he most amazed man at the 82nd U.S. Open today was 44-year-old Bruce Devlin, the first-round coleader with Bill Rogers at 70.
If the national TV contract for this event had been held by NBC, instead of CBS, Devlin would have been more than content to sit by the 18th green and offer his color commentary this week.
After all, since Devlin retired 10 years ago, the Australian pro has played the game only casually, never finishing in the top 50 money winners and never winning another tournament. His interests have been TV work, golf course architecture and playing the tour--in that order.
"In 1972, I won two tournaments and finished eighth on the money-winning list. Then, I retired. It wasn't the smartest move I ever made. But, I made it, so I've had to suffer the consequences," said Devlin, who won eight tournaments.
Today, at the 506-yard second hole, Devlin lipped out a three-wood shot, then rolled in a three-footer for eagle. After a bogey at the sixth and double bogey at the tiny 110-yard seventh, "I had a chance to turn in a mediocre round. If I'd wanted to throw in the towel, that would have been the time."
But Devlin didn't, hitting irons to less than 12 feet for birdies at the ninth, 11th, 15th and 16th, all par-4s. His only other bogey came at the 10th.
"My turning point came at the 14th," said Devlin, who refused to accept the ruling of an official who said he couldn't get relief from a TV post behind the green. "It was one that the opposition TV network put there," deadpanned Devlin, who finally got "two USGA gentlemen" to rule in his favor. After the free drop, he wedged to six inches for par, then birdied the next two holes.
Devlin took up golf when his father, an avid player, had his right arm sheared off in an auto accident and wanted a sympathetic companion as he tried to relearn the game one-handed. "Even with an arm off, my father never lost consciousness, waited for an ambulance, and signed (the forms) at the hospital for the operation with his left hand . . . ," said Devlin. "He was a 20 handicap with two arms and a 14 handicap with one."
A very determined man, like his son, who gave up his life as a journeyman plumber to try international golf. When Devlin's career was threatened by a circulation problem that made too much blood go to his swelling feet, he had an artery bypass operation. Since 1965, he has started each day by putting his legs up in traction to help the circulation.
"They want me to get another operation, but they're going to have a hard time talking me into it," said Devlin, who tires quickly on the course.
Of his remote possibility of winning the Open, Devlin says, "Stranger things have happened," then later added, teasing, "That's probably the only way that (TV) network will put me on at all."