Interviewed on November 1, 2004
Interview (35 mins)
Bill Lee is the three-time winner of the CT State Amateur, the ten-time Yale Golf Club champion, and the three-time Yale Golf Association Champion.
Bill learned to play the game in Texas, with his father, mother, and brother and sister. He attended a small college in Illinois where was he was a medalist in the NCAA college championship (he still holds the record for the lowest-score in a single round) and was 7th in the NCAA Finals as a senior. From 1966, he spent seven years at the Yale Divinity School, and only played golf recreationally at the course—at a time when it had no watering system and no carts and when one hit one’s own balls (and retrieved them) on the practice range. He found the “course demands creativity” and played hard and fast “like a Scottish course.”
In 1975 he returned to competition and won his first state amateur, which was held at Yale. Had to stop play several times because of the noise of construction of the present clubhouse. That plus the addition of watering system, carts and outside play has changed the character of the course. He rates the best Yale players to be Peter Teravainen, Bob Heintz & Heather Daly-Donofrio (who, like Larry Nelson, didn’t start competitive golf until middle of Yale career). Several times he has not competed for stretches of many years and then come back to win championships. He qualified five times for the US Amateur, four times for the Mid Amateur, three times for the British Amateur, and qualifying for US Open by 2 strokes (playing against PGA Pros). He has played with Brad Faxon, Billy Andrade, Jay Sigal, Joey Sindalsr, and John Schroeder. He caddied in PGA tournaments for Julius Boros and Tommy Bolt (who warned him “don’t give me any negative thoughts”) after they had won US Open. He was scheduled to caddy for Tony Lema on the day that Lema died in a plane crash.
The Yale course remains one of his top five, along with Winged Foot and Baltusrol. In spite of technology adding distance to equipment, the course has remained the same and continues to be a stern challenge. In the 2004 NCAA Regional Championships, for instance, only two players in the entire field finished under par for 54 holes. Bill Lee’s best score at Yale has been 66. For several years he played with a dog that had perfect golf etiquette. For Lee, the course is “my Walden Pond”.