April 22, 2021

Bruce Devlin - Part 1 (The Early Years)

Bruce Devlin - Part 1 (The Early Years)

Listen as Bruce Devlin recounts his early life and his introduction to golf after his father loses an arm in an auto wreck. From "Master Plumber" to professional golfer in just a few short years, Bruce tells of his Amateur successes and the early shapers of his game from Robert Von Nida to Kel Nagle. Hear about coming to America to take on the U.S. PGA Tour and his  friendships with Hogan, Nicklaus, Palmer and Player, the influence of Mark McCormack on his career and the challenges he faced achieving financial stability in those early days. Bruce Devlin tells his story, "FORE the Good of the Game."

Transcript
Mike Gonzalez:

Bruce Devlin, this is your life.

Bruce Devlin:

I'm ready. Let's go. Okay. All right.

Mike Gonzalez:

So I guess the The first thing to start with is just tell us about growing up in a little town, which you didn't spend much time in as it turns out in Armidale, New South Wales, Australia.

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah, my only recollection of Armidale was that I traveled through it two or three different times in an automobile. But I left Armidale my dad moved from Armidale to Goulburn when I was six months old, so I have no vivid memories of Armidale. Yeah,

Mike Gonzalez:

So tell us about your folks.

Bruce Devlin:

Well, my dad was a plumber. He got his license through correspondence, which is a little bit different. I don't think that can happen in today's world, but he was a correspondent, Master plumber. And you know, he always worked very hard. He was a hard working guy. And he provided well for my mom and myself and my sister, but my mom was, mom was a stay at home mom. And, in my very early days, I wasn't that interested in golf didn't appeal to me that much. But eventually, eventually, that's where I ended up.

Mike Gonzalez:

Was your dad a sportsman?

Bruce Devlin:

My dad actually represented the state of New South Wales, playing regular football and football being not soccer as the Europeans call it, but rugby league football, he was a, what they call a 5/8. Sort of the guy that controls what happens. They take it out, they take it out of the rock, and then they dispose of it where they want to do it or keep it themselves and he was a good athlete. And he also was quite a cyclist, actually, he loved to ride his bike. And some of my very early memories were sitting on the handlebars of that bike when he was out. riding around, he used to put me on the handlebars and off we go. So I don't think too many kids had that as a learning thing in their younger days.

Mike Gonzalez:

Was your sister Faye younger or older than you?

Bruce Devlin:

She's five years younger than me. And she was a bit of a brain. She went through college because I didn't get to go to college, but she went through college and then she decided that she wanted to go to New Zealand and teach, which she did for about three years. And then she come back and met a guy in Melbourne and ended up marrying him. But she never played golf. My mum played just a little bit of golf. But my dad was the influence for me actually getting into the game of golf. His regular job was controlling people that he hired to do certain aspects of plumbing and mostly it was housing. I'd say 90% of the work that he did was put the plumbing in houses.

Mike Gonzalez:

And at some point, you found yourself going down that plumbing path as well.

Bruce Devlin:

Yes, I did. But it was a little different to the way he did. I was not being a very good boy in high school. And my dad pulled me out of high school and put me in a Catholic college. And I was in the college and trying to play golf and then I went away one weekend and won a golf tournament. I mean, a couple of 100 miles from where we lived, and we didn't get back until sort of mid morning on Monday and I didn't go to school. And then on Tuesday morning when I went to school, the superintendent of the school had my first class and he came up to me and said hey, listen, you got to make a choice. You know, you think you want to go and play golf, go play golf, or stay here and be a school student. And I said, Okay, that's fine. I'll just pack my stuff up and left.

Mike Gonzalez:

I can only imagine what that conversation at home was like.

Bruce Devlin:

Oh, well my dad used to come home sorta for lunch all the time mom had cooking lunch, and I got back to

the house about 10:30-11:

00 in the morning, and he come home at lunchtime. And I can't tell you exactly what he said. But you know, it was like, What the hell are you doing here? And I told him what had happened. And he said, Okay, get back in your room, put on a pair of overalls, you're going to start working for me as a plumber. And that's how I first started. And then because I went through, I went through technical school. I used to do that. Okay, like about two days a month, actual daytime, and the rest of it was nighttime stuff, had Technical College and become a master plumber. And then when, after I had the license that permitted me to bid on projects that were in the large cities where I had, I had the right license, so we started to do high rise plumbing. So but, you know, my dad controlled it all he was the brains behind it all. I ended up pushing numbers most of the time.

Mike Gonzalez:

Well, let's jump back a little bit, back to a time where you first got exposed to golf. Why don't you tell us a little bit about how that happened.

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah, well, it was my early where I loved field hockey, and our little town of 50,000 people actually had three Olympians on the Australian hockey team. So, we probably had 15 different teams in our little town where we played hockey against one another. And I played just a little bit of football in school, but not much. And then unfortunately, when I was 15, my dad was driving back from Sydney, he'd been down there picking up some material for his business. And he got hit by a truck and it severed his right arm he was driving with his elbow resting on the window. And he lost his arm and he was a 20 handicapper when he had two arms and he was a left hander, which is unusual. Because he had great penmanship. He was a beautiful writer with his right hand he had he play golf left. And I suppose that makes sense. Dominant right hand people play left handed. But then, when he came back and was rehabbing, he said, Well, I'm ready to play golf again. And I'm looking for a volunteer and you're it. You come with me. We're gonna go play some golf today. So we played and before that we never played before. Okay, no, I'd never played before. And I actually used my mum's golf clubs, the first time I played so that's how I got into golf. It was a sort of a catastrophe that led to something that has lasted quite a long time.

Mike Gonzalez:

So he just sort of takesyou along and say, okay, you're my designated partner while I try to re-learn this game with one one hand.

Bruce Devlin:

And you know, PostScript to that, I think is very interesting. He was a 20 handicapper with two arms. And a 14 handicapper was one. That's, it's quite remarkable when you think about it. And the other thing that's, I think, more remarkable is that he played forehand with his left hand and not back handed. If you think about how you would swing a golf club with one hand, if you're right handed, you think well, you know, my left hand is the one to take it back in hit it with the right hand sort of their, you know, going along for the ride. But the Yeah, he played forehand in which was very interesting.

Mike Gonzalez:

And I think I remember you telling me he was a heck of a putter as well.

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah, he was a pretty good putter. Yeah, just with with one arm.

Mike Gonzalez:

I've got a memory of my first high school match. I'm a freshman in high school. We're in Effingham, Illinois. It's April first. It's snowing for my first golf match. And I remember once you get the players out on the course they let the coaches play, so our coach and the Effingham coach played. He was a one arm golfer. First time I'd seen anybody play with one arm and he was hitting the ball at least 200 yards, It was amazing how well he hit the ball.

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah, you know, something else happened when first got on the tour everybody knew about where I came from and that my dad had lost his arm. So every pro-am that I was at, I would get the one legged golfer, or the one arm golfer, which was great for me, because people that lose lose a limb are very, very independent people. You've got to be a little bit careful about offering them anything, because they think they're gonna be able to do it anyhow. So actually, it was great for me because, having grown up from 15 to when I turned pro with my dad, I used to see him scratch his right hand with his left hand. Cause he was just scratching the air, but they're very independent people. And I do remember that in Miami one year, I had two one arm golfers and a one legged golfer. And we won the pro-am. I thought that was sort of fun.

Mike Gonzalez:

You eventually took the game up a little bit more seriously. Where did you get your first golf clubs?

Bruce Devlin:

Well, I used my mother's clubs, first of all, and then my dad bought me a set of golf clubs, and a little golf club that we had. Well, the only 18 hole golf course that we had was a club called Goulburn Golf Club. And there was an old Scottish pro there. A guy by the name of Jim O'Connor. And he's the guy that really taught me the basic fundamentals early in the game. I wouldn't say that he was a great player, but he was a good teacher. A lot of people thought he was a pretty good teacher.

Mike Gonzalez:

I remember in your book, you mentioned a guy named Frank Styles that he came up with some clubs for you as well.

Bruce Devlin:

Frank styles did. He used to work with my dad. He wasn't on Dad's staff. But he used to subcontract and do work with my dad. Yeah, he was a good buddy.

Mike Gonzalez:

And then, at some point, you got introduced to the Lakes Golf Club, I believe and had a chance to play in some weekend matches.

Bruce Devlin:

I got introduced to a member there. And because I'm living 130 miles away from the lakes golf club in Sydney. But they said would you considere driving down every Saturday morning and playing in the pennant team. And I thought, well, that'd be a good way to find out whether I can beat the guys from the other clubs in Sydney. So I did that for quite a while. And there's also a story about that club. Later on that I'm sure we'll talk about. The second or third year that I was in the United States, I got a call from the president of the Lakes Golf Club, and he said, Bruce, I need to chat with you. So I drove down to Sydney to talk with him. And he said, Look, here's what's happening. The State of New South Wales is building a new freeway, and the freeway is coming through this golf course. So he said, when you're in America, would you sort of check in and look at some other architectural work by different architects in the States? And I said, Well, you know, I'll do it as much as I could. And, of course, that ultimately led to me being involved in the golf course architecture business.

Mike Gonzalez:

There was an early teacher to that I remember from your book by the name of Billy Macwilliam,

Bruce Devlin:

Billy macwilliam, actually had a golf club, everly Park golf club in Sydney. And he was, he was Bruce Crampton's lifelong coach. Very, very nice man, very knowledgeable about the game and every chance I got in my very early days, you know, I'd sneak out. It's Beverly Park is where he used to be at.

Mike Gonzalez:

So what age is this? Approximately?

Bruce Devlin:

I was an 18 or 19 year old.

Mike Gonzalez:

The one thing that I don't know if you were feeling the effects of yet, but I didn't really know this about you until I read in the book about some of the health challenges that you faced as a young man.

Bruce Devlin:

Well, I can't even remember all the things but I've had, I've had some health issues. I know I had scarlet fever. And then when I was, I guess in 1965, my back would be my fourth year over here. I ended up having varicose vein operation in sharpstown Hospital by a doctor that I played golf within the program said, You look like you're struggling. You get tired today, you know, you were doing great until about the 30 town you got it see Is anything wrong with your legs? And I said, Oh, I don't know, I just sort of sit in bed at night and put them up against the wall to drain the blood out of them. He said, I know what your problem is. He said, Let's go to the locker room and take your pants off. And let me have a look. And he said, Yeah, you've got to get a operation.

Mike Gonzalez:

And this wasn't the one or two kind of you know, this was serious.

Bruce Devlin:

This was serious. Yeah, yeah. 132 stitches I had in my legs.

Mike Gonzalez:

And was the difference noticeable?

Bruce Devlin:

Not immediately, it wasn't. But I went back home, I took four months off after the operation. And my mum and dad had a house down by the ocean. And I used to get in the ocean of a morning, sort of waist high. And I'd walk and walk, walk back and forth, you know, back along the beach, to the south, back to the north to the south back to the north. And I did that for three and a half months. And I guess the salt water helped the wounds and it also strengthened my legs. So after that, it was like, gee, I never felt like this for a long time.

Mike Gonzalez:

Yeah, feeling strong on a Sunday is what you need.

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Mike Gonzalez:

So at some point, your game progressed to the point where you tried out some tournaments on the amateur circuit. And had some successes.

Bruce Devlin:

I did. I think the very first time that I won a golf tournament was what they call the country trying to think of the correct word, all the players from the country, they have a championship, your city guys can go there and I went down there and won that country championship. And that sort of piqued my interest more and I started to spend a little bit more time playing the game and I got to beat a guy that was my hero in my early days. A guy by the name of Harry Berwick, he was a great champion, amateur champion. And I was able to beat him in the final of the New South Wales Amateur Championship at ______ in Sydney, which might be one of my all time favorite golf courses that I've ever played.

Mike Gonzalez:

I've got a list of some of the what I guess people would consider some of the your most significant amateur victories. The Marquarrie Amateur in 1958. The New South Wales Amateur as well, as you mentioned, the Australian Amateur 1959

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah. And that was at Royal Sydney.

Mike Gonzalez:

Okay. All right. And so what's your thought process at this point? You know, by then you're what, 2021 years old or so and what do you think is possible golf wise for you at that point?

Bruce Devlin:

You know, Mike, I never really had any intentions of turning pro. When I got my plumbing license, we started to do more and more work. And at one time, we had like, 35 people that worked for us. So you know, we had a pretty strong business. And I got after winning the open. I got picked on the Eisenhower Cup team that went over and played the Eisenhower trophy in St. Andrews. Yeah, at the Old Course. Yeah, the old course which was my first trip over there. 1958 and then again in 1959 at Merion, represented Australia in it also.

Mike Gonzalez:

1958. was that a win?

Bruce Devlin:

That was a win for me as an individual and for Australia. For me, that was pretty special when you think about it I mean, I can remember flying on the old super constellation airplane back in the late 50s the one with the four or six engines I'm not sure which it was, but it was you know, it was a stop in Fiji stop in Honolulu's stop in LA stop in New York. Stop in Newfoundland, go to London then in the end. Scotland 52 hours of my time.

Mike Gonzalez:

Was that your big first trip away?

Bruce Devlin:

That was my first big trip? Yeah. 52 hours all is hard to believe. A long time in a plane.

Mike Gonzalez:

Yeah. So you while I think about it, I don't want to let this go. You talk about the plumbing business. But I understand there might have been a side business as well. Was that right?

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah, my dad had a little side business. He actually was a registered bookmaker. And we go to two horse racing meetings, and we go to dog racing meetings. And he had a very young clerk in those days, name was Bruce Devlin. So I learned how to clerk a bookie in my early career as well. And then he did have a sort of unconventional way of doing his book making too. We used to do it away from the racetracks, which wasn't something you should be doing. But my dad found a way to do it. In one particular little hotel that we used to go to and I wasn't allowed in the bar.

Mike Gonzalez:

Did you get any cut of the action back then?

Bruce Devlin:

Oh, yeah, He always looked after me. I was very fortunate to have a dad like I did.

Mike Gonzalez:

So you had a really, really strong amateur career. So now we're coming up to 1960. And in 1960, you played a little tournament over in Australia and surprised some people.

Bruce Devlin:

I did. I surprised a lot of people that year. We played the open at Lake Karrinyup. And because one of my heroes or two of my heroes really were mean I love Kel. Nagle as an individual and he was also a terrific player. And of course one growing up in Australia couldn't help but admire a guy like Peter Thomson. He might have been one of the steadiest, most uncomplicated golfers that I've ever watched in my life. To be quite honest with you, he wasn't all that fun to watch, because he never seemed to get into trouble. And you know, he's sort of just plodded along. So yeah, I was, as we said, an amateur then winning the open was pretty special. But I still, you know, I still had no intention to turn pro.

Mike Gonzalez:

Yeah. So what was the American professional participation in the Australian Open back in those days?

Bruce Devlin:

Back in those days, it was not very popular. It did become very popular. Yeah. But back in the back in the early 60s, I think after Crampton. Crampton was ahead of me coming over to the US to play. And then when I come over in the early 60s, you know, you may make friends with some of the guys here and I had an arrangement with a company in Australia where, you know, if I wanted to bring somebody over to play in Australia and do a couple exhibitions with him. They were pretty good. They sort of basically funded that whole thing, which was nice.

Mike Gonzalez:

So back then Kel Nagle, Peter Thompson. Those are names you hear about as guys that played the the American tour.

Bruce Devlin:

Now they played they did play but they didn't play very much. Peter was more of a European tour player. He played a lot and won a lot of golf tournaments over there. Cal played a little bit more here in the States As matter of fact in 65 I think it was in St. Louis. I believe Gary Player won the open that year at Bellerive and Kel I think came in second, okay. So, you know, he never played as much over here as Crampton or myself did.

Mike Gonzalez:

I always thought that, looking back on the history of it, it was Bruce, you kind of the initial pioneers, if you will come in from Australia and really take on the US tour seriously.

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah, I would, I would say that's for sure. David Graham a few years later and then Norman, and then Baker Finch. And you know, I mean, we've had some pretty good players come out of Australia.

Mike Gonzalez:

But making the decision at the time you made and you talk about the 52 hour flight, travel was different, and the world was different. And so you turn the clock back 60 years ago or so. And you guys making that choice to come to America to play this tour on a fairly regular basis. And it'd be an interesting decision.

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah, it was. Well, I got an invitation to the Masters in 1961, after winning the Australian Open, and to be quite honest with you, I didn't have enough money. And my dad didn't really want to sponsor me coming over to the states to play when I, you know, probably wasn't gonna win much money anyhow. So I turned the invitation to Augusta down. Maybe I'm the only one that's ever done that. But Clifford Roberts was nice enough to invite me again the next year. And that was my first sojourn as a pro. I turned pro in 61. And then my very, very first professional golf tournament was Augusta in 62.

Mike Gonzalez:

That's a pretty nice place to start.

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah, but you know, the biggest thrill I got out of that week I must say was, you know, it was fun to play the Masters but to read to see all those guys that I read about was, you know, I mean, the the Jimmy Demaret and Jackie Burke and you know, Snead and Byron Nelson. I mean, all of those guys were just, you know, fabulous. And then to play my first practice around with Ben Hogan. One night we've been over Norman Von Nida introduced me to him in the locker room.

Mike Gonzalez:

You know, that's pretty heady stuff. It's pretty heady stuff. And of course, we're going to talk a lot about your relationship with Ben Hogan because that meeting that particular tournament, led to quite a few other interactions with Ben Hogan over the years. I want to come back briefly to your amateur career, because in addition to winning the 1960 Australian Open, I think you also came across to play in the US amateur 1960 the one that Dean Beman won down in St. Louis. Yes. So tell me a little bit about that trip.

Bruce Devlin:

I got a call from Mark McCormack, I think was the guy that got in touch with a buddy of mine. And it might have been the guy from Slazenger's and said that, you know, if you come over a little bit early, maybe you'd like to go up and spend a few days with Jack in Columbus, which, you know, I mean, how are you going to turn that down? Right. So I came in a little bit early. And we I remember vividly standing there watching Jack Grout give Nicklaus lessons for four or five days in a row. And of course, he helped me a little bit. But yeah, we got in a car and drove from Columbus to St. Louis. And I hate to say it, but Dean Beman beat both of us. I got to give him credit. Dean Beman was, you know, he was a very short hitter in those days. And of course, we know he become the commissioner, but he had a pretty good record. He had a pretty good record as an amateur.

Mike Gonzalez:

And then I think you drove back probably with Jack to Columbus. Did you go on to a Merion event from there?

Bruce Devlin:

We both went to Merion from there and played the second Eisenhower Trophy matches. And I think Jack broke Hogan's record scoring record at Merion that year. And I think Beeman was second that year. And I don't know I think maybe Devlin was third or fourth that year,

Mike Gonzalez:

So Bruce, let's talk a little bit about, about the decision process that you went through. This was, I think, 1961, just after you won the Australian Open the decision process you went through to turn professional.

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah, well, I had, like I said, I had no real intentions of turning pro because of the business that I've had with my dad. And then I went home for lunch one day, and I walked in the back door, heading towards the kitchen in the apartment that Gloria and I had rented. And here's Norman Von Nida sitting down at the kitchen table. I asked What the hell are you doing here? And he said, I come to talk to your wife. I said, well. And did you have a good chat? He said, yeah. He said, I think its foolish to not turn pro. He said, I, if it makes any difference to you, I'd be prepared to guarantee you some money for your first year as pro if you turn pro, you know, and I'm making, I guess it those days I was making 175 bucks a week or so, it wasn't a lot of money. But, but that would have been pounds, not dollars, because we didn't change until 66. So, you know, that sound like, you know, 45,000 sound like a lot of money. And I labored over the decision for a long time because, you know, the ramifications were not only, you know, that I got to get up and go and play golf, wherever. But I sort of left my thinking about my dad, you know, I'm leaving him with 35 people with no help. And I had a long talk with him. And he, he was for me turning pro and said that, you know, I only have one alternative, and that is that I've got to, I'm just going to go back to where I was, you know, before you got your license, and, and he pulled back where he only had two or three guys working for him. So that was a pretty hard decision for me to do that. Because I did it to him. You know, I mean, there's no question about it.

Mike Gonzalez:

Yeah. How about your mom? What was her reaction to all this?

Bruce Devlin:

I don't know. She was I think she was pretty supportive. She sort of went along with what dad thought golf wise most of the time, so she was okay with it. I don't think she wanted to necessarily, not see your grandchildren and stuff like that. But you know.

Mike Gonzalez:

And that was the other part of it. It wasn't just the mom, dad, the business implications because you're a partner with your dad, but now you're married. You got a family. That's right. You got little ones. And you know, you're going to be traveling a lot.

Bruce Devlin:

At that time, we had to. But it was, it was you know, it was tough in the early years. I must admit it. It wasn't as easy as what it is today. And of course, the money in those days. Were just, you know, it was? I'm not sure. Is that talking about $45,000 a year?

Mike Gonzalez:

$45,000 in 1961 was a lot of money.

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah. It sounded like a lot to me back then. Yeah,

Mike Gonzalez:

So you know, at this time, you're going to come over the tour and try the US tour of course. It's not like you're flying over for trim and flying back home now. You got kids at home, you got Gloria at home, you've got your folks know this is a real commitment on your come over for extended period of time.

Bruce Devlin:

I got some real help back in those days from my relationship with Jack and of course, Mark McCormack had us both under contract. So you know, Mark did a lot of legwork for me and got me some exemptions. So I was planning to play until I ran out of money didn't take very long by the way. I'd have to check the record but I think in 62 I probably played about five tournament's and then I had to hit Oh my I've run out a run out of dollars. And then I actually had a pretty good season in Australia that year. I think I won three tournament So I sort of filled the coffers back up again and decided to take another shot and in 19 63 that time My wife and two kids got a gift from, from the sponsors I had talked about earlier. And they bought them tickets on a ship from Australia to America and back again. The one real problem was that I ran out of money quicker than I was capable of her moving back because the ticket to return was in September. So she had to spend she ended up spending about three months in Columbus, Ohio with Nicklaus family. So while I went and play golf, and I think that year won the New Zealand open. So, you know, it was sort of, it was tough. In early days, it was tough for me over here, I, you know, I had my tail between my legs a couple of times. And then I got my big breakthrough, of course, I was in St. Louis in early 64. And complaining to Nicklaus about how bad I was driving. And he gave me a lesson Wednesday afternoon, and then I went out and won the tournament. Now, he did remind me that that was my first and last lesson that I'll ever get from him. But there was a while. But he, you know, we've had a fabulous relationship over the years, it's been a long been a long relationship. The unfortunate part about friendships like that is you just don't spend enough time with one another.

Mike Gonzalez:

Let's go back, again, to just coming out on on tour and the Australian PGA probably operate a little bit differently than the U.S. PGA back then. But you had to go through some sort of probationary period or something, did you?

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah, I did. I turned pro, May of 61. And you had to do a 12 month probationary period. And, I think I won two tournaments that year, and got no money for it. Because you couldn't accept prize money. And then somebody got it. And somebody got it. Yeah. So when I got my invitation back to Augusta, I actually had to write a letter to the Australian PGA and get permission to go to Augusta in 1962. and accept money. So sound a little backward to hear. But that's the way it was.

Mike Gonzalez:

By that time, you've joined the tour in 62. And as you mentioned earlier, it wasn't always easy. And so you cover this your book, which is called play like...

Bruce Devlin:

Like the devil. Yeah.

Mike Gonzalez:

And in the book, you talk about a rough patch, which I think wore on you because, again, the family and everything else involved in and you mentioned a win at the Willis Masters That, to me, it almost sounded like maybe that was the turning point that got you back was well,

Bruce Devlin:

The Willis Masters is now what they call the Australian Masters. And the gentleman that was the CEO of the Willis company, which, incidentally was a tobacco company. They were big sponsors in golf, and they they said, you know, we'd like to do something special for you. I know you'd like to have your wife and kids with you in America when you go out and play. So we're going to give you give them round trip tickets on the boat. Unfortunately, part was it was set up on like a six month basis. And I guess you couldn't you know, you couldn't change the return trip. So like I said, when I went broke again, I headed home and they stayed in Columbus.

Mike Gonzalez:

You talked a little bit about a couple of guys. I want to get back to one earlier on. This is a name much more familiar to Australians and Americans but a fellow that was an accomplished player in his own right, Norman von Nida.

Bruce Devlin:

Correct. Norman von Nida won many, many times. On the European tour. He played a little bit in Australia. And he became very good friends with Ben Hogan. And he became my coach for couple of years shy of me actually turning pro If I will, I just got back a couple of years earlier than that my dad, my dad had arranged with somebody to take me to Sydney to play a round a golf with Norman von Nida. And when the round was over, my dad said, What do you think? and Norman said to him, I think he better stick to plumbing. That wasn't a very heartwarming thing that he said back in those days. But obviously, he decided that things had changed when he made his trip to Goulburn, but I was pretty hard to you know, my dad told me that he asked him, you know, what I make? And he said, No, you have to stick to plumbing.

Mike Gonzalez:

And so you mentioned that, at that first Masters that He introduces you to Ben Hogan.

Bruce Devlin:

He introduced me to Mr. Hogan and asked him if he'd play a practice round with me. And he did. And of course, that led to about seven years of if Mr. Hogan and I were at the same golf tournament, we normally would play one or two practice rounds together. So it was a thrill.

Mike Gonzalez:

And we're going to get a chance to talk to Robert Stennett, who is the current CEO of the Ben Hogan Foundation on another episode that I'm sure we're going to spend a little bit of time reflecting on Ben Hogan, the man, your relationship, your experiences. That must have been quite a thrill as a young Australian coming over to this strange land for the first time.

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah, it was it you know, it was, like I said earlier, you know, to walk into Augusta and see the players that I saw that first trip was just, I mean, it was mind boggling. No wonder I shot 158 I spent most of my time at the back of the practice tee watching them play. And then of course, you know, Augusta beat me up real bad. The first two days I played there, but it was an absolute thrill to meet them, you know, the real stars of the game.

Mike Gonzalez:

And, you know, you get to a point you the other fellow you mentioned earlier was Mark McCormack, and our listeners will certainly remember Mark a big guy in a lot of ways, but he was very instrumental in putting together IMG correct represented early players. And so his first stable of players, included Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus Gary Player Bruce Devlin,

Bruce Devlin:

and Doug Sanders, Bob Charles. And he had a pretty good stable there in the early days. And of course, you know, being part of that stable too was great for me, because I got to play exhibitions with Gary and Jack and Arnold. You know, to one year, I think it was 1966 I took a week off from playing golf and Arnold and I played five exhibitions that week, you know, to be staying at his house and traveling with him and playing exhibitions. It was it was fun. And of course, when he come to Australia, we always find a found a way there to find a sponsor to go play an exhibition in Australia as well.

Mike Gonzalez:

Yeah, that had to be quite a thrill. And so Mark McCormack was quite influential on the game and on the professional game.

Bruce Devlin:

Absolutely. And Mark loved to play you know, he was a pretty good stick, maybe a six or seven handicapper. He loved to play. But his true love was the marketing side of the business. Wow. Well, he was you know, I mean, he was the big dog for a long time in, you know, looking after players.

Mike Gonzalez:

So I'm sure he presented you and others with a whole lot of opportunities over time outside the game with sponsorships and so forth.

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah, absolutely. As a matter of fact, and this will give people a good idea of, you know, you're talking about

Mike Gonzalez:

You know, it's all relative, but again, that what some of the guys make today. I signed a contract with Spalding in 1964. For what was then the highest contract tha Spalding had ever written for a golfer to represent them fo three years. For $100,000. hat was a pretty fancy contra t. I thought. was a lot of money.

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah, it was a lot of money. And yeah, of course, that would never have been possible except for McCormack.

Mike Gonzalez:

I remember reading his book as a younger man, or just one of his books. He maybe wrote more than one. But talk a little bit about Kel Nagle and his influence on your career.

Bruce Devlin:

Kel Nagel, I got to meet Kel when I was 17 years old as a matter of fact, and we go back to the lakes Golf Club again. I got paid the first two days in the lakes open, which was a tournament where a sponsor might bring a an American player over to play. And this particular year they bought Marlene Hagge, the female golfer and Kel. Nagle and Marlene Hagge and Bruce Devlin paired the first two rounds. And prior to teeing off we had a late tee time on the Thursday and prior to teeing off Kel and I were having lunch in the clubhouse, and Marlene came up to him and said, Oh, is this your boy? and Kel said, Oh, no. That's not my boy. That's, that's Bruce Devlin. And he's going to play with us today. And she said, I thought it was your boy sitting there, Kelsey. Now, wait a minute. How old do you think I am? And she said, Well, I don't know Kel, probably mid 30s. He said, Yeah, you know, and Bruce is 17. So I would have started that thing a little bit early, don't you think? And she said are now you'd have been able to handle that. So. But I did. I played a lot of practice rounds with Kel over the years. And he was just I think he's the nicest man that I ever met in the game. I got to know him very, very personally. And I thought so much of him that I named my first child after him. Kelvin David George Nagle was his name, and I called my son Kel Devlin.

Mike Gonzalez:

That's terrific. I'll go back to one Hogan bit because it's something I think, either you told me about I read about one of your favorite memories was a trip you were able to take to the 66 open at the Olympic Club with the Hogan's

Bruce Devlin:

Yes, that was fun. My wife was with me that year. And we were in Miami. And we got on a plane to head to the Open. And we went from Miami to Dallas to San Francisco. And Mr. Hogan and his wife Valerie got on the plane in Dallas. And we all stayed at what was then called the Top of the Mark hotel, which was actually a bit fancy, really, for me to be staying at. Not for Mr. Hogan, but for me. But we got to eat dinner every night. Got to travel to the golf course played a couple of practice rounds together. And on the Monday night, the first night we were there, I think we're in the hotel having dinner and I haven't seen him and so I said, Mr. Hogan, memories, give me some memories about what happened that dreaded day that you left El Paso and was heading back home. And it took him two nights to tell that whole story about struggling at Merion, on the last hole of Merion when he won the Open. So it was you know, we're having to sit down and listen to that, you know, he talked about he actually talked about how he slid across the seat to get himself in front of Valerie and how his legs obviously were left behind and that's where all the damage was done. But yeah, it was a wonderful relationship. He was a very, very nice man. A lot of people thought he was a bit standoffish. I think if you got to know him like we did, you'd say that wasn't Mr. Hogan at all, he was a very personable man.

Mike Gonzalez:

I've got a story I'll save for another episode where my wife and I were able to meet his insurance man, both personally and professionally, out of Pebble Beach one evening, and involves a few other people, you know, and maybe when we're together with Robert stennett. We'll talk a little bit about that guy's he probably knows who I'm talking about. I don't remember the fellows name. But anyway. So it was in 1968 was it that you brought the entire family over to America for the first time?

Bruce Devlin:

Yes, there's a little bit to the side of that story. We were living in Canberra. We had moved to Canberra and had just built a lovely home. The name of the home was Birkdale because that's where I had one golf tournament a couple of years earlier. So we, I was playing golf at Royal Canberra Golf Club with an attache from the United States Air Force. And he said to me, You wouldn't happen to know anybody that would like to rent a house for a couple of years. You know, we've got a gentleman coming over from America with his family, we'd like to find a nice house to rent. So I went back home to Gloria and I said, what do you think? Why don't we just instead of me traveling back and forth, back and forth? Why don't we just go to America for two years? We take the kids will, because Kurt, our youngest, was only six months old then. And I don't know how I talked her into doing it. But she decided that she wanted to do it. So that two years is turned into 53. And the house in Canberra is owned, I don't know if it still is but after two years it was owned by the American government.

Mike Gonzalez:

Is that right? Did it make it a lot easier though, having the family overall?

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah, just the travel. The traveling was just too much. It's a long way from Australia, you know? 12 and a half hours coming back this way and 14 to 16 going that way, depending upon the wind. It's It's a long way. That's from the west coast. Sure. Yeah.

Mike Gonzalez:

And when you started when you came over in 62, and really got serious about the US tour. Was your travel mostly by auto? Were were you able to get on airplanes occasionally and go from tournament to tournament?

Bruce Devlin:

Well, the early years I had a big piece of equipment that I used to travel around and it was called a Greyhound bus. Dear Gloria and the kids traveling on a Greyhound bus with cloth diapers, no disposable diapers, you can imagine what that was like. But she always says, You know, I do it again. I said, Well, you're nuts. Some people will remember this gentleman, he was a Canadian. A man by the name is Stan Leonard, who won, I think three times on the US tour. And in 1960's, it was either 1965 or 1966, the top 25 money winners of the previous year got to use a Pontiac Sedan, a four door sedan Pontiac for the next year. And Stan Leonard had very, very strong ties to the Canadian tour. And he would play through the winter months. And then after Augusta, he got back to Canada and play. So he said to me one day, Bruce, would you do me a favor and take care of my Pontiac until I get back in six weeks. So Gloria and I got to travel around in a beautiful Pontiac for six weeks.

Mike Gonzalez:

So you must have thought you were living large.

Bruce Devlin:

Yeah. Right? Talk a little bit about your, let me do the bragging for you. You don't have to brag but you had a sensational global golf career as a professional 40 total wins. But if you just focus on the PGA Tour, eight wins on the PGA Tour. And it's interesting, and we'll talk about this I'm sure when we talk with Lee Trevino in a later episode, but I think three of those wins came when playing with him on the last day

Mike Gonzalez:

So was there something to that?

Bruce Devlin:

Actually, there were only two in this country. One of them was a tournament in Australia. And you know, I can't remember the name of it. I'd have to look it up. But I played with him and then actually beat him in a playoff on the first extra hole of a playoff and that was at ______Golf Club in Melbourne. Okay, I'll bet he remembers that too!

Mike Gonzalez:

He's probably trying to forget. In addition to the eight wins you came really close. You were in three playoffs that didn't go your way. 78 Top 10s, Top 25 in over half of the events you played on the PGA Tourand you made 77% of the cuts. With really most of the cuts missed was late in your career. If you just look at your prime years, I mean, it was cut after cut. I mean, make after make after make. And I think in your career, nearly a million dollars in official prize money is that right?

Bruce Devlin:

Correct.

Mike Gonzalez:

Yeah. You want me to, you know, calculate that in 2021 dollars?

Bruce Devlin:

I don't think we have to, although, let's see 1964 first prize $3,000 times 57 years. Now it's more than 67 and 57 years.

Mike Gonzalez:

Thank you for listening to another episode of for the good of the game. And please, wherever you listen to your podcast on Apple and Spotify, if you like what you hear, please subscribe. Spread the word. Tell your friends until we tee it up again. For the good of the game. So long everybody.

Bruce Devlin

Golf Professional and Golf Course Architect

Professional golfer, broadcaster, course designer and philanthropist, Australian-born Bruce Devlin amassed 40 world-wide wins in his professional career. As a young man, he followed his father and began an apprenticeship in plumbing. It wasn’t until a tragic accident took his father’s arm that he began playing golf at age 13. As a fine amateur player, Bruce enjoyed a great deal of success with wins at the Australian Amateur and Australian Open before turning 23. In 1958, as a member of the Australian team, he won team and individual honors at the inaugural Eisenhower Trophy played at the Old Course in St. Andrews. He turned pro in 1961 and won his first international event in 1962. Over his career, he also achieved eight victories on the U.S. PGA Tour. In 1972, he earned $119,768 and finished eighth on the money list. Bruce was inducted into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame in 2014. Bruce is one of only four golfers to have scored a double eagle at the Masters Tournament. He achieved this in the first round of the 1967 Masters, holing a 4-wood from 248 yards on the par-5 8th hole. His last victory came on the Senior PGA Tour in 1995. At the end of the 1998 golf season, he retired from the Senior PGA Tour to concentrate on his Golf Course Architecture and Design business and his commitment to ESPN's Golf Telecasts. He worked for NBC from 1977 to 1982 and ESPN from 1983 to 1987. Bruce currently serves as Board Chairman for The Devlin Foundation and is an active volunteer with The Ben Hogan Foundation.