Harvie Ward: Bio of the Amateur Golf Great

Harvie Ward was one of the greatest amateur golfers of the 1950s, winning both the U.S. and British amateur championships. He played in the Walker Cup several times and posted a perfect record, and achieved Top 10 finishes in two of the four professional majors (he didn't play the other two). Ward also was one of the four golfers who played what has become one of the most-famous matches in golf history.

Full name: Edward Harvie Ward Jr.

Date of birth: December 8, 1925

Place of birth: Tarboro, North Carolina

Date and place of death: September 4, 2004, in Pinehurst, North Carolina

Also known as: In many articles throughout his career, and sometimes in statistics, Ward was listed as "E. Harvie Ward" or "E. Harvie Ward Jr."

Ward's Biggest Wins

  • 1948 North and South Amateur
  • 1949 NCAA Division I Championship
  • 1949 Carolinas Amateur
  • 1949 Tournament of Golf Champions
  • 1950 Carolinas Amateur
  • 1952 British Amateur
  • 1952 Dogwood Invitational
  • 1953 Dogwood Invitational
  • 1954 Canadian Amateur
  • 1955 U.S. Amateur
  • 1955 San Francisco City Championship
  • 1956 U.S. Amateur

Wins in the Amateur Majors

Harvie Ward first played the U.S. Amateur Championship in 1947, when he reached the quarterfinals. He last played it in 1962. In-between, he won back-to-back titles in 1955-56 — but failed to advance to the quarterfinals in any other year.

But before he won the U.S. Amateur, Ward claimed the British Amateur. In the 1952 British Amateur Championship, which was the first time Ward entered that event, he defeated Frank Stranahan in the championship match, 6 and 5. He had beaten Joe Carr, 5 and 4, in the semifinals. Stranahan was already a two-time British Amateur champ; Carr went on to win it three times.

Defending his British Amateur title in 1953, Ward defeated Stranahan in the fourth round and Guy Wolstenholme in the fifth round. In the finals he ran into Carr again, and this time Carr got the win, 2-up. Ward never played the British Amateur again: Two appearances, one win, one runner-up.

In his first U.S. Amateur appearance in 1947, Ward lost to Felice Torza in the quarterfinals. He got to the Round of 16 in 1949.

Then came the 1955 U.S. Am, where Ward defeated Bill Hyndman by a 9-and-8 score in the 36-hole championship match. That remains tied for fifth-largest margin of victory in the championship match.

In 1956, Ward made it consecutive wins, beating Chuck Kocsis in the championship match, 5 and 4. His run to the final included a win over Miller Barber in the third round.

Ward did not go for the threepeat in 1957 after being banned by the USGA (see the "More About" section below for details). He returned to the U.S. Amateur in 1958 and went out in the Round of 16. From 1956 until the Round of 16 in 1958, Ward won 17 consecutive U.S. Amateur matches. That was the all-time record for longest winning streak in the tournament until Tiger Woods broke it in 1994-96.

When he won the 1955 U.S. Amateur, Ward became the eighth golfer to win both the U.S. and British titles. When he won the U.S. Amateur again in 1956, he became the seventh golfer to win that title back-to-back. He was also the fifth golfer to win both the NCAA Championship and the U.S. Amateur.

Participation in 'The Match'

In 1956, Harvie Ward was one of the four golfers who took part in a money match at Cypress Point in California. It's a match that has passed into legend as one of the best ever played — even though virtually nobody saw it.

In 1913, Eddie Lowery was the 10-year-old caddie of Francis Ouimet when Ouimet won the U.S. Open. In 1956, Lowery was a wealthy car dealer in California and benefactor of amateur golf. He often gave jobs at one of his dealerships to top amateur golfers as a way of supporting their games.

One day, Lowery boasted to another rich guy and another Cypress Point member that he had two golfers working for him who simply could not be beaten in a best ball match, not by anyone. Go find any two golfers, any two you can round up, Lowery challenged the other rich guy, and my guys will beat them.

Lowery's guys were Ward and Ken Venturi. When the other rich guy showed up the next morning, he had with him ... Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson. Two highly accomplished amateurs vs. two already legendary pros.

The story of that match — which the pros eventually won, 1-up, when Hogan sank a putt on the final green — was fully told in Mark Frost's 2007 book The Match (affiliate links used in this post, commissions earned). Frost is also the author of The Greatest Game Ever Played and The Grand Slam: Bobby Jones, America, And the Story of Golf.

An obituary of Ward in a San Francisco newspaper in 2004 described it this way:

"After the 1st hole was halved in pars, holes 2 through 9 were halved in birdies. As Sandy Tatum points out in his book, 'A Love Affair With the Game,' the great Hogan and Nelson were 8-under on the front nine, and all-square with a couple of amateurs from the 'City.' Hogan holed a wedge for eagle on 10, holes 11-13 were halved in birdies, 14 was halved in pars, and 15 through 18 were halved in birdies. Hogan and Nelson's best ball was 17-under, and they only won, 1-up."
"That was the only team that ever beat Harvie and me," Venturi claimed decades later.

After it ended, stories about the match were passed around by tour pros and other golf insiders, and it quickly achieved legendary status among the in-the-know. Magazine articles over the years were written about it, but Frost's book eventually made it one of the most-famous matches in golf history.

More About Harvie Ward

The famed golf writer and broadcaster Herbert Warren Wind once named Harvie Ward the most talented amateur golfer of the period 1948-58. Ward had wins over both Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus in the amateur ranks — but he only dated one of their future wives.

In his book The Range Bucket List, author James Dodson recounted a conversation he once had with Palmer. Dodson asked Palmer if Nicklaus was the man he feared the most on the golf course during Arnie's career. No, Palmer replied, that was Harvie Ward. Ward, at North Carolina, and Palmer, at Wake Forest, were college rivals.

"I could never seem to beat Harvie when it mattered in college," Palmer said. But it wasn't just about golf: "Plus he was so good-looking and smooth with the ladies I always felt outgunned." In fact, when Palmer met his future wife, Winnie, at a tournament in 1954, she had already been out on two dates with Ward! (Ward was a charismatic man with, many people are quoted as saying, "Hollywood good looks.")

Ward won the NCAA championship in 1949, but the year before he beat Palmer, 5 and 4, in the semifinals of the 1948 North and South Amateur. In the championship match, Ward beat Frank Stranahan. In a title rematch at the 1949 N&S, Stranahan turned the tables, beating Ward.

Ward won the Carolinas Amateur back-to-back in 1949 and 1950. In 1952, he reached the championship match of the Western Amateur, but Stranahan got him there by a 3-and-2 score.

But that was also the year of Ward's British Amateur victory, and he nearly repeated the following year. He did birdie the final hole to repeat as champion of the Dogwood Invitational in 1953.

In 1954, Ward defeated William C. Campbell, 5 and 4, to win the Canadian Amateur. When ward won the 1955 U.S. Amateur, he became just the third golfer to win both the U.S. and Canadian amateur championships, and just the second golfer to win all three of the British, Canadian and U.S. amateurs. In fact, Ward remains to this day one of just two golfers who have done that (Dick Chapman is the other).

One could argue that 1955 was Ward's greatest year: He won the U.S. Amateur, tied for seventh in the U.S. Open and eighth in The Masters (low amateur in each), went 2-0 in the Walker Cup, and also won the San Francisco City Championship, then a fiercely contested event in a hotbed of golf. (The next year, Ward was beaten in the final of that tournament by Ken Venturi in a match followed by 10,000 spectators.)

Ward never played the British Open and, as an amateur, wasn't eligible for the PGA Championship. But he had a fine record in the U.S. Open and Masters. His best finish was solo fourth place in the 1957 Masters, where he was one off the lead after three rounds. He also tied for eighth in the 1955 Masters, and tied for 14th in the 1953 Masters — low amateur in all three of those Masters. He was also low amateur in the 1955 U.S. Open, where he tied for seventh after sharing the 36-hole lead.

Ward was a three-time member of Team USA in the Walker Cup, in 1953, 1955 and 1959. The Americans won all three, and Ward won all six matches (three foursomes, three singles) he played. That included beating Joe Carr, 4 and 3, in the 1953 Walker Cup; beating Ronnie White, 6 and 5, in the 1955 Walker Cup; and beating Guy Wolstenholme, 9 and 8, in the 1959 Walker Cup.

We've pointed out already that Ward did not defend his back-to-back U.S. Amateur titles in 1957, and you might have noticed the gap in his Walker Cup record (he didn't play the 1957 matches). Why? In 1957, the USGA revoked Ward's amateur status. Every account of the "Harvie Ward affair" points out how devastating this was to Ward, not just personally, but also to his golf game.

The episode involved that car dealer and benefactor Eddie Lowery. During an investigation of Lowery's finances by California tax authorities, it was discovered that Lowery, rather than paying Ward a higher salary at his car dealership (which the USGA would have allowed) was instead breaking out Ward's tournament expenses as a separate item claimed for deduction on Lowery's tax returns. And that was not allowed by the USGA.

It turned out that Ward was completely in the dark about the scheme, and eventually the USGA reversed its decision. Ward was able to return to amateur golf in 1958, but most observers at the time felt his game never got back to his previous standards. The 1956 U.S. Amateur turned out to be the last significant amateur title Ward won.

He eventually did turn pro, at age 49 in 1974. There was no senior tour at that time, so Ward turned pro so he could earn a living as a golf instructor. He taught out of some top clubs (Grand Cypress and Interlachen in Florida; Pine Needles and Foxfire in North Carolina), and taught some top talent (including Payne Stewart).

And he did win a tournament as a professional, the 1977 North Carolina Open. When the Champions Tour was founded in 1980, Ward made a handful of appearances over the years, last in 1990. In all, he played in 28 Champions Tour events with no Top 10 finishes.

He spent most of the last couple decades of his life back home in North Carolina, where he was a popular presence at multiple Pinehurst golf clubs. Ward was was 78 years old when he died of liver cancer in 2004.

He was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1965, the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame in 1981 and the Carolinas PGA Hall of Fame in 1996. In 2017, Ward was one of the honorees at Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament.

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