Past APL Champion Ted Richards Jr. Dies At 87

Ted Richards Jr. (left) defeated fellow Californian Irving Cooper (right) for the 1953 U.S. Amateur Public Links title. (USGA Museum)

Ted Richards Jr. of Los Angeles, Calif., the 1953 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion, recently passed away at the age of 87.

Richards, a World War II veteran who survived a horrific plane crash in 1944, was one of the top amateur players in Southern California, claiming a pair of Southern California Golf Association Amateur titles and four SCGA Senior Amateur championships.

Richards was a 21-year-old radio operator and top turret gunner on a B-24 bomber when his squadron was attacked on Sept. 10, 1944, by eight Japanese Zero fighters. The assault caused Richards and his crew to experience what one newspaper later called “the most spectacular crash landing in the Pacific” on the island of Saipan. Incredibly, everyone in Richards’ squadron survived.

“I look at it as a freebie,” said Richards decades later. “You walk away from something like that and say, ‘Gee, the rest of your life is free.’ It’s confounding at age 21 to try to figure out why you’re still alive when other guys are out in the water with the sharks.”

Richards needed six months of rehabilitation to learn to walk again, and he carried shrapnel in his body for the rest of his life. Upon returning home, he enrolled at UCLA, where he competed on the men’s golf team for two years, and was team captain his senior year. That squad included future USA Walker Cup Team member Bobby Gardner.

In 1949, Richards, who became a stockbroker, won the Southern California Public Links title, setting a course record at Recreation Park with a 62.

Four years later, he went to West Seattle Golf Course in Seattle, Wash., and beat fellow Californian Irving Cooper in the APL championship match, 1 up. Later that summer, Richards advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur at Oklahoma City (Okla.) Golf and Country Club before losing to the eventual champion, Gene Littler of San Diego. Littler went on to capture the 1961 U.S. Open among his 29 PGA Tour victories.

Shortly thereafter, Richards joined Bel-Air Country Club and won the first of two SCGA Amateur titles in 1954, beating Sandy Mosk in the final, 3 and 2, at San Gabriel Country Club. His second SCGA Amateur championship came seven years later when the competition switched to a 72-hole, stroke-play format. Richards won the 1961 event by two strokes over 1954 APL titlist Gene Andrews at The Los Angeles Country Club.

While at Bel-Air, Richards won the club championship a whopping 18 times, the last of which came in 1981 at the age of 59. In the 1957 competition, he fired a course-record 63.

When the SCGA introduced a Senior Amateur championship in 1978, Richards was the inaugural champion at Wilshire Country Club. He added titles in 1980, ’81 and ’84, giving him the most titles in the event’s short history.

Story written by USGA communications staff writer David Shefter. Information used in this report came from the Southern California Golf Association website.

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