The hole that got away

With next week’s U.S. Open being staged on the South Course at Torrey Pines, we caught up with Bruce Devlin, who needed six shots to get out of the pond on the 18th hole during the final round of the 1975 Andy Williams San Diego Open. Devlin ended up with a 10 on the hole. The pond is now named Devlin’s Billabong.

Question: Let’s get this out of the way. How did you make that 10 on 18 at Torrey Pines?

Devlin: I’ve got to fill you in a little on this one. I started out about an hour and a half earlier than Tom Watson, who was leading. So I was eight under coming down the last hole, and I thought I might be able to win if I made eagle. It was the first year they put that lake in front of the green. I hit a nice drive down the right side, and hit a 4-wood that covered the flag, and hit about six inches from the top of the bank. It stayed there for a second and then wiggled back down into the water. Seven attempts later… I kept hitting it out of the water – the flag was only 12 feet away from me – but it would almost get out and roll back down to me. Finally, I got smart and hit it 20 feet past the hole and rolled in the putt for a 10.

Question: So, you one-putted for a 10?

Devlin: Yes, I one-putted for 10.

Question: A lot of people have said that was the inspiration for Roy McElroy’s escapade in “Tin Cup.” Had you heard that? And what do you think?

Devlin: I hadn’t heard that, but it’s kind of interesting. It sort of reminds you of “Tin Cup,” I guess. Of course, I had to go to the press tent afterward, and they were asking me what I was thinking. I said, “Well, the first time I left it in, I said, ‘There goes about 10 grand.’ The second time I left it in, I said, ‘There goes another four grand.’ After a while it didn’t matter that much. If I had left it in there two or three more times I might not have made more than about 200 dollars.”

Question: When you look up your name on the Internet now, “golf course architect” is the first thing that pops up. Are you happy being better known as a designer than a player?

Devlin: At this stage in my career, yes, definitely.

Question: Why did you retire when you did?

Devlin: That’s a good question. I got caught up doing a lot of things and the golf game went a little south, so I just decided it was time. I’ve been in the design business since 1966, starting with El Conquistador in Puerto Rico, and I did the Links Golf Club in Australia.

Question: How many projects do you have in the works right now?

Devlin: I’m actually to a point now where I’ve just about finished, because of all the travel. It is such a pain. I’m doing a re-design in the mountains of North Carolina, but I don’t have any construction projects underway.

Question: Australia has more high-ranking PGA Tour players per capita than any other country in the world. Why is that?

Devlin: Pretty amazing, really. Years ago, a couple of young guys started a teaching facility in Melbourne called the Victorian Institute of Golf, and guys like Robert Allenby and Stuart Appleby came up through that. They also have a national program that Jack Newton is overseeing, helping kids get into the game. We’re getting a good crop of young people playing now, which is the only way to develop talent.

Question: Who will be the next Aussie to win a major?

Devlin: I couldn’t say, really. A lot of us thought there would already be some major wins by them. You look at a guy like Adam Scott, who is a heck of a player, but has been rather disappointing in the majors, so I don’t think I could pick one.

Question: Aaron Baddeley followed in your footsteps, winning the Australian Open as an amateur. Then he fell off the map for a while before coming back. Where do you put his game right now?

Devlin: He’s a very fine player, a beautiful putter. I haven’t seen him play recently, but I’ve heard that he has this one-plane swing that’s working nicely for him now. I don’t know much about it, but he’s obviously got his game back in shape.

Question: How do you think Greg Norman will do as a Presidents Cup captain?

Devlin: Is he a Presidents Cup captain? I didn’t know that. Who knows? Not me.