Dixie Recalls Father: Dick Chapman Made an Imprint in Golf
Growing up was almost a fantasy land of golf for Dixie Chapman.
The son of renowned amateur and double hall of fame golfer Richard Chapman, Dixie recalled what it was like as a youngster growing up in a household in Pinehurst where frequent guests were Jimmy Demaret and Ben Hogan.
Speaking at a Tin Whistles dinner held at the Pinehurst Member’s Club last week, Chapman gave a riveting and entertaining rendition of his father’s astounding amateur career.
Richard Chapman, who was elected to the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame in 1986, is the only golfer to have won five different national amateur championships, winning the Canadian, the French, the Italian, the British and the United States titles. He and the late Harvie Ward are the only two golfers to have won the U.S., British and Canadian Amateurs.
“When Dad died, Time magazine called him the ‘amateur Ben Hogan,’” Dixie Chapman recalled, “because of his devotion and dedication to the game.”
Some of Chapman’s favorite memories are of those early days in Pinehurst.
“I remember Demaret spending a weekend at our house when I was 8,” he recalled, “and he said he had never been so over-golfed in his life.
“We were in the backyard with Hogan once, and Dad asked him to look at my golf swing. He watched me, then told Dad, ‘Your son has a perfect golf swing; do not change a thing about it.’ Unfortunately, my father didn’t listen, and my golf swing went downhill from there.”
Dixie, whose real name is Richard Davol Chapman Jr., has lived at the Country Club of North Carolina with his wife, Pidgie, since 1973.
“We were one of the pioneer families there,” he joked.
Chapman still enjoys golf and plays to a 5 handicap.
“Dad encouraged me to play, but there was no pressure,” Chapman recalled. “I just liked the game. I began chipping and putting when I was 3 and was allowed on a course for the first time when I was 5. I played five holes, and when I got home my mother asked me how I liked it.
“I loved it.”
“Because I got to hit so many shots.”
Dixie Chapman would have liked to have followed in his father’s footsteps and qualified for the 1961 U.S. Amateur at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.
“Each practice round just got worse,” he recalled. “By the time I was starting the first round of the championship, I was shaking in my boots.”
Dixie and Pidgie have two sons and a daughter scattered across the country — in California, Alabama and South Carolina — but none of them plays golf seriously.
“We don’t really talk very much about golf when we get together,” Chapman said. “Pidgie has a pretty good golf swing, though, unlike any other member of the family.”
The prestigious Tin Whistles Club is proud to have a Chapman continuing as a member.
Richard Chapman, whose father, John, was also a Tin Whistles member, and won the TW Match Play Championship in 1923. Richard then went on to win the title eight times between 1947 and 1956.
Chapman, who lost in the finals of the 1938 North and South Amateur to George T. Dunlap Jr., realized his dream of winning that title in 1958 with an 11 & 10 win over Herb Durham in the 36-hole finals on Pinehurst No. 2.
“No. 2 was his course,” Dixie Chapman said, “and needless to say, he loved the Tin Whistles and the tradition of the organization.
“I can remember him constantly tweaking the mechanics of his golf game and hearing him say at some point, ‘I’ve got it!’ He was also a craftsman, working on his clubs in the cellar. And he wrote several articles for Golf World magazine on the fundamentals of the game.
“Perhaps his greatest contribution was an insatiable desire to pass along his knowledge of the game and his generosity in helping aspiring young golfers. He found joy in doing unto others as he’d like them to do unto him.”
Dick Chapman played in 17 U.S. Amateurs between 1936 and 1962, played in 10 U.S. Opens (shooting a record 67 at Baltusrol in 1954) and in the Masters Tournament 19 times.
And, in one of Dixie Chapman’s most prized memories, father and son qualified for the 1958 U.S. Amateur at the Olympic Club, one of only three father-son duos to ever play in the event.
“Dad and I played in a lot of father-son tournaments,” Dixie recalled, “and we had no conflicts. I remember us shooting 68 gross once. We were so pleased with each other.”
If only the father had listened to Ben Hogan’s advice about his 8-year-old son’s golf swing.
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