Few Northwest golfers achieved the extended success enjoyed by Jack Westland. The careers of most of the region's champions spanned 10 years or so. In most cases, after a decade, the "old guard" gave way to a new crop of rising stars, with the standard of play rising with the up-and-coming players. Jack Westland was the exception.
Champion Starts EarlyWestland was virtually born with a golf club in his hand. His father, Alfred "Alf" Westland, was a founding member of Everett Golf & Country Club. Jack's mother died when he was only four years old, so he was brought up by his father and uncle Gene. From the time he could wrap his fingers around a club, Jack was encouraged to play golf by his father. When Westland won the U.S. Amateur crown in 1952 in Seattle, he said, "I have waited for this moment since I was 12 years old playing at Everett."
While attending the University of Washington in 1924, Westland won the first of his three Washington State Men's Amateur championships. He also won the University of Washington's collegiate invitational title three times and was runner-up in the 1925 NCAA Collegiate Championship at New Jersey's Montclair Golf Club. After graduating from the UW, Westland and his new bride, Marcia, moved to Chicago, where he won three Chicago District Amateur championships. Considering the quality of play in this area during the 1930's, garnering this title was certainly equivalent to winning a PNGA Men's Amateur Championship. Adding to Westland's list of accomplishments was his winning of the French Amateur Championship in 1929.
U.S. Amateur Draws a New TalentIn 1931 the USGA introduced the system of sectional qualifying for the U.S. Amateur. The concept of sectional qualifying was originated by none other than the Northwest's own A.S. Kerry. The new system did not cut down travel expenses nor did it excuse the sectional qualifiers from national qualifying rounds. But the young men who qualified showed they had the ability to compete in a national championship rather than just having the necessary handicap.
The fresh group of players at Chicago's Beverly Country Club in 1931 infused the event with new blood from previously underrepresented places. For example, Chandler Harper and Billy Howell were the first Virginians to compete in a U.S. Amateur. When Francis Ouimet walked into the locker room, he knew only three or four other entrants. But Ouimet came to the championship with fire in his eyes, and wasn't concerned about the field. Five times between 1921 and 1929 he'd made it to the semifinals, but each time was unceremoniously ousted.
One of the new players, Johnny Shields, lost 4 & 3 in the first round to the old campaigner, Ouimet. The Howell-Ouimet semifinal match was the tournament's most exciting. After a strenuous duel, Ouimet sank a skidding 20-footer on the 35th hole to reach the final. Meanwhile, Westland beat Sam Parks, George Dunlap (the reigning American intercollegiate champion), Ducky Yates and Junior McCarthy for the right to face Ouimet.
Ouimet would not be denied in 1931, rushing off with a brace of birdies while Jack's putter uncharacteristically failed him. Ouimet won, 6 & 5, to become the oldest Amateur champion to date. This would change in 1952, when none other than Jack Westland would replace Francis Ouimet as the Amateur's oldest title-holder.
With his runner-up showing in 1931, Westland was named to the 1932 Walker Cup Team. When he won the 1933 Western Amateur, Westland got an automatic place on the 1934 Walker Cup Team.
Move Home Ignites Long CareerIn 1936 Jack moved back home to Seattle and began a period when he dominated Northwest golf. In 1937 at Tacoma Country & Golf Club, he tied Scotty Campbell for medalist honors in the PNGA Men's Amateur Championship, shooting a four-under-par 142. But Don Moe demolished Westland, 6 & 5, in the semifinals.
At about this time, there was a jinx associated with players who finished as medalists in a PNGA event. If a player ended up as the medalist, in the vast majority of cases, he or she would not win the title. In 1938 at Waverley Country Club, Westland overcame this bugaboo when he led the field from start to finish. He was medalist, shooting 74-67, and reached the final against his old nemesis, Don Moe. Even if Moe had been on his game, it's unlikely Westland would have lost as Don was soundly defeated, 9 & 8.
Harry Givan said Westland's success came from being a "hell of a putter." But Jack's easy-flowing swing allowed him to hit the ball straight time after time a la Bobby Jones. Northwest reporters described Westland's play "as a picture of perfection." His effortless grace generated considerable clubhead speed, and his club-face control had not been seen locally since the "Emperor" visited Waverley in 1934.
The Duel in VictoriaIn the 1939 PNGA Men's Amateur Championship at Victoria's Royal Colwood Golf & Country Club, Ken Black was the medalist, shooting an amazing 68-67 over the difficult Arthur V. Macan-designed layout. In a later interview, Black said he played the best golf of his career from May through September 1939. The record bore out that sentiment. During that time Black won the Vancouver City Amateur title, the B.C. Amateur and Canadian Amateur.
The 1939 PNGA was a duel from the start to see if reigning champion Westland and medalist Black would meet in the final. The duo did not disappoint, and the finale was a classic, with neither player gaining an advantage early on. While 1-down on the 36th hole, Black played what he described as the best shot of his life, a four iron from the edge of the rough that landed near the hole. Jack missed his putt, while Ken sank his three-footer to send the match into overtime and the 37th hole. Westland drove badly but managed to hit a brassie 25 feet from the hole, while Black hit his second over the green and under a tree. Westland retained the title, and the medalist jinx started anew.
Final Blitz at BroadmoorAt Seattle's Broadmoor Golf Club in the 1940 PNGA Men's Amateur Championship, Harry Givan was the medalist, shooting one-under-par 72-67. Upsets characterized the 1940 event. Bud Ward finished second in qualifying but lost in the first round to Ralph Whaley. Scotty Campbell did likewise, losing to George Butterfield.
Givan and Westland met in a final that was uneventful except for the score: Jack's 11 & 9 defeat of Givan. Like champions before him, Jack attributed his success in winning three straight PNGA titles to practice, practice and more practice. With his third straight win in 1940, Westland duplicated a feat first accomplished by Roderick Macleay. Said Jack of his streak, ''You've got to have a great desire to win. I never enjoyed being beaten. That's why I work like hell."
The "Old Man" returns to the AmateurAt the callow age of 26, Jack Westland lost in the final to Francis Ouimet in the 1931 U.S. Amateur. In 1952, 21 years later, he decided to try again for his childhood dream. What a storybook tale it would be if he could win the U.S. Amateur in his own backyard at Seattle Golf Club. Westland qualified fourth in the 144-player field. The question on everyone's lips was, "Could the 46-year-old withstand the nine rounds in five days needed to win?" The answer soon became clear, as Westland's effortlessly graceful swing, honed through hours of practice, was in fine working order and got him to the final against another Washingtonian, Spokane's Al Mengert.
After going 1-up on the cold, clear morning of the finale, Jack, who chain-smoked cigarettes all the way, was starting to feel his age. But he got a rubdown in the locker room during the lunch break, which loosened up his stiff muscles. Before a huge crowd of approximately 8,000 spectators, Westland and Mengert teed off for the final 18. Mengert (who later said he was "wet-browed from the strain") was 1-up after 27 holes.
Westland continued with his painstakingly precise game, however, and went 2-up after 34. On the 35th hole, Westland sent his second shot into the light rough while Mengert's sailed into a bunker. Westland lofted out a yard from the hole. Mengert exploded and putted past the hole. Game, set, match. Westland's win made him the oldest U.S. Amateur champion to date. Photographers converged on the new champion shouting, "We've waited a week!" Jack quickly responded, "I've waited 21 years."
Jack Westland was never again a dominating force on the PNGA scene. He attempted to defend his U.S. Amateur crown in 1953, but lost in the first round to a newcomer by the name of Arnold Palmer.
Westland later became a public figure when he won Henry Jackson's vacated congressional seat in his home town of Everett. He served for 12 years in the U.S. House of Representatives before losing the election in 1974, and then moved to California. There he continued his trademark steady golf as a member at the famed Cypress Point Club on the Monterey Peninsula. Jack Westland died of cancer in 1981.