Dick Chapman: Golfer Won 5 National Amateurs, Invented Format

Richard "Dick" Chapman was an American amateur golf champion who was winning tournaments from the 1930s into the 1960s. He won national opens in five countries, and was the very first golfer to win the U.S., British and Canadian amateur championships. He also created a competition format, the Chapman System, that is still popular today.

Full name: Richard Davol Chapman

Date of birth: March 23, 1911

Place of birth: Greenwich, Connecticut

Date and place of death: November 15, 1978 in Rancho Sante Fe, California

Also known as: He was commonly called Richard D. Chapman in news coverage and feature stories during his active years, and it is still common to find references to him as Richard, Richard D., or R.D. Chapman. But he was known as "Dick" to friends and colleagues.

Chapman's Biggest Wins

Dick Chapman won five national amateur championships (one of them twice), including the two big ones, the U.S. Amateur and British Amateur:
  • 1939 French Open Amateur
  • 1940 U.S. Amateur
  • 1949 Canadian Amateur
  • 1951 British Amateur
  • 1952 French Open Amateur
  • 1960 Italian Open Amateur
His other victories included state amateur titles, plus the North and South and a big British tournament, the Golf Illustrated Gold Vase:
  • 1934 Westchester Amateur
  • 1936 Connecticut Amateur
  • 1938 Connecticut Amateur
  • 1939 New York State Amateur
  • 1948 Golf Illustrated Gold Vase
  • 1950 Massachusetts Amateur
  • 1951 New England Amateur
  • 1953 Carolinas Amateur
  • 1956 Carolinas Four-Ball
  • 1957 Carolinas Amateur
  • 1958 North and South Amateur
  • 1959 Carolinas Four-Ball

His Amateur Major Championships

The two tournaments called "the amateur majors" are the U.S. Amateur Championship and British Amateur Championship. Chapman won the U.S. title in 1940 and the British title in 1951. Chapman was the seventh golfer to pull off that double, and there are still today well-fewer than 20 who've done it.

The 1940 U.S. Amateur was played at Winged Foot, where Chapman, born into a well-to-do family and wealthy through his own work, was a member. He was the medalist in the 36-hole, stroke-play qualifying with a 140. That was four better than the second-place qualifier, Duff McCullough.

And McCullough is who Chapman met in the final, but the gap between them in the championship match was greater than in the qualifying. Chapman beat McCullough, 11 and 9.

At the 1951 British Amateur, Chapman got past future 3-time Amateur champ Joe Carr in the semifinals, 3 and 2. In the championship match, he dispatched fellow American Charlie Coe, 5 and 4, to claim the trophy.

Before winning in 1951, Chapman came close twice before in the British Am, losing in the championship match. At the 1947 British Amateur, he fell in the final to Willie "the Wedge" Turnesa by a 3-and-2 score. Chapman also reached the British Amateur championship match in 1950, but Frank Stranahan beat him, 8 and 6.

More About Dick Chapman

Dick Chapman was the second player ever, after Sandy Somerville, to win both the U.S. Amateur and Canadian Amateur. And he was the first golfer ever to win all three of the U.S., Canadian and British amateur championship. To this day, only Harvie Ward has joined Chapman in winning that troika.

He never turned pro because he didn't need the money. An investment banker, he already had plenty of it. But he worked on his game like a professional, and tinkered with his swing many times over his competitive career, always looking for that next breakthrough. Chapman was a member at Winged Foot (where he won the 1940 U.S. Amateur), and clubs in Connecticut and on Cape Cod (among others). In the late 1940s, he bought a house described as "opulent" in Pinehurst, N.C., and began spending so much time in that golf hotbed that his name became as much associated with Pinehurst Resort as with his home state of Connecticut. In his lifetime, he was sometimes compared to a character out of The Great Gatsby.

It all started for him — in golf, that is — when Chapman won the Eastern Interscholastic Championship in 1930, his first victory of note, while a senior in high school. The Westchester Amateur came in 1934, and his first state championship, the Connecticut Amateur, in 1936.

He reached the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur in 1938, beating the defending champion, Johnny Goodman, in the quarterfinal. That was Chapman's first taste of national acclaim for his golf skills.

In 1939, he won the French Open Amateur. It was his first national championship, and Chapman went on to win the national amateur championships of five different countries (France, U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Italy) — the first golfer to win all five of those championships.

This stretch of golf culminated in his victory at the 1940 U.S. Amateur. His golf career was interrupted by World War II soon after, during which he served in the Army Air Corps.

After the war, Chapman began winning tournaments again a couple years after his discharge. The Golf Illustrated Gold Vase, a big tournament for amateurs in Britain, was his first post-War victory, in 1948. The next year he chalked up his Canadian Amateur victory.

Chapman also made many appearances over the years in the professional majors, earning entry into the U.S. Open, and being invited into The Masters Tournament. He first played The Masters in 1939, and played it 18 more times, including every year from 1946 through 1962. Chapman was low amateur in The Masters twice, in 1941 (tied 19th) and 1948 (tied 40th). But his best finishes in that major were tied 14th in 1947 and solo 11th in the 1954 Masters. His 19 appearances in The Masters is the record for an amateur — one he shares with Charlie Coe, the golfer he beat in the championship match at the 1951 British Amateur.

In the U.S. Open, Chapman first qualified in 1934 but withdrew. A tie for 50th in the 1938 U.S. Open was the first time he completed the tournament. He played the U.S. Open eight more times after that, with a best finish of tied for 21st in the 1954 U.S. Open. Chapman played the British Open just once, missing the cut in 1961.

Chapman played for Team USA in the Walker Cup three times, and the Americans won all three. In the 1947 Walker Cup, Chapman defeated Laddie Lucas, 4 and 3, in singles. In 1951, he beat John Llewellyn Morgan, 7 and 6. In 1953, he lost in singles to Ronnie White, 1-down. Chapman's overall Walker Cup record was 3 wins, 2 losses.

Chapman was also a writer about golf, penning articles for golf magazines. He was the editor of the 1940 book Golf As I Play It, a compilation of instructional articles from 28 champion golfers (including Chapman).

Beginning in the mid- to late 1940s, Chapman developed a 2-person competition format involving alternate shot. In the early 1950s, he worked with the USGA to formalize the format and come up with handicap allowances for it. The format was named then, and still known today, as Chapman System (also Pinehurst System, since that is where Chapman worked on it). It works like this: Two golfers on a side both hit drives, then for the second stroke, each plays the other's ball. From the third stroke on, they play standard alternate shot.

Chapman's last big win was in the 1960 Italian Amateur, although he did reach the championship match again in the North and South Amateur in 1961.

He had a stroke in the early 1970s that brought his golfing days to an end. He was 67 years old when he died in 1978. In its obituary, the New York Times wrote that in "his later years Mr. Chapman was active in national and regional youth golf programs, and he supported many youth associations." Time Magazine, in its notice of Chapman's death, called him "the Ben Hogan of amateur golf."

Chapman was elected in 1986 to the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame, and, in 2001, to the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame.

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