Ontario, Calif. — At age 19 few golfers have ever taken championship courses apart with the wonderful consistency of Bob Clampett, the No. 1 amateur in the country and a junior at Brigham Young University.
Clampett is totally aggressive and by being aggressive he often makes shots that other players only dream about. Bob is a remarkable combination of power and finesse; youth and maturity; confidence and modesty.
Clampett, who says he won't turn professional until he has his college diploma under glass, has played in eight pro-amateur tournaments. If he had been taking the money instead of trophies, he would already have earned more than $50,000. One only has to watch Bob a few times to appreciate the full range of his talents.
This is a golfing story that begins with a boy of 10 who (with his widowed mother) moves into a condominium alongside a golf course in Carmel, Calif. In exchange for work at the club as a "gofer" (meaning he ran errands, shined clubs , etc.), Clampett got playing privileges and lunch.
Bob usually played late in the afternoon when the course wasn't too crowded. He used a set of $30 clubs that had once belonged to his father. At that point, he says, it never occurred to him that he probably would have played a lot better if he had taken the time to cut them down.
But his enthusiasm for golf was so obvious that his mother, with Christmas 1970 coming up, decided she would buy him 10 lessons from Carmel pro Lee Martin.
"After four lessons, Marton told me that he didn't want me to pay him anymore ," Clampett explained recently while winning individual honors in the Pacific Coast Collegiate tournament in Ontario. "He said I had possibilities and I think he also liked my desire.
"Anyway, MArtin began to work with me after school," Bob continued. "We started by getting a set of Sam Snead Junior Champs that fit me better, and then he went to work on my grip. I really began to feel comfortable around a golf course, and when I got home I'd often practice putting on the rug, using a special ball-return cup that my two brothers had given me."
When Martin moved away from Carmel in 1973 because of a financial offer he couldn't pass up, Clampett was already one of California's top three golfers (in his age group) with an eight handicap.
While Martin and Clampett had become close friends, Ben Doyle (the pro who replaced Lee at Carmel and began coaching Bob) became an equally close friend and eventually a kind of father figure.
"Martin was a great believer in a book called 'The Golfing Machine' [by Homer Kelley] that explained the physics and geometry in a golf swing," Clampett said. "Using that book as a basis, Ben took pictures of my swing and then showed me what I needed to build my game into a winner.
"For a long time after that we didn't work very much on anything except polishing my swing," he continued. "I mean I seldom played the course at all."
Clampett considers a super round he had during the 1975 Salinas (Calif.) Junior Tournament, when he was 15, the turning point in his career.
After some so-so golf early in that tournament, Bob shot a round of 68 (four under par) in which all the tattered fabric of his learner's game suddenly wove itself into place.
Then it was the top of the mountain in August 1975 when Clampett won the National Insurance Youth Classic in fast company. Just getting into that tournament was a major feat, since only 60 spots were open for the more than 30, 000 young golfers across the country who played qualifying rounds.
"There are three primary parts to golf -- the long game, short game, and putting," Clampett explained. "The geomtry relating to these three parts doesn't change, but the execution does. This may sound a little crazy, but I actually look forward to slumps, because once you get out of that slump you are almost always a better golfer.
"Before every tournament, depending upon how I'm playing at the time, I work on polishing my swing, polishing my shot making, upgrading my short game, and working on ball control," Bob continued.
"I play aggressively because I don't think golf is a game you can play any other way. I've had tournaments in which I was forced to take seven penalties and still finished 16 under par. I think I could play the pro tour tomorrow and make a living at it. But right now my college diploma is more important."