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Obituaries

William C. Campbell, leader in golf; at 90

William C. Campbell followed through on a shot in 1973 during the US Amateur tournament in Toledo, Ohio.

Associated Press

William C. Campbell followed through on a shot in 1973 during the US Amateur tournament in Toledo, Ohio.

NEW YORK — William C. Campbell, a champion of golf’s amateur era who later led his sport’s two most prestigious governing organizations, died Aug. 30 at his home in Lewisburg, W.Va. He was 90.

His death was confirmed by his son, Colin.

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Mr. Campbell was president of the United States Golf Association in 1982 and 1983. In 1987, he was named captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, in Scotland. He was the first to have led both organizations.

In an era when elite golfers were increasingly turning professional, Mr. Campbell won scores of tournaments as an amateur, including the US Amateur championship in 1964, when he was 41. He competed as an amateur in 18 Masters and 15 US Opens and won the US Senior Amateur championship in 1979 and 1980.

He was an accomplished professional, too, though not in golf.

Throughout his playing career, he ran an insurance company in his hometown, Huntington, W.Va., a few blocks from the house where he was born. From 1949 to 1951, he served in the West Virginia Legislature. He lost a bid for Congress as a Democrat in 1952.

His career spanned golf’s modern history. He knew Bobby Jones and played often with other greats. In 1951, he competed against Sam Snead in a long-drive contest on the Wednesday before the Masters. Mr. Campbell won with a 328-yard drive, 3 yards longer than Snead’s.

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“How’d you do that?” Snead, who was a friend and was 11 years older, asked him later, according to an account Mr. Campbell wrote for Sports Illustrated in 2008.

“Easy, Sam,” Mr. Campbell recalled answering. “I used one of your drivers.”

The next year, Mr. Campbell was playing in the Colonial Invitational in a group that included Ben Hogan and Jimmy Demaret. Mr. Campbell struggled on the first three holes and later admitted feeling self-conscious about his amateur status.

“On the fourth hole,” he recalled, “Ben put his arm around me and said, ‘Bill, you have as much right to be out here as Jimmy or myself.’ ” Hogan went on to win the tournament; Mr. Campbell finished first among amateurs.

William Cammack Campbell was born in 1923, in Huntington. His father, Rolla, was a lawyer, and his mother, Ruth, was active in prison reform and other social causes.

Rolla Campbell played golf casually, but his son, who often tagged along, showed striking talent as a boy and soon began competing in amateur events. He graduated from Princeton in 1947, his college years interrupted by service in the US Army during World War II.

In addition to his son, he leaves his wife of 59 years, the former Joan Bradford; his daughter, Victoria Collins; three stepdaughters; 15 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Mr. Campbell was a standout in the Walker Cup, the biannual competition in which the United States competes against a team from Britain and Ireland. In eight matches over 16 years, he was never on a losing team. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1990.

Even as he traveled the world playing golf and became a powerful leader in the sport, he continued to run his insurance firm from a modest office in his hometown.

“Years ago, most of us could never become pro or else we would have starved to death,’’ Mr. Campbell told The New York Times in 1985.

“Most of us were heroes for a time, and then we went on. Today you have to be sure of your ability, because there is more competition, but even if you don’t make a hit, you’ll still make money.”

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