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Harvie Ward dies aged 78

E. Harvie Ward, one of golf's most accomplished amateurs with victories in both the U.S. and British Amateur championships, passed away Saturday night at his home in Pinehurst following an extended illness. He was 78.

A native of Tarboro, N.C., Ward enjoyed a remarkable decade of amateur golf from 1948-57, book-ended with triumphs in the North and South Amateur at Pinehurst in 1948 and a runner-up finish in the British Amateur in 1957.

In between, Ward won the NCAA championship in 1949, the U.S. Amateur in 1955 and '56, the British Amateur in 1952 and the Canadian Amateur in 1954. Known for his warm smile and razor-sharp short game, Ward also participated on three Walker Cup teams (1953, '55 and '59) and won numerous city, state and regional amateur events.

"The most talented amateur of the decade, no question about it, was Harvie Ward, the consummate stylist from North Carolina," golf historian Herbert Warren Wind wrote in The Story of American Golf.

Ward later turned professional and became a noted club professional and golf instructor, working with touring pros such as Payne Stewart, winner of two U.S. Opens and one PGA Championship. He moved to Pinehurst in 1989 with his wife, Joanne, and taught golf for 15 years at Pine Needles Lodge & Country Club in Southern Pines.

His passing touched many greats in the game of golf he'd competed with and against over the years.

"Harvie was, first of all, a good friend," said Arnold Palmer, a fellow collegian and amateur in the late-1940s and early-1950s. "He was an extremely fine player and one of the fiercest amateur competitors I ever knew. He was a great guy, and one who certainly made his niche in the world of golf as one of its finest players."

"Harvie was a wonderful man and one of the great amateur players of his era," added Jack Nicklaus. "Amateur golf was so much more important in his era as the place where the top golfers of the day competed, and he was considered one of the best. He was able to beat the best, both here in the U.S. and internationally. As much as he will be remembered for his accomplishments in golf, I think he will be remembered even more for his warm and friendly nature."

Peggy Kirk Bell, a long-time fixture in the Pinehurst-area golf scene, welcomed Ward as a teacher at the Pine Needles resort she and her family have owned for more than five decades.

"We'll miss him," Mrs. Bell said. "I remember watching him win the North and South Amateur in '48. Everyone in the gallery loved him.

"In later years, he became an outstanding teacher. He was an asset to us at Pine Needles in our golf schools. The students knew what a great record he had as a player and always responded to his instruction."

Added Bob Cox, a teammate on University of North Carolina golf teams in the late-1940s: "Harvie had a certain rhythm and motion and romance about his game. He never met a stranger. He would be walking down the fairway talking to people."

Ward was born in 1925 and showed an early predilection for golf, learning the game on a nine-hole course of Hilma Country Club in Tarboro. The course's sand greens forced Ward to learn to play along the ground and perfect the bump-and-run approach shots that would later serve him well on the sandy soils of Pinehurst and Scotland.

As a 14-year-old, Ward surprised a field of adult golfers to win the prestigious Linville Invitational and then won the Carolinas Junior Championship in 1940 and '41. He attended prep school at Virginia Episcopal School, served 30 months in the U.S. Army and then earned a degree in economics at the University of North Carolina.

Instead of turning professional, however, Ward opted for a career as a businessman and to continue to pursue golf on an amateur level from home bases in Greensboro, Atlanta and then San Francisco.

"The money was so much different back then," Ward said years later. "Turning pro wasn't an easy choice like today. The thing today is, you're not going to have young amateurs staying amateur because there's so much money. Can you think of a better way to make a living than going out and playing golf every day and getting paid for it?"

Ward's was certainly a fulfilling amateur career.

He played in 10 Masters as an amateur from 1948-58. He finished in the Top 24 four times. In the 1957 Masters, Ward shot rounds of 73-71-71 and trailed leader Sam Snead by one shot. He shot a final-round 73 and finished at 288 as Doug Ford shot 66 to come from behind and win by three shots.

He also competed in eight U.S. Opens, finishing sixth in 1955.

Ward entered eight U.S. Amateurs before finally winning in '55 at the Country Club of Virginia, beating beat Bill Hyndman, 9-and-8, for the title. He successfully defended his championship at Knollwood Club outside Chicago the following summer, beating Charles Kocsis, 5-and-4.

His dynamic skills around the greens staved off the challenges of a young Jack Nicklaus in the 1958 Amateur at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. Ward edged Nicklaus 1-up in an early round, sinking 12 putts of longer than six feet and chipping in once from off the green.

Ward and fellow amateur Ken Venturi competed against Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson in a 1956 match at Pebble Beach pegged by Golf Magazine as "The Greatest Match Ever Played." The match was arranged in part by Eddie Lowery, who owned the San Francisco auto dealership where Ward and Venturi worked.

When Hogan eagled the 491-yard 10th for an eagle-three, Ward and Venturi were 9-under-under but nonetheless trailed in the match by one hole. Only the first, 11th and 14th holes were halved in pars, and there was only one bogey among the four. Hogan and Nelson won 1-up by matching the amateurs' birdies on the last four holes. Hogan shot 9-under 63, Venturi 65, Nelson 67 and Ward 67.

Venturi many years later told newspaperman Ron Green of Charlotte: "It was the best golf I've ever seen. And that's the only team who ever beat Harvie and me. We would have challenged the world. Come to think of it, that was about what we did."

Ward turned pro in 1974 and returned to his native North Carolina to become head golf professional at Foxfire Country Club. He later served at Grand Cypress Golf Club in Orlando and Interlachen Golf Club in Winter Park as director of golf before moving to Pinehurst in 1989.

Golfer Payne Stewart was looking for a swing coach in the mid-1980s following the passing his father, who was the only swing coach he'd ever had. A mutual friend introduced Stewart to Ward and they soon began working together. Dr. Richard Coop, a sports psychologist who counted Stewart as a client until Stewart's tragic death in a 1999 plane crash, credits Ward with being the right teacher at the right time in Stewart's evolution as a champion golfer.

"Harvie was the first teacher Payne trusted beyond his Dad," Coop said. "That was a big step for Payne. He was like a big brother to Payne. They played and cut up and had a good time with each other. Harvie was uniquely fitted for Payne. Both were feel players. Harvie was smart enough to not overload Payne with a lot of technical stuff. He used to say, `Payne was like a Rolls-Royce. You don't mess with that engine. You just tune it up.' That was pretty good insight into Payne."

Ward also had a profound influence on numerous young people in the golf business--pupils and assistant pros on his staffs.

Russ Miller, a native of Asheboro, N.C., and a junior in the golf management program at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., introduced himself to Ward at a 1984 Senior Tour event in nearby Grand Rapids. They visited for a few minutes in the locker room after Ward's round, and Ward hired Miller on the spot.

"Mr. Ward, you've known me for 30 seconds. How can you offer me a job?" Miller asked incredulously.

"Russ, anyone from North Carolina is a friend of mine," Ward said.

Miller, today the director of golf at Broadmoor Golf Club in Colorado Springs, Colo., learned valuable lessons about how to treat employees while working under Ward. "No matter how far up the ladder you climb, no matter how successful you are, how you treat the people who work for you is the utmost importance," Miller said.

During one period of Miller's stint under Ward at Interlachen in the late-1980s, Miller said he was giving serious thought to trying to make his way onto the professional golf tour. Ward suggested they play a series of five 18-hole rounds.

"If you win, fine, you go try the tour," Ward said. "If I win, you forget about it and focus on being a great club pro."

Ward won and that was the end of Miller's designs on the pro tour.

"I was young and cocky and needed to be put in my place," Miller said. "After the last round, Harvie said he'd wanted to tell me I wasn't good enough, but knew he had to prove it to me. Harvie had a gift for pointing people in the right direction. He said, `If you'll stick to being a club pro, I promise you'll be successful.'"

Ward became a father-figure to others like Danielle Ware, a new member of the golf staff at Pinehurst Country Club in the late-1990s following her college career at UNC-Wilmington. Ward helped Ware with her golf swing, course management, mental focus and with skills in teaching others the game. His experiences in golf competition and the golf business helped provide insight to her personal career decisions.

"Harvie did wonders for a lot of people," Ware said. "He built quite an extended family around him and touched so many people."

Ward is a member of the North Carolina Golf Hall of Fame, Carolinas Sports Hall of Fame, Carolinas PGA Hall of Fame and Northern California Golf Writers Hall of Fame.

He is survived by his wife, Joanne Dillon Ward, of Pinehurst, and a sister, Myrtle Ward McElwaine of Pinehurst.

A memorial service is planned for 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 8, at the Member's Clubhouse at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club.

Boles Funeral Home of Pinehurst is in charge of arrangements.

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