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APL Champion Memories: Robert Lunn (1963) May 21, 2014 By David Shefter, USGA

Robert Lunn won the 1963 APL at the age of 18. (USGA Museum)

Robert (Bob) Lunn, of San Francisco, claimed the 1963 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Haggin Oaks Municipal Golf Course in Sacramento, Calif., with a 1-up victory over Stephen Oppermann, of South San Francisco, Calif. Lunn was 18 years, 2 months, 18 days old at the time, and unless this year’s winner can eclipse that mark, Lunn, who turned 69 in April, will go down as the youngest champion in APL history, one day younger than 1975 winner Randyn Barenaba. Lunn went on to win six PGA Tour events between 1968 and 1972 and was named the Tour’s Most Improved Player in 1968 by Golf Digest. Lunn competed in 15 majors, including six U.S. Opens, where his best finish was a tie for third at Hazeltine National Golf Club in suburban Minneapolis in 1970. He currently teaches and assists in the golf shop at Woodbridge (Calif.) Country Club, and still plays as much as he can, though not competitively.

What do you remember about the 1963 APL?

It was hot as a dickens. I grew up in San Francisco playing all my golf at Harding Park and that’s where we qualified to make the trip, but I hadn’t ventured much out of the city. For me to go to Sacramento, it was 105 or 106 [degrees, in July]. It was a killer for me.

What was the makeup of the field?

There were a lot of older guys. There were some really older guys in their late 20s and early 30s (laughing). There were guys like [tavern owner] Vern Callison [from Sacramento]. He was like [in his 40s] at the time and a heck of a player (Callison won the APL in 1960 and 1967).

Were there any memorable matches leading into the final?

In the semifinals, I beat a fellow from Sacramento, Jerry Yuke (3 and 1) with an eagle on a par 5. That kind of got me excited, so I felt good going into the next day. But to play a 36-hole final match, I had never played in anything like that. As it ended up, I won, 1 up. It was a pretty good final match.

Your opponent was fellow Bay Area player, Stephen Oppermann. Did you know him?

A little bit. We played in a few junior tournaments. He was a little bit older than I was (21). He was from the South Bay.

Did you have a good following in the gallery that day?

I had family members. My folks, my brother, my grandparents and my uncle came over. I look at pictures occasionally now of the final couple of holes and there were a lot of people surrounding the greens and the fairways. That was pretty neat stuff.

You attended Lincoln High in San Francisco, which also produced 1964 U.S. Open champion Ken Venturi and Johnny Miller, the 1964 U.S. Junior Amateur and 1973 U.S. Open champion. Did you know either of them?

Venturi was about 10 years ahead of us. Johnny and I were half a year apart at that point, so we played on the same golf team. We had a pretty good team.

That seemed to be a great era for San Francisco golf.

We had some great matches and junior events. The Lotz brothers …  Dick played the [PGA] Tour for a while (winning three times). He and his brother [John] were good players. George Archer and [1963 U.S. Junior Amateur champion] Jim Wiechers played the tour. Johnny and myself. Ron Cerrudo.

And you wound up at Haggin Oaks about a year after you won your APL there. How did that happen?

I made some great friends in Sacramento. Tommy LoPresti was the pro there… and I went on tour from that spot. He was my teacher and my manager all rolled into one. I did not go to college. I defended my championship at Francis Gross [Golf Course] in Minneapolis. I turned pro in 1965 and got on the PGA Tour in 1967.

What did winning the APL do for your career?

It was national. It was big for me. I still think about it. It exempted me into the U.S. Amateur. At that time, if you qualified for one, you couldn’t play in the other. I wound up playing George Archer in the first round [of the 1963 U.S. Amateur]. I grew up in San Francisco and so did he. When we found out we were playing each other in the first round (there was no on-site qualifying), we could have played each other at home. We went to Wakonda Club in Des Moines, [Iowa] and George beat me. (Archer advanced to the semifinals). So I did get to play in the National Amateur, which was fun, too.

Even though you didn’t get a Masters invitation for winning the APL, you did finally get into the tournament in 1969.

There was a list of three to five players that [Augusta National chairman] Clifford Roberts sent out to the past champions, guys who he thought deserved a chance to play in the Masters. I was voted in by the past champions to play. That was the last year they did that and it was quite an honor.

Do you still have mementos from the 1963 APL?

I do. I am very proud of that trophy. We have a trophy case in the shop at Woodbridge and the members wanted me to put some of my memorabilia and trophies in there, and that trophy is right there, front and center. It’s a silver cup. It’s about a foot and a half tall. (The USGA now grants its champions custody of the trophy for one year). There’s a little lid on it and there are handles on both sides. And I absolutely still have my gold medal.

What are your thoughts on the APL being retired?

Someone brought it up to me and it’s sad in a way because it has so much history, and a lot of players made great strides [in golf] after winning that tournament. It’s a shame in a way, but I kind of understand [why it’s happening].  

David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.