Bud Chapman – One Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words!!
By RJ Smiley
You probably know Bud Chapman as the artist who created the Infamous 18, those wonderful paintings of “fantasy” golf holes.
When asked about Bud’s paintings, Pete Dye, the world-famous architect said: “Bud’s innovative thinking certainly influenced many designers to make the contours a little steeper and the bunkers a little deeper and generally to think outside the box with new designs, and, in that way Bud made a great contribution to the game.”
Bud Chapman is a very talented painter, but where does Bud Chapman come up with the ideas for those holes. When asked that question, Chapman simply said, “With eighty years on the golf course, it just seemed easy. I see golf holes everywhere.”
Bud Chapman began his golf career as a caddy at Interlachen Country Club at the age of ten. He would take his bicycle or hitchhike to the course and wait around the “Caddy Shack” to see if he could pick up a “loop” that day. In those days caddies were paid 75 cents per round. The following year Bud became the favorite caddy of the famous Patty Berg. He considers himself lucky because the other caddies did not want to “tote her bag” because she carried around 100 practice balls in it. “When she missed a shot she would stand there hitting those practice balls until she had cured that flaw. Then, I would have to hurry and pick them up and then proceed with the round.” Chapman says with a smile. “She used to tip me 10 cents per round. The pay was great!”
By the age of twelve, Chapman’s dad would let Bud drive the family car, a 1926 Hudson, to the golf course. Bud, who needed a pillow so he could see over the steering wheel, would pick up the other caddies along the way to Interlachen. They all used their tip money to pay for gas, 12 cents per gallon. The caddies were allowed to play the great old golf course on Mondays. In his first attempt at the game, that he quickly grew to love, Bud shot 166 (not counting whiffs – caddy rules). With the flexibility of a dancer and the hart of a champion, Bud soon became the caddy to beat.
Now as he approaches his 90th birthday, Bud is proudest of the one record that will never be broken. He has attempted to qualify for the U.S. Open 67 times. When you consider that a player must maintain a handicap index of 1.4 or less just to enter American’s Championship that is an amazing record!! Bud tells the story of his biggest choke! “I was leading the U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying in Chicago (ahead of Sam Snead and Frank Stranahan) when he finished 13, 11, to miss qualifying by one shot.”
Two other records prove how good he was and still is, playing to a 6 at age 90. Bud earned MGA player of the year distinction in three different decades. He won the Minnesota’s Senior Amateur and Senior Open in the same year, at age 69. Chapman has shot his age over 2,600 times. Last week he shot a 77 at Minneapolis Golf Club, missing a few short ones. Bud says he only fails to shoot his age two or three times each year.
To use Bud’s words, “I was never really that good. But when I played in tournaments I would, you know, get in that zone. Hitting good shot after good shot. I really did not care about winning. I just wanted to keep playing. I love playing when I am in that zone, hitting shots perfectly!”
After the war Chapman returned to Minneapolis and started a commercial artist business where he still works today. The artist business gives Bud a balance to his life. Working on his art projects and playing golf. He has a new sports/art series to be released soon. Hint: it involves a ball and an athlete in an alley.
Throughout the years Chapman has maintained those two important attributes, at the age of 90 he has retained that incredible, athletic, flexibility that allows him to swing the golf club like a teenager. More importantly, Bud has retained that strive for perfection, that “will to win.” He is soft spoken, never swears and has a smile on his face but he does want to beat you!