play amateur tournament golf. This was in clear breach of the U.S. Golf Association’s Rules of Amateur Status, a violation that was further embarrassing because Lowery was a member of the USGA Executive Committee.
On June 7, 1957, Ward was banned from all amateur competition, and his amateur status was revoked for a year.
“When I saw other guys that were out there playing and they had Wilson golf balls and Wilson bags and Wilson clubs, I mean, you know, come on,” Ward said in a 1994 interview. “I think the reason they had to do something was because I was the Amateur champion. If I hadn’t been, nobody would have cared.”
Had Lowery simply paid Ward a higher salary, which would have enabled him to cover his own expenses, there would have been no problem. The USGA came under heavy criticism, more so when it became known that many others also were in breach.
Perhaps out of guilt, the USGA gave Ward a spot on the 1959 Walker Cup squad; he won two matches, making him the only player in Walker Cup history to go 6-0 in singles and foursomes. That performance merely solidified his reputation as a competitor.
-Free-lance writers Gordon Simmons and Lee Pace contributed