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Bobby Clampett- His moment in history and "The golfing machine."

Born April 22, 1960

It was 40 years ago this year that a youth of 22 from California set the golfing world on fire.

It was in 1982 on the Troon golf course, that a tanned, blonde, curly-haired young man who looked like a perfect specimen for surfing on the beaches of his home State California was to leave a mark that would make him famous for the rest of his life. Wearing knickerbockers on the cold, wet, and windy west coast of Scotland Clampett led the British Open with a five-under-par first round of 67.

With the Open being accustomed to a first-day surprise start from a lesser-known competitor, it received little attention from the press and public.

Arnie at the top at 53 years of age.

In addition to that, one of the greatest icons in the history of the sport had achieved something special by playing a 71 under such grueling conditions.

Click the link for more Arnie

At the age of 53, Arnold Palmer found himself at the top part of the leaderboard once again.

But it was on the second day when the 22-year-old young star pushed on from the second round of the 111th Open golf championship with a two-stroke lead and extended his hold by five strokes that would make fame inevitable.

Having experienced the joys of a good old Scottish summer's day of rain and the chilly wind whistling around his body on the first round, Bobby sensibly swapped the plus-fours for long pants.

On arriving on the 18th green smiling and reveling in the moment Bobby had the enthusiasm of both the local crowd and the onlooking world.

He shot 66, six under par for the Royal Troon Golf Club. His total was now133, just one stroke more than the 36-hole record set by Henry Cotton in the 1934 Open at Royal St. George's in England. At 11 under par, Bobby was five shots ahead of nearest rival Nick Price of South Africa, who was on 138.

Disaster strikes on the third day

To lead the Open for three successive rounds is the stuff of dreams. Yet for the young American, it would be one of the greatest disappointments in his career.

The profound reply from Nick Price to a press question the evening before " I'm glad I'm not leading because I couldn't handle it. But today I realized, if I keep my head, I'll have a chance,'' said it all.

Winning from a position of leading is a gift that only a very few of the very best can handle, and a highly intelligent Nick Price was very aware of it.

The press would say the following morning:

"Bobby Clampett nearly gave away the British Open today, but luckily for him, no one took it. That could happen Sunday in the final round because half a dozen players were within four strokes of him. After five holes, the 22-year-old Clampett had a seven-stroke lead in what appeared to be a runaway. But by the end of the day, he was leading by only one, and the tournament was competitive again. The leader in the first two rounds, Clampett lost six strokes to par, three on the par-5 sixth hole. He finished with a 78 in the third round for a total of 211, five under for 54 holes."

It is at this point we can ask what went wrong. As always there can be only one answer, It was mental.

Yet for Bobby Clampett in 1982, there would inevitably be some other questions concerning his mechanics.

Bobby Clampett and Johnny Miller compare each other's rhythm

The following swing was filmed on the driving range while Bobby practiced(my apologies for the quality and I promise to enhance it in the future). Such a wonderful accident rarely occurs.

As the tournament unfolded another star was gaining notoriety at the same time as Bobby:

"The Golfing Machine," written by Homer Kelly and published in 1969

The book had an impressive following that continues to this day. It is not every teaching professional's "cup of tea."

Many will claim it is too complicated, others say it is the most simple system or method in the world.

Whether its ideas were the cause of Bobby falling apart is impossible to say. The fact that he had arrived at the point of leading the Open after three rounds tells us the method worked for him.

Attempting to explain the method behind the book could best be described as a list of options and priorities. The language used is scientific, and the basis is formed around creating lag. Author Kelly was looking to make the students of his concept able to explain their game on a mathematical basis. Independence and logic are the masters over feel and vaguery.

An admirable goal.

A completely conventional follow-through. Right arm extended at 3oclock and shoulders turning on plane. The toe pointing to the sky is more proof of the swing being on plane.

Yet what was it that left Bobby on the third day of the most important tournament of his life? If he had been a little less analytical and more feel-orientated would he have managed to pass through the struggling moments better?-because struggle he did.

The video above which compares the rhythm of Johnny Miller with Bobby is quite revealing. It is blatantly clear that Bobby had a far more deliberate backswing than Johnny. Not only did Bobby swing more deliberately away from the ball (a sign of conscious mental activity), but he was also very close to making a pause at the top.

It is very possible that Bobby was unable to maintain the accuracy of this process under the pressurized atmosphere of Troon. In other words, he failed to keep his arms and body synchronized together (which is what good rhythm encourages). It is common teaching nowadays to compute a pulled-to-the-left shot with a slow body return. Likewise, an overly fast one would result in the spine straightening up and causing a push to the right.

Whether it was the book and the teacher's work (Ben Doyle) that had made Bobby so good, or the self-belief of a young man who had suffered little setback until then, it's hard to tell. After the event where Bobby eventually finished tenth, he was never again able to find the same unbeatable dominance.

Perhaps his search for perfection just took him further and further away from his goal.

Whatever the reason or reasons were, Bobby Clampett gave the golfing world a great thrill 40 years ago, and how wonderful it would be to have such a great story to witness this year as well!

Jay Haas demonstrates rhythm, tempo, and pace control.

This is a wonderful bonus to this article. Jay Haas goes through his golf bag and shows his wonderful rhythm (heard myself repeating the word twenty years ago when I recorded this). No hurry, perfect speed management. Notice how smoothly Jay changes tempo as he alters each club. Only the natural effects of a longer shaft and lighter weighted clubhead work on his responses.

Haas was known for being one of the most consistent players on the PGA Tour throughout his career and ended up playing 798 events.

The pause Jay Haas makes at the top was also a part of the early Clampett swing, although less evident.

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Bill, Lee Trevino was of the opinion that to be competitive on a daily basis, one needed several versions of his/her swing. Obviously we know as teachers, that he is not referring to wholesale changes. He is more likely referring to feelings. He said that on the range when swing version #1 was producing poor results, he would go to swing version #2 and so on until he had confidence in his control. Lee was convinced that Bobby only had the one version, which was learned and worked well on a given day, but he found out under the enormous pressure of the Open Championship that he didn’t have a back up version. Lee’s point is an interesting one given…

William Knowles
William Knowles
Apr 13, 2022
Replying to

Perry-that is an excellent opinion coming from a master player. It makes a lot of sense. Thanks again Perry.


John Mule'
John Mule'
Apr 10, 2022

I watched him closely in our local PGA event in '82. You may have hit upon something with your "rhythm" comment. He was a master ball-striker at that time (hard to believe he only won a single PGA tour event in his career). His rhythm was different in the respect that it seemed "manufactured". In fact, his whole short game technique had the appearance of being too mechanical to me. No doubt he was talented. I believe he had a top 10 finish in the US Open at Pebble Beach in '82.

William Knowles
William Knowles
Apr 10, 2022
Replying to

Thanks John-yes I agree with you, very manufactured. At the time we were all watching with our mouths open and ordering a copy of the Golfing Machine. That is why I wanted to think what he really lost on the third day.

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