Golfer Bud Ward, 2-Time U.S. Amateur Champ

Marvin "Bud" Ward was an American golfer who won big amateur titles in the 1930s and 1940s, including two U.S. Amateur Championships. He later turned pro and won multiple state and regional pro tournaments, but never played on the PGA Tour. He was a legend in his time in his home region, the Pacific Northwest.

Full name: Marvin Harvey Ward

Date of birth: May 1, 1913

Place of birth: Elma, Washington

Date and place of death: January 2, 1968, in San Mateo, California

Nickname: Bud

His Biggest Wins

  • 1939 U.S. Amateur
  • 1940 Western Amateur
  • 1941 U.S. Amateur
  • 1941 Western Amateur
  • 1942 Tam O'Shanter All American Amateur
  • 1947 Western Amateur
Ward also won the Washington Amateur twice (1938, 1946) and Pacific Northwest Amateur in 1941. He also won numerous professional tournaments at the state and regional level (no PGA Tour events), some as an amateur and some after turning pro. Those are included in the bio section below.

Ward's U.S. Amateur Victories: Putting Prowess and Fan Animosity

A couple months after coming close in a U.S. Open (more below), Ward won a big one: the 1939 U.S. Amateur Championship. He needed two extra holes to secure a win in the first round, and won his semifinal match over Art Doering by a 1-up score.

But Ward won the 36-hole championship match comfortably, 7 and 5, over Ray Billows, his 1938 Walker Cup teammate. Ward rode a hot putter to his last two match wins, one-putting 29 of the 48 holes he played over his semifinal and final match wins.

Billows took some measure of revenge when he knocked Ward out in Ward's title defense in 1940. Billows beat Ward in the quarterfinals, 1-up on the 19th hole.

A whole different experience awaited Ward when he won the 1941 U.S. Amateur. Ward was never a golfer who played to crowds — he sometimes didn't acknowledge the fans at all. Plus, in the run-up to the 1941 Amateur, played at Omaha Field Club in Nebraska, Ward was quoted calling the golf course a "cow pasture" (he claimed he never said it). Nebraskans were not pleased, and throughout the tournament they let Ward know about it, booing and heckling him, cheering his opponents.

After dispatching Skee Riegel, 9 and 8, in the semifinals, Ward faced part-time actor Pat Abbott in the championship match. He ultimately won that match, and his second U.S. Amateur title, 4 and 3, but not before the fans did their best to unnerve him and help his opponent.

According to the Pacific Northwest Golf Association account of Ward's tournament play, Ward led 2-up on the 24th hole. Abbott hit a shot "that seemed to be heading straight down a steep bank behind the green," the PNGA account reads. "Fortunately for Abbott, several spectators blocked the ball, then a local marshal gave the ball an additional nudge, 'accidentally' putting it on the green. In an unprecedented move, USGA President Harold Pierce halted play and commanded the crowd, 'We all know what is happening here today. We want it to cease.'"

Nothing so blatant happened the rest of the way. But when Ward's shot into the 31st green appeared ready to bounce over the green, the crowd began shouting, "Let it through!" and cheered when the ball ran into rough behind the green.

Ward still managed to close out the match on the 33rd green. But some fans, to show their dislike of Ward, swarmed the green and hoisted the loser, Abbott, onto their shoulders.

More About Bud Ward

Before Marvin "Bud" Ward won the U.S. Amateur, he came this close to winning the U.S. Open. In the 1939 U.S. Open, Ward started the final round in fourth place after scores of 69, 73 and 71. His final-round 72 made him the leader in the clubhouse.

Ultimately, Ward finished solo fourth at 285. But saying that doesn't do justice to his tournament: He was only one stroke out of a 3-way playoff with Byron Nelson, Craig Wood and Denny Shute, who tied for first place. (Nelson wound up winning.)

A couple months later, Ward won the first of his two U.S. Amateur titles. But that was also the first of his two Top 5 finishes in U.S. Opens. He was solo fifth and again low amateur in the 1947 U.S. Open. Ward was also low amateur in the 1942 Masters. He had multiple other Top 30 finishes in the Masters and U.S. Open, tying for 17th as late as the 1957 U.S. Open, the second-to-last pro major in which he played.

Ward was a powerful, if none-too-accurate driver, but the strength of his game was on short shots where his famously soft hands helped, particularly on the putting greens. He was renowned for his touch on those shots.

After playing Ward in the 1939 San Francisco Match Play Open, PGA Tour winner Dick Metz wrote about Ward:

"Great hands. They are strong, well-built hands and they always work together. He is in control of the club with the hands at all times, and they compensate for any imperfections in his swing."
Metz continued, saying, "Ward reads greens better than any amateur I ever saw. He putts as well on one type of green as another, and when he judges a putt to be 60 feet, it is exactly 60 feet. Ward savvies roll and break to perfection and there never is any variation to his smooth putting stroke."

Ward learned golf on a nine-hole course near Elma, Washington, his hometown. He was an all-state athlete in both basketball and golf in high school.

He first gained notice on the national golf scene at age 24 in the 1937 U.S. Amateur. Ward reached the semifinals that year before falling to the eventual champ, Johnny Goodman, 1-down. (Ward also reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Am in 1947, and the Round of 16 in 1946 and 1948.)

In 1938, Ward won both the Washington Amateur and Washington Open tournaments. The year 1941 was his best, when he posted victories in the U.S. Amateur, Western Amateur (arguably the second-biggest tournament for amateur golfers at that time) and the Pacific Northwest Amateur over a two-month span. He also had a Top 30 finish in the U.S. Open that year.

Ward played on Team USA in two Walker Cups, 1938 and 1947. He lost both foursomes matches he played, but won both his singles matches. In the 1938 Walker Cup, Ward walloped Frank Penninck by a 12-and-11 score. That remains today tied for second-largest winning margin in any Walker Cup match. (But note that at that time, Walker Cup matches were 36 holes.)

Ward did something else of note in that match against Penninck, which was played on The Old Course at St. Andrews. In the morning 18, Ward holed-out on every hole and recorded a score of 67. At the time, that was the best score ever recorded on The Old Course by an amateur, breaking the record set previously by Bobby Jones.

In his singles win over Leonard Crawley in the 1947 Walker Cup, Ward was 3-down following the morning 18. But in the afternoon 18, he reeled off seven consecutive 3s en route to the victory.

Ward turned pro in 1949 so he could earn a living as a club professional. But he played many pro tournaments before and after his amateur years, most of them in his home territory of the Pacific Northwest and other parts of the west. Ward's pro tournament wins include ("a" indicates he was still an amateur at that time):

  • Washington Open: 1938-a, 1949-a, 1955
  • Northwest Open: 1939-40-a, 1946-48-a, 1961
  • Montana Open: 1949-a
  • Northern California Open: 1951, 1956
  • Utah Open: 1952
  • Northern California PGA Championship: 1955
During his years as a club pro, Ward spent the most years at Peninsula Country Club in San Mateo, Calif. In the mid-1960s, he began a three-year battle with abdominal cancer, during which he underwent four surgeries. He continued working at Peninsula Country Club until just a few months before his death in 1968. He was only 54 years old.

Marvin "Bud" Ward is a member of the Pacific Northwest Golf Association Hall of Fame (inducted in 1979), the Hall of Fame of the Pacific Northwest section of the PGA (1981), and the State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame (1963).

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