A native of Morganton, NC, born there April 19, 1922 William J. (Billy Joe) Patton was one of the game’s most flamboyant amateurs during an illustrious career of almost twenty years. The record is less impressive than the man. Few amateurs in any country of the world made quite the same impact as Billy Joe Patton. This was because he responded to the big occasion and was capable of flair. Possessing of one of the fastest swings in first-class golf, he inevitably hit many loose shots. When out of form and timing he could play downright badly, but thanks to his great strength and speed of clubhead he could engineer marvelous recoveries, which were useful in stroke play and devastating in match play—all to the delight of the gallery.
In his first Masters in 1954, he shocked the world’s greatest professionals by finishing one shot out of first place. The pacesetter after each of the first two rounds, he started the fourth round five shots back but regained the lead with a hole-in-one on the sixth hole. Still leading going into the par five thirteenth, he elected to gamble for a birdie by knocking his second shot home; however, he failed and took a seven instead. As it later turned out, had he played it safe for a comfortable par he would have been the first, and to date the only, amateur to win the Masters. But playing safe was never Billy Joe’s style of golf.
Probably one of his most dramatic finishes occurred in the finals of the 1951 North and South Amateur and featured a loss rather than a win. Playing Hobart Manley, Billy Joe stood two up on the 14th tee with only five holes to play. He played those last five holes one under par—and lost the match! Hobart finished with 5 straight 3's which boiled down to a birdie, par, eagle, par, birdie finish!
North Carolina Amateur Champion, 1964
Eisenhower Trophy, 1958, 1962
North and South Amateur Championship
Winner, 1954, 1962, 1963
Runner-up, 1951, 1964
Southern Amateur Championship
Winner, 1961, 1965
US Amateur Championship
Semi-finalist, 1962 The US Open
Low Amateur, 1954, 1957
US Walker Cup Team
1955, 1957, 1959, 1963, 1965
Low Amateur, 1954, 1958, 1960
Billy Joe Patton was inducted into the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame in 1981.