Golfer William “Bill” Cammack Campbell won more than 30 championships over a seven-decade career and is considered one of the best amateur players in history. Campbell was born May 5, 1923, at his parents’ home in Huntington. His father introduced him to the game of golf when he was three years old, and his family developed a tradition of playing every Sunday afternoon at the Guyan Golf and Country Club in Huntington. At 15, he competed in his first U.S. Amateur Championship where he met Sam Snead. Snead took him under his wing, and they remained friends until Snead’s death in 2002.
Campbell attended Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire for four years and then Princeton University. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army’s artillery division in France and Germany. After the war, he returned to Princeton, graduating in 1947, and then went into the insurance business in Huntington. Campbell was appointed to a vacant seat in the House of Delegates in 1948 and served for three years. In 1954, he married the former Joan Dourif, a widow with four children. They had two children of their own.
Despite his successes on the golf course, Campbell chose to remain an amateur, like his idol, Bobby Jones. He played in the U.S. Amateur Championship 37 times, winning it in 1964 at the age of 41. He won 15 West Virginia State Amateur titles, three West Virginia Opens, four North-South Amateur Championships, two World Amateur Championships and back-to-back U.S. Senior Amateur titles. He is the only person to lead golf’s two governing bodies, the U.S. Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in Scotland. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1990. In 2009, Campbell and Snead became the first two inductees into the West Virginia Golf Hall of Fame, an honor that Campbell called “very, very special.”
Campbell continued to play golf into his 80s. In a 2010 interview, he said: “Golf is a game of misses and how you react to them. That applies also to life. We know that bad bounces and bad breaks occur in golf and in life. You don’t always get what you deserve. But we always hold out hope that from a bad place, we might make a great recovery.”
Last Revised on September 28, 2012
Houvaras Jack. Bill Campbell: A Life in Balance. Huntington Quarterly, Summer 2010.