A golf professional with a bad hip was the father of the modern golf swing!

“Did You Know”
A golf professional with a bad hip was the father of the modern golf swing!

J. (James) Douglas Edgar was born in Heaton, England in 1884. At age 15 a golf course was built near his hometown, so he quit school and began caddying to provide money for his family. He soon began a four-year apprenticeship under the golf professional. At the age of 19 he became the head professional at the nearby Northumberland Golf Club.

That year, 1904, Edgar entered the British Open for the first time but missed the cut. His golf game kept improving and he set course records at many golf courses. For ten years he played in the British Open, even playing well several times, but never able to challenge the winners.

In his twenties his right hip began to deteriorate, which limited his ability to turn freely. Because of that he experimented with a shorter back swing while turning his hips very little, which alleviated the pain. He still rotated his shoulders. His golf shots became straighter and longer. At that time the great golfers rotated their hips nearly as much as their shoulders. Edgar practiced and practiced, hitting thousands of golf balls.

In 1914 he tied for 14th at the British Open in late June, which Harry Vardon won for a sixth time. A few weeks later Edgar won the French Open by six strokes over an entry that was nearly as strong as the British Open. Vardon finished second, Ted Ray third. Vardon, who was known to be quite reserved, was quoted as saying “This is the man who will one day be the greatest of us all.”

On August 4 England declared war on Germany. Edgar enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps but was discharged due to his hip problem. During the war years he played many exhibitions to raise money for the Red Cross and other wartime charities, at times defeating the greatest golfers of the British Isles. There were four years of no golf tournaments on the British Isles.  

J. Douglas Edgar 2

Northumberland Golf Club began having differences with Edgar. It was thought that he was too popular with the women. He gambled for more money than he could afford and imbibed in some alcoholic beverages at times. In 1918 Edgar and the Club parted ways.

Edgar had been hearing about lucrative club professional positions in America. In the spring of 1919 he left for the states where he soon found employment in Atlanta with the Druid Hills Golf Club.

The family of a 17-year-old golf phenomenon named Bobby Jones belonged to Druid Hills and East Lake Golf Club which was nearby.  Jones played many rounds of golf with Edgar, often 36 holes a day. Jones said he always learned something playing with Edgar. Edgar would tell people that Jones was going to astound the golf world.   

Edgar’s wife and his two children came to visit, but the heat and humidity of Atlanta was so different from England they didn’t stay long.

In June 1919 Edgar finished a disappointing tie for 21st at the US Open near Boston.

Sectional qualifying for the PGA Championship was in early July. With Georgia being in the Southeastern PGA Section at that time, along with all the states on the Atlantic Coast up to Pennsylvania, Edgar had to travel to Maryland to qualify. He won the third and last spot.

Three weeks later he was in Hamilton, Canada for the Canadian Open. Edgar put together a world record score, by five shots. His 72-hole total of 278, (72-71-69-66) won by sixteen strokes. Bobby Jones, Jim Barnes and the defending champion, Karl Keffer, tied for second. The sixteen strokes margin of victory is still the largest in a PGA Tour event, only tied by Bobby Locke in 1948.

At the PGA Championship on Long Island in September, Edgar lost in the quarter-finals.

The following year, 1920, the US Open, PGA Championship and Canadian Open were held on three consecutive weeks in August.

In July Edgar was in Philadelphia to qualify for the PGA Championship. Vying for one of four spots at Philmont Country Club he was the low man. The next week he tied for 13th at the Shawnee Open.

At the US Open in mid August Edgar tied for 20th. The next week he nearly won a major championship losing to Jock Hutchison in the 36-hole final of the PGA Championship, one-down. A week later he was in Ottawa to defend his title at the Canadian Open, which he accomplished by finishing in a three-way tie for first and then winning an 18-hole playoff.

In October at East Lake CC, Edgar won the Southern Open, with Bobby Jones second by two strokes. Jim Barnes and Atlantic City’s Clarence Hackney tied third.

In mid December 1920 Edgar left Atlanta to visit his family in England. He had planned to be back in Atlanta by spring but stayed overseas to play in the British open in late June, tying for 26th.

Perhaps due to being away from Druid Hills for so long, on his return he did not show up to defend his Canadian Open title and did not enter the US Open, which were in July.

Sometime after 11 p.m. on August 8, 1921, Edgar was found on Atlanta’s Peachtree Street in a pool of blood. He died a few hours later. At first it was thought to have been a hit and run auto accident, but the coroner determined that Edgar was not stuck by an automobile. His death was caused by bleeding from a deep stab wound on the inner side of his left leg which severed his femoral artery.  

His murder was never solved. It was said that he had been seen with a women, whose husband had been charged with a previous murder, but had been acquitted. The woman was later seen visiting his grave site. Some said that there was hostility against Edgar in Atlanta because on several occasions he defeated Jones in golf matches where large sums of money had been wagered on Jones. He was pressured at times to throw contests, like the 1920 Southern Open, where he could have easily finished second behind Jones, an amateur, and still collected the top check of $1,050. It was questioned why he waited until July to return to his employment at Druid Hills?

In 1960 Tommy Armour called J. Douglas Edgar the father of the modern-day golf swing. Tommy Armour said that he took golf lessons from many great players but Edgar was the greatest and taught me the most.  

In 1920 Edgar wrote a book on the golf swing titled “The Gate to Golf”. It can still be purchased online. 

While on PGA suspension in 1961 Tommy Bolt made out well on TV’s All Star Golf!

“Did You Know”
While on PGA suspension in 1961 Tommy Bolt made out well on TV’s All Star Golf!

Tommy Bolt, who won the 1958 US Open, was known for his temper. He had nicknames like “Thunder” and other similar ones, and he earned them.

In early August 1961 Bolt was playing in the PGA Championship in Chicago. When an osteopathic doctor could not be provided to treat his 43-year old aching back, he used profane language in the presence of Olympia Fields CC members. The PGA suspended Bolt indefinitely. He was already on PGA probation for failing to fulfill a commitment to play in a New York charity tournament the day after winning the 1958 US Open.  

All Star Golf-1961 x

All Star Golf, a series of prerecorded golf matches, was in its fifth year. The matches were head-to-head between two PGA professionals with the winner moving on to play another professional. After filming several matches in New York’s Catskill Mountains in early August, the production crew of 52 moved to Pocono Manor Resort, in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains.  

Five matches were scheduled for Pocono Manor, Monday through Friday. Summer weekends at those resorts were too valuable to give up. For Monday’s match, Tommy Bolt, who had defeated Frank Stranahan on the last day in the Catskills, was playing Jack Burke, Jr.

The PGA had a rule that the PGA Tour members could not play in tournaments at the same time a PGA Tour event was being played, unless they were being held in the PGA Section where the professional was a member. But, the professionals, like Burke, could participate in All Star Golf because these were exhibitions, not tournaments and All Star Golf was not the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour was in Maryland for the Carlings Open that week, with a top prize of $5,300.

With All Star Golf coming to Pocono Manor, the resort decided to charge the spectators an admission fee of $1, with the money going to the Stroudsburg General Hospital. For the previous four years All Star Golf had been on CBS, but now it would be on NBC and filmed in color for the first time. The producers asked the ladies to dress in colorful attire for the filming.

The filming took all day, beginning at 9 a.m. and finishing at 4:30 in the afternoon. Cameras were transported around the golf course on golf carts and small trucks and had to be reset for each shot. The colorful Jimmy Demaret was the announcer. Pocono Manor was a quirky golf course that presented plenty of challenges to the touring pros. One of its great holes was a downhill 77-yard par 3 that had a creek fronting a green that sloped from back to front. There was only one bunker on the 6,500-yard golf course, that being just a splash of sand near the 18th green.

On Monday Bolt shot a three under par 69 to easily defeat Burke. The match became so uneven many spectators left to follow Sam Snead who was playing a practice round for the next day on another part of the course. On Tuesday it was Bolt versus Snead, which was somewhat closer, but Bolt turned in another 69 to win by four strokes.

At the beginning of the week Art Wall, who represented Pocono Manor on the PGA Tour, was scheduled to play on Wednesday against Tuesday’s winner, but instead on Wednesday it was Cary Middlecoff versus Bolt. The Pocono golf fans were not pleased. They thought that Wall had been moved to a later day due a perceived unfair knowledge of the golf course. With Wall now moved to Friday he would have only one chance to win a match at Pocono Manor.

The Bolt-Middlecoff match was tightly contested. It was only when Middlecoff overshot the par three 18th green and made a bogey, that Bolt prevailed with a 68 against Middlecoff’s 69. Bolt’s next victim was the 1953 PGA champion, Walter Burkemo, who shot a 70 only to lose to Bolt’s 67. On Friday Art Wall got his opportunity, and Bolt’s winning streak came to an end; Wall 69-Bolt 70.

Art Wall had to wait until September for a chance to win a second match, when the production team would resume filming in Las Vegas.  

For the six days Bolt picked up $12,500, $2,000 for each victory, and $1,000 for his loss to Wall, plus bonus money paid for 3 consecutive birdies. Not bad for a golf professional on suspension. Earlier in the month Jerry Barber had taken home somewhat less, $11,000, from winning the PGA Championship.

The matches had drawn about 2,500 spectators each day with the largest turnouts on the days that Snead and Wall played.

The next week, on the eve of the American Golf Classic in Akron, Ohio Bolt appeared before the PGA’s Executive Committee with his lawyer, to appeal his suspension. After a 90 minute hearing, Bolt was given a retroactive one-month suspension dating back to July 30, with no fine. Bolt told the reporters that he thought the decision to be a fair one, and he was heading home to Crystal River, Florida to rest his ailing back.   

Shawnee Inn & Country Club was the birthplace of the PGA of America!

“Did You Know”
Shawnee Inn & Country Club was the birthplace of the PGA of America!

Shawnee Country Club’s owner, Charles Campbell Worthington, was a visionary. Born in 1854, his father H.R. Worthington had developed the first direct-acting steam pump, and was part owner of the Worthington Hydraulic Pump Works. Working under his father, C.C. Worthington contributed hundreds of important developments in pumps and other machines. When his father died in 1880, C.C. Worthington took over management of the company.

On a trip to Scotland, Worthington was introduced to golf. Upon returning home he built a six-hole course on his estate, north of New York City. In 1899 he sold his interest in the pump company and started a company manufacturing automobiles, first steam and later gasoline.

Worthington 1896

Worthington began spending more time at his summer home in the Pocono Mountains at Shawnee on Delaware, Pennsylvania, west of New York City, where he had a rudimentary 9-hole golf course. In 1903 he bought 8,000 acres near his Pennsylvania home on both sides of the Delaware River. There he created a game preserve to protect different forms of wildlife.

In 1910 Worthington hired Albert W. Tillinghast, a friend of his three sons, to build an 18-hole golf course on his property. Tillinghast had never designed a golf course, but he was a good golfer and Worthington saw something in him. That same year Worthington began building a 90-room hotel near the golf holes that were under construction. The hotel, the Buckwood Inn, was later named Shawnee Inn.

Both the golf course and inn opened for business in 1911. One year later Worthington introduced a tournament for the golf professionals, the Shawnee Open. The tournament had a purse of $500 and drew a strong field as it was played three days after the Philadelphia Open and one week before the US Open, which was in Buffalo that year. The US Open purse was $940. 1908 US Open champion Fred McLeod won the tournament. The Worthington family treated the golf professionals like honored guests, which was not the norm at other tournaments. At the closing ceremony Worthington mentioned that the golf professionals should have a national organization.

Worthington sponsored a second Shawnee Open in 1913. One evening during dinner, a letter from Mr. Worthington was read extolling the virtues of the professionals having an organization like the British PGA that would include all the states.

The Shawnee golf course was on land that for many years had been Indian farmland. With miles and miles of land, the Indians did not need to rotate crops. With the soil depleted of nutrients, growing grass was a challenge. In 1914 Worthington hired a St. Andrews trained golf professional/green keeper, Robert White, who had been working in Chicago. During the winters White had been taking agronomy courses at the University of Wisconsin, so he understood what was needed to revitalize the soil.  

During the early years the fairway grass was kept at a proper height by grazing sheep. Worthington even brought in a shepherd from Scotland to tend the flock. In 1914 he created the first commercially successful set of gang mowers for mowing fairways, which were pulled by horses and later tractors. That enterprise would become the Worthington Mower Company, located in nearby Stroudsburg.

Worthington Tractor & Mower x

The professionals who had competed at Shawnee like Gil Nicholls, Alex Smith, and Walter Hagen, along with White heard Worthington’s message and began advancing the idea of a national PGA. In 1916 the PGA of America was formed, with Robert White as its president.  

In the PGA’s monthly magazine “Professional Golfer”, Shawnee was often referred to as the “Cradle of the PGA”.

Three golf professionals made a “Big Swap” in 1916!

Three golf professionals made a “Big Swap” in 1916!

It was like “musical chairs” except everyone ended up with a seat. The three golf professionals were Gil Nicholls, James Fraser, and Wilfrid Reid. The three golf clubs involved were Wilmington Country Club (DE), Seaview Country Club (NJ) and Sound View Golf Club (NY), (often called Great Neck GC).

In July 1915, Wilmington CC’s Gil Nicholls won the Metropolitan Open for a second time, on Staten Island. After being tied at the end of 72 holes, Nicholls defeated Bob MacDonald in an 18-hole playoff. Walter Hagen finished third. First prize was $150.

Nicholls, Met Open 1915

Before returning home, Nicholls visited Sound View Golf Club on Long Island, where he lost a friendly 18-hole match to the professional James Fraser. With that the Sound View members put together a ten-round match in early August between Fraser and Nicholls for $1,000, $100 per round. All rounds would be played at Sound View. The members thought that with all rounds at Sound View the match would be competitive, but Nicholls, a two-time runner-up in the United States Open, won most of the matches. The members had money and were willing to spend it. At the conclusion of the challenge match, they offered Nicholls a contract to be their professional. It was the largest that had ever been paid to any golf professional in the country. Nicholls accepted. His first assignment was to revise some of the golf course and to build another nine holes, which was to be for the exclusive use of the ladies.

Seaview was in its first year in 1915, with Wilfrid Reid as its professional. Reid had a large ego which clashed with Seaview’s owner Clarence Geist. Even with a three-year contract, by early August Reid and Geist had parted company and Seaview was looking for a golf professional. Not wanting to blame the owner, Reid blamed it on the mosquitoes. Within a few days of Reid’s departure, James Fraser was the professional at Seaview.

It was still August and with the exodus of Nicholls, Wilmington CC needed a golf professional. Reid stepped up and was hired. Three changes all made within a few days of each other. 

When the PGA of America was formed one year later, in 1916, both Nicholls and Reid became members of its Executive Committee.

James Fraser was born in Scotland. In 1916 he won the Philadelphia Open. He died in 1923 when his automobile collided with an Atlantic City trolley car. Years later his son, Leo, would own the Atlantic City Country Club and become president of the PGA of America.

Before emigrating from England to the United States in 1915 Wilfrid Reid had won many titles in Europe. In the USA he designed or remodeled 100 golf courses. When Leo Fraser bought Atlantic City CC in 1946, he brought Reid back to Atlantic City as his teaching pro.

Born in England, Nicholls was an early exponent of forming the PGA of America. Along with his success in the US Open, he won the North and South Open, two Metropolitan Opens, two Philadelphia Opens, two New England PGA Championships and the Shawnee Open. Eight times he finished in the top ten at the US Open.

The 1910 Philadelphia Open had the smallest but strongest field!

The 1910 Philadelphia Open had the smallest but strongest field!

The Philadelphia Open, which is still being played, had its smallest but strongest field in 1910. Hosted by the Philadelphia Cricket Club in August 1910, the US Open had been at that same venue two months earlier. The US Open was 72 holes in two days and the Philadelphia Open was 36 holes in one day.

First played in 1903 and called the Open Championship of Philadelphia, it was sponsored by the Golf Association of Philadelphia. The tournament was open to professionals and amateurs from Golf Association of Philadelphia clubs and other USGA member clubs.

The tournament was played on the second Monday of August. The entry fee was $5, and the GAP added $100 to the purse. There were only 12 entries: 10 professionals and 2 amateurs. With it being August some leading professionals from outside Philadelphia were in New England playing exhibitions and others may have decided that one day of 36 holes in the mid-August heat was not enticing. Also, in 1910 the $5 entry fee was equivalent to $156 today and the caddy fee added a few more dollars to the expense of participating.

Though small in numbers, many that entered were or would soon be the leading playing professionals in the country.

The Western Open was a major championship at that time. In total, 6 of the 10 professionals in the 1910 Philadelphia Open won 6 US Opens, 5 Western Opens and had 6 second place finishes in major tournaments along with winning 4 Philadelphia Opens and 1 Pennsylvania Open.        

Willie Anderson, host pro, won 4 US Opens, won 4 Western Opens, 1 Western Open RU.
Johnny McDermott, Merchantville Field Club, won 2 US Opens, won 1 Western Open,
       1 US Open RU, and won 3 Philadelphia Opens.
Gil Nicholls, Wilmington CC, was RU in 2 US Opens and won 1 Philadelphia Open.
Emmett French, Merion Cricket Club (Merion GC), was RU in the 1922 PGA Championship.
Jack Burke, Sr., Aronimink GC, tied for 2nd at the 1920 US Open.
James R. Thomson, Philadelphia Country Club, won the 1913 Pennsylvania Open.

The American Golfer magazine gave the tournament nearly a full page of coverage, written by Albert W. Tillinghast under the pen name “Hazard”. A member of the Philadelphia Cricket Club, Tillinghast was still a few years away from the start of his golf course architecture career.

McDermott (Sheppard) 1

Tillinghast wrote that the tournament was an “unqualified success”. “The going was even more remarkable than that in the National event which was decided over the same course” (just two months earlier). (In June, Johnny McDermott had ended up in a three-way tie in the US Open, losing to Alex Smith in an 18-hole playoff.) “Young McDermott again demonstrated that he is a natural player of astonishing ability. His morning round of 74 was followed by one in the afternoon, which was two strokes better, and his total of 146 just nosed out Willie Anderson (74-73), the home pro, by a single stroke. Anderson’s 5 on the home hole in the morning proved his undoing and a six on the eleventh, in both rounds, was really quite inexcusable.” (Par was 73)

Tillinghast continued, “Whether he (McDermott) will show to the same advantage over a longer route remains to be seen, but I am rather inclined to think that he will prove a hard nut to crack anywhere. He is only a youth, and it is to be hoped that his phenomenal success in each of the two Open events at the Cricket Club, may not chance to spoil a brilliant golfing future.”

With the entry fees and the added money coming to $160, McDermott collected $80. Four professionals won money, with the purse being divided: 50, 25, 15 and 10 percent.

Two months later (October 25, 1910) Willie Anderson died at the age of 31. The Philadelphia City Archives gave the cause of death as epilepsy.

Walter Hagen played golf with Johnny McDermott at his psychiatric hospital golf course!

“Did You Know”
Walter Hagen played golf with Johnny McDermott at his psychiatric hospital golf course!

In 1914, only two years after winning the US Open for a second consecutive year, 1911 and 1912, Johnny McDermott suffered a nervous breakdown.  His two sisters were forced to commit him to a private institution. But, with limited resources, he was moved to Norristown (PA) State Hospital for the insane at just 24 years of age. He was diagnosed with chronic schizophrenia. Another reason for the move was loses in the stock market, which had taken a toll on McDermott’s finances.   

Norristown State Hospital had a six-hole golf course, which had been built for the staff. The hospital course covered 1,232 yards, with some of the fairways crisscrossing. It worked because the course wasn’t busy. The longest hole was 287 yards and the shortest 132. Most days McDermott would play the course.

8 J. McDermott (2)

With the exception of a failed comeback attempt in 1924, and his sisters driving him to local golf courses on weekends where he would visit golf professionals he had known, he spent the remainder of his life in that hospital until his death in 1971, just eleven days shy of his 80th birthday.

On Sunday October 23, 1923, Walter Hagen and Joe Kirkwood, the world’s greatest trick shot artist, were playing a 36-hole exhibition at Gulph Mills Golf Club.

While playing the exhibition, Hagen learned that the psychiatric hospital where Johnny McDermott was confined was not far from Gulph Mills. After golf, Hagen and his wife were driven to the hospital by a trustee of the hospital to visit McDermott.

Late that Sunday afternoon Hagen played the course with McDermott. Hagen reported that despite not playing any competitive golf for nine years, McDermott had lost little of his old prowess.

While sitting on a bench with Hagen, McDermott remarked several times “I don’t think I ever saw a more beautiful view, than from here. I think it is fine. Tell the boys I’m doing well.”  

300 players teed off in the first round of the 1973 Pennsylvania Open!

“Did You Know”
300 players teed off in the first round of the 1973 Pennsylvania Open!

The 1973 Pennsylvania Open was hosted by the Oakmont Country Club. The PA Open had not been at Oakmont since 1924, so many of the pros and amateurs in Pennsylvania had never played there. The entries kept coming, topping out at 300. The two-round tournament was scheduled for a Monday and Tuesday in August.    

The Pittsburgh golf professionals, where the Pennsylvania Golf Association was located, told the PAGA officials that it was not possible to get that many players around Oakmont in one day. But entries were accepted and starting times assigned. Even the Pittsburgh Press stated in its Monday newspaper, “The last starting time on both the No. 1 and No. 10 holes is 3:54. With sunset due at about 8:05 there will be a bit of difficulty in getting everybody finished today.”

On Monday, August 20 the 300 plus entries were at Oakmont for round one. Players went off in fours on holes #1 and #10 at 7a.m. A steady drizzle set in before play began. It was always said that Oakmont was the only golf course where the greens speeds had to be slowed for major tournaments. This was not a major, and the greens were rolling at their fastest pace. With the rain, the greens were like wet panes of glass. On holes 1 and 10, where the greens slope from front to back, nearly every golf ball rolled to the back collar.    

With slick greens, rain, and four-man pairings, play moved at a snail’s pace. The early starters were taking two and a half hours to complete nine holes. Even with that, when the players made the turn, they were held up for their second nine as the tee wasn’t open due to slow play backing up the golf course. By the time the morning pairings were completing their rounds it became apparent that nearly half the field would not complete 18 holes.

The PGA officials went to plan “B”. The first round was washed out and the players were re-paired in fours for a morning and afternoon shotgun start on Tuesday. With some no-shows and a few who could not stay for a Wednesday finish, the field was down to a bit under 288 players.  

On Tuesday play began at 7a.m., with two four-man pairings on each tee. The morning round took six hours. At 2p.m. the second wave began play with two four-man pairings on each tee. Six hours later they were completing their rounds.

The plan had been for the field to be cut to the low 60 players and ties, but with Oakmont having a golf outing scheduled for Wednesday and all play needing to be off the No. 1 tee by 10a.m., the field was cut to the low 40 players and ties. There were 30 money places, but less than 30 professionals had made the cut at 78 strokes or less.

Perla, Tony (TGH) (2)

On Wednesday Philadelphia’s Sunnybrook Golf Club professional, Tony Perla, shot an even par 72 to go with a first round 72. His 144 total won by one stroke, and for a second time Perla was the Pennsylvania Open champion. First prize from the prize pool of $6,000 was $1,200.

The professionals who had finished among the top 30 professionals, but missed the cut, did not receive any money. Some wrote letters to the PAGA, but received no answers.  

The Pennsylvania Golf Association probably made more money that week than the winner, Tony Perla.     

Arnold Palmer never won the PA Open, even with help from the PA Golf Association!


Arnold Palmer never won the Pennsylvania Open, even with help from the PA Golf Association!

Arnold Palmer played in the Pennsylvania Open two times and finished second both times.

While serving in the United States Coast Guard in Cleveland, Yeoman 3-C Palmer played in the 1952 Pennsylvania Open. The one-day 36-hole tournament was played at Gulph Mills Golf Club and St. Davids Golf Club on the second Monday of October. Still an amateur, Palmer was given leave from his Coast Guard duties in Cleveland to play in the tournament. Even though he was not a resident of Pennsylvania, his entry was accepted by the Pennsylvania State Golf Association, which was then being managed out of the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association office, located in Pittsburgh. Palmer was the only player in the field not residing in Pennsylvania. If Palmer had been a professional, there might have been some grumbling from the Pennsylvania professionals. Playing Gulph Mills first, Palmer posted rounds of 71 and 72 for an even par 143 which put him in a tie for the title with George Griffin, Jr., assistant to his father at Green Valley Country Club. With an 18-hole playoff scheduled for Tuesday, Palmer had to call his commanding officer for another day of leave. In the playoff the next day, which was at Gulph Mills, Griffin won with a 73 against a 76 for Palmer. Now in 2022, for some reason Palmer is not listed in the PSGA records, instead Ken Gibson who finished third is listed as the runner-up.  

Fifteen years later in 1967, Palmer entered the PA Open again, for only the second time. The tournament was being held near his home at Laurel Valley Golf Club, where Palmer was a founding member. It may be that the Laurel Valley members talked him into entering. Palmer at age 37 was still near the peak of his game, winning four times on the PGA Tour that year.   

The tournament was played on a Monday and Tuesday in the third week of August. The tournament had been in Hershey at the Hershey Country Club for the past fourteen years. Laurel Valley was just ten years old and had hosted the PGA Championship the year before. 192 pros and amateurs entered.

In the first round Palmer shot a four over par 75, but he was only four strokes behind the leader, and there were only six players with better scores. No one broke par. Two thousand fans turned out to follow Palmer. There was a cut to the low 70 and ties after the first round.

Due to what was described as a social commitment in New York, where he was headed to play in the Westchester Classic, Palmer was first off the tee the next day. Instead of playing late in the day with the leaders, Palmer was putting on freshly mowed greens with no spike marks, paired with players out of contention. When the professionals saw Palmer teeing off first there was plenty of grumbling about favoritism by the state golf officials.

Even though he made bogies on the 16th and 18th holes, he shot a 69 and appeared to have a good chance of being the winner. Palmer said that if he ended up in a tie for first, he would forfeit. As Palmer was finishing his round the leaders had just begun their rounds.

Ross, Bob 3 (TTT)

Bob Ross, the professional at the Philadelphia Cricket Club, had been on a hot streak. On Saturday he had won the 3-day Philadelphia PGA Championship. Earlier that summer Ross had begun using an aluminum shaft driver. Like Palmer he had shot a 75 in the first round. Playing in one of the final pairings, Ross birdied five of the first seven holes and then made two more birdies on the back nine. He made pars on the last two holes for a 68 and a two-day total of 143, to win by one stroke.

First prize was $800. Palmer donated his $500 second place money to the Pennsylvania State Golf Association to promote its state open, whatever that meant. None of the professionals who finished behind Palmer saw any of that money.

There was a time when the golf professionals went “all in” to promote the PGA Tour!

“Did You Know”
There was a time when the golf professionals went “all in” to promote the PGA Tour!

The PGA of America came into being in 1916. Along with trying to place golf professionals in the clubs that were the best fit for both the clubs and the golf professionals, there was also a desire to create competitive playing opportunities for the golf professionals. At first the competitions were quite haphazard. Golf resorts like Shawnee in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, and cities like Miami and Los Angeles, who wanted to promote their mild weather, would host tournaments.   

By the late 1920s, what had been a collection of various tournaments was beginning to develop into what people were referring to as the PGA Tour. Then the Great Depression arrived, followed by World War II. Even though money was tight and travel was difficult, the Tour continued on. It only survived because the public wanted to see those great golfers. Each week hundreds of volunteers took time off from work to host a PGA Tour tournament.

Purses were small, even for that time in US history. The norm was a $10,000 to $15,000 total payout. Less than thirty players even cashed a check each week, usually about twenty-five. Most pros lost money playing the Tour, but they loved the competition. If nothing else, they wanted to prove something to themselves, and if their name was in the newspapers a few times they might parlay it into a better position as a home pro.

Each week the entry fees were $1 per thousand dollars in the purse. A $10,000 purse equaled a $10 entry fee. The entry fees went to paying the salaries and travel expenses of the tournament manager, rules officials and scoreboard operators. There was also an advance man who was one week ahead of the Tour. He managed the entries and made sure the rough was cut at a reasonable height along with the hazards and ground under repair being properly marked. His role was to assure that the facility was ready to host the PGA Tour. The entry fees did not cover all those expenses, so some money from the PGA dues of the home professionals was needed as well. Some PGA professionals felt that it was money well spent, like advertising. You could call it the PGA of America’s “Lost Leader”.  

The playing professionals did what they could to help the cause. If invited, they would speak to civic clubs or any organization that was interested.

On Tuesday evenings some of the best players entered that week would put on a driving contest and a golf clinic. The players weren’t paid for participating in the clinic but were doing what they could to make the tournament a success.

Each week one of the professionals would be chosen to serve as the Coordinator/MC for the clinic. He would select twelve or so professionals to assist with the clinic. The MC would commentate, and the pros would speak about the fundamentals of the golf swing, along with demonstrating shots from the driver to the sand wedge.

The picture you see below is from the 1949 Reading (Pennsylvania) Open. In the middle with the clipboard is Lawson Little, MC for that week’s clinic. Little won both the US Amateur and the British Amateur back-to-back in 1934 and 1935 along with winning the 1940 US Open. Everyone in the photo won at least three times.

From L to R: Lloyd Mangrum (36 PGA Tour wins), Chick Harbert (7 Ws), Jackie Burke (16 Ws),
Toney Penna (4 Ws), Henry Ransom (5 Ws), Lawson Little (8 Ws), Sam Snead (82 Ws),
Fred Haas (5 Ws), Dave Douglas (8 Ws), Ed Furgol (6 Ws), Johnny Palmer (7 Ws),
Cary Middlecoff (39 Ws), Skip Alexander (3 Ws)

Middlecoff won that 1949 Reading Open, edging out Snead by one stroke. The total payout of $15,000 had a top prize of $2,600. Twenty six professionals made the money with last place $110. Middlecoff’s win moved him to the top of the money list for 1949 with $18,749.57, just ahead of Snead. Ben Hogan was at home recovering from his near fatal auto accident.

1949 Reading O Clinic 4

In 1913 the USA showed its golf was on a par with British golf!

“Did You Know”
In 1913 the USA showed its golf was on a par with British golf!

With the 1913 United States Open scheduled for September, Great Britain’s leading golfers were heading to the USA. Harry Vardon and Ted Ray were leading the way. As their passenger ship was nearing New York City, Ray asked Vardon, who had been in the states in 1900, “What is it like in America?” With one word Vardon said “Frantic”. 

A few minutes later they were handed a telegram from Alex Findlay, their stateside manager, stating that they were booked to play an exhibition the next day in Philadelphia at Whitemarsh Valley CC.  Ray said “I see what you mean.”

On embarking from their ship they were met by a horde of reporters. Then they boarded a train to Philadelphia, arriving after midnight. In Philadelphia they were interviewed on the steps of their hotel by more reporters. 

The next morning, Saturday August 16, Vardon and Ray were at Whitemarsh Valley for a 36-hole exhibition. Designed by George C. Thomas on his family’s estate, Whitemarsh Valley was Philadelphia’s first great golf course. Playing catch-up to Great Britain’s golf, America was hell bent on getting there.

Vardon and Ray’s opponents for the match were Whitemarsh Valley’s professional Ben Nicholls and his brother Gil. Philadelphia’s Johnny McDermott, winner of the previous two US Opens, was unavailable as he was in New York, finishing second in the Metropolitan Open.

Nicholls, Gil (TGH)

Born in England, the Nicholls brothers had credentials. Gil, the professional at Wilmington CC, had won the Metropolitan Open and North and South Open, along with twice being second in the US Open. Ben had won championships in Europe along with defeating Vardon on two occasions during Vardon’s 1900 exhibition tour of America, which some dubbed “The Vardon Invasion”.  In spite of still being on their “sea legs”, Vardon and Ray lived up to their billing by defeating the Nicholls brothers 3&1. On what a newspaper described as pitiless heat, the Brits wore waist coats while their opponents were in shirt sleeves. In the afternoon round Vardon shot a 71 for a new course record. Nearly 2,000 turned out to view the golf and it was said that there would have been a larger turnout if the course had been more accessible. 

At the two-day 72-hole Shawnee Open McDermott came from behind to win by eight strokes. Vardon tied for third and Ray tied for sixth. At the US Open Vardon and Ray ended up tied with a young American amateur, Francis Quimet, which Quimet won in an 18-hole playoff the next day. The Shawnee course had been the first course design of Philadelphia’s A.W. Tillinghast.

Findlay, a transplanted Scot who had managed Vardon’s 1900 US tour and was now building golf courses for the Florida East Coast Railroad, had booked Vardon and Ray for a wide-ranging series of exhibitions. They traveled the country from coast to coast playing 45 exhibitions before heading home in November. Vardon stated that the best amateur he played against was Chicago’s Chick Evans.

Golf in the states had moved to a new level. McDermott and Quimet had showed the world of golf that there were American born golfers who could compete with Great Britain’s best. Walter Hagen had entered the picture. With architects like A.W. Tillinghast, Donald Ross, C.B. MacDonald and Walter Travis, world class golf courses were opening every month. Pine Valley Golf Club was in the works, and Merion’s East Course had opened in late 1912. American golf was now on a par with Great Britain and Philadelphia was a major part of it.  

Lew Worsham won the 1947 US Open with two putters in his bag!

“Did You Know”
Lew Worsham won the 1947 US Open with two putters in his bag!

Lew Worsham won the 1947 US Open in an 18-hole playoff with Sam Snead. Worsham and Snead came to the par four 18th hole still even. Both were near the hole, putting for pars. Deciding to finish out, Snead addressed his putt, but Worsham said he thought he was farther away. A measurement determined that Snead was away. Snead putted and missed. Worsham then holed his putt to win the US Open, using one of the two putters he had in his golf bag, a Ted Smith hickory shaft mallet head. Usually someone playing with two putters had a putting problem, but not Worsham.

Who was Ted Smith?
Ted Smith was born in Philadelphia in 1906 to Hungarian immigrants who had Americanized their name to Smith. Later they moved to Chicago. At age 12 Smith asked for golf clubs for Christmas because he had seen a picture of John D. Rockefeller playing golf. Smith began playing golf, caddying and working for the golf professionals at a public golf course. He asked so many questions of the golf professionals, they called him “Questionnaire”.

At age 18 he went to work at Seaview Golf Club near Atlantic City, NJ as an apprentice club maker. After stints as a club maker in California and Illinois he became a salesman for the MacGregor Golf Company out of Dayton, Ohio. Smith covered the states east of the Mississippi and Toney Penna covered everything west of the Mississippi.

Smith and Penna told the MacGregor Company management that they could make better clubs than they were being given to sell. With that Smith began designing the irons and Penna designed the wood clubs. MacGregor became the most successful golf club company in the US. Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and Tommy Armour, represented MacGregor playing the clubs on tour.

When World War II broke out the MacGregor factory was taken over by the US government for the defense of the country. Smith made dummies used in testing experimental ejection seats for fighter planes. The government became aware of Smith’s talents and sent him to Camden, NJ to work on the Navy supply ships. Smith helped create a new type of propeller for the ships that made them more efficient, thus transporting the supplies to Europe more quickly.

After the war Smith decided to stay in the Philadelphia area and opened the Ted Smith Putter Company in Upper Darby, PA. He worked out of the basement of his home making the putters.

Smith, Ted-1963 Jan 22 xx

When Smith opened his business in 1946 there was a pent-up demand for domestic goods like automobiles, which used steel. The big golf companies were buying all of the steel shaves that were available so Smith put hickory shaves in his putters. As it turned out the hickory shafted putters were very popular, though more expensive due to the time needed to make them. He turned out about 2,000 putters a year. Eventually he had 30 different models for sale, which he designed himself.

In one of those ironies of life, the Japanese, who Ted had helped defeat in World War II, became his biggest and best customers. With the World Amateur Team Championship being played at Merion Golf Club in 1960, Smith put 50 of his hickory-shafted putters in Merion professional Fred Austin’s golf shop on consignment. Each member of the Japanese team bought one of his putters. One member of the Japanese team was affiliated with an import/export firm in Japan. He began importing Smith’s putters. By 1971 sixty percent of Smith’s putter sales were in Japan, and he could have sold his total output there. With each order came a letter of credit and three days after the putters were shipped, Smith was paid by a local bank.

Due to his success in Japan Smith only sold putters in the US to keep the Ted Smith Putter name alive, and as a precaution in case the market in Japan ever dried up.  

The modern version of the PGA Tour was formed at Whitemarsh Valley CC in 1968!

“Did You Know”
The modern version of the PGA Tour was formed at Whitemarsh Valley CC in 1968!

The PGA of America came into being in 1916. In the early days of what became known as the PGA Tour it was a loose arrangement of professional golf tournaments. To create interest in hosting tournaments, wives of PGA professionals would write letters to the Chamber of Commerce of large cities, golf resorts and regional golf associations. It became obvious to the PGA professionals that it would be better if it was organized by someone.

In 1930 the PGA hired it first tournament manager, Bob Harlow, a former newspaper man who was managing exhibitions for Walter Hagen and Joe Kirkwood. His job was to sell and promote the tournaments as well as manage them. He set up the starting times and fined the players if they were late. The players were often displeased with how the tournaments were managed by Harlow.

The PGA Tour usually lost money and some years nearly one quarter of the PGA members’ dues had to go to operating the Tour. Many of the home professionals were unhappy as well. Harlow reported to the PGA officers and board. On the side Harlow managed some of the players, which led to his demise in late 1936 due to complaints about favoritism and not spending his full time on tournaments.

He was followed by Fred Corcoran, another manager of athletes, who proved to be no more satisfactory. He was hired and fired several times but due to World War II, he lasted until late 1947. On more than one occasion Corcoran was punched in the nose by a disgruntled playing professional. During Corcoran’s tenure, Ben Hogan, as the leader of a players group, made an unannounced appearance at the 1946 annual meeting of the PGA. He presented a proposal for establishment of a seven-man player constituted board. The board would arrange schedules, control the PGA Tournament Bureau and punish absenteeism. Eventually much of that was accepted to various degrees.

George Schneider, who would also play the PGA Tour at the same time, followed Corcoran. The players were happy, but the PGA felt he sided with the players on most issues, so he was let go in early 1950. That year a Players Board constituted by four players and the three PGA officers was instituted. Schneider was followed by men who were either accused of playing favorites in making rulings or were successful but unhappy with life on the road. In 1964 the PGA hired Jack Tuthill, an ex FBI man, who handled the position to the satisfaction of the PGA and the players.

When a player signed an entry form to play in a PGA Tour event, a paragraph in the form committed him to play his next tournament on the PGA Tour, unless it was a tournament in his PGA Section. As an example, a member of the Philadelphia Section PGA like Art Wall or Al Besselink could play in the Section Championship or Philadelphia Open at the same time a PGA Tour tournament was being played in another part of the country.

In February 1951 Jimmy Demaret and eight other PGA professionals, which included Al Besselink, Stan Dudas and Willie Polumbo from the Philadelphia PGA, played in the Mexican Open which was being held at the same time as the PGA Tour’s Rio Grande Valley Open in Harlingen, Texas. Demaret had a $500 guarantee from the Mexican Open. The PGA fined Demaret $500, and most of the others $200, and stated they were suspended until the fines were paid. The next PGA Tour event was the Houston Open, Demaret’s home town. The chairman of the Houston Open threatened to cancel the tournament unless Demaret was in the starting field. Demaret threatened to sue the PGA for all the money it had and threatened to punch PGA President Horton Smith in the nose. In the end a wealthy oilman gave Demaret a check to cover the fines of Demaret and the others who wished to play at Houston. Demaret handed the check over to the PGA and played under protest. Demaret teed off wearing a Mexican sombrero.

More money began coming to professional golf in the mid 60s due to television. Frank Sinatra offered to sponsor a $200,000 tournament in Las Vegas in 1968. Not wanting to be associated with gambling, although legal, the PGA of America turned it down, which incensed the players. Many of the Tour’s players now had college educations. They presented the PGA with a list of grievances over the day-to-day operation of the tournaments. When not much changed the players stated they wanted complete control of what was now a $5.6 million tour. In 1950 the professionals had played for $541,950.

The players put together a 13-man organizing committee and hired a lawyer. They called themselves the “American Professional Golfers Inc.” The evening before the first round of the Philadelphia Golf Classic, August 21, 1968, the players held their first official meeting at the Whitemarsh Valley Country Club. All players were invited. Gardner Dickenson was elected president, with Jack Nicklaus vice president, and Billy Casper treasurer. 205 players agreed to join.

The new organization announced that they would honor all PGA Tour contracts for the rest of the year but had begun negotiating for tournaments and television contracts for 1969. The PGA of America and the new players’ organization were both scheduling tournaments for 1969 and both ran qualifying tournaments for new players.

Fraser, Leo 2 (TGH) x

In November Atlantic City Country Club owner/professional Leo Fraser was elected president of the PGA of America. Led by Fraser, the PGA of America made peace with the players in December. The Tournament Players Division of the PGA was created. Its Board was made up of the three PGA officers, four tournament players and three non-PGA independent directors.

The players have owned and managed the PGA Tour for 54 years. There was a time when the lesser players were organizing for more money, like paying everyone in the starting field each week. Now in 2022 the players own the PGA Tour, Champions Tour, Korn Ferry Tour and Latinoamerica Tour. Prize money on the PGA Tour has increased from $5.6 million to $427 million, along with bonus money and a profit sharing plan, but there are some who are dissatisfied, even though it is their tour, and there are millions of dollars to be made.

There were 7 U.S. Women’s Opens before the USGA recognized women’s professional golf!

  “Did You Know”
There were 7 U.S. Women’s Opens before the USGA recognized women’s professional golf!

The first U.S. Women’s Open was played at the Spokane CC in August 1946. It was managed by the Women’s Professional Golf Association which had been founded in 1944. The tournament was co-sponsored by the Spokane Athletic Round Table and the WPGA. There were 40 entries. First prize from the $19,700 purse was $5,600 in war bonds. Any money (war bond) over $100 won by an amateur went back into the WPGA treasury. The early favorites were Patty Berg and amateur, Babe Zaharias. The tournament was played at match play, with the semifinals and final rounds being 36-hole matches. Berg won, defeating Betty Jameson in the final.

Berg had been a United States Marine stationed in Philadelphia during World War II. Playing exhibitions, she helped raise millions of dollars for the war effort.

The following year the tournament was in Greensboro, North Carolina at the Starmount Forest CC. Betty Jameson won by six strokes over two amateurs. At $7,500 the prize money was much smaller. First prize was $1,200.

Patty Berg

Leo Fraser stepped up to host the 1948 tournament at his newly purchased Atlantic City CC. The prize money was the same as 1947. There were 51 entries. Babe Zaharias, who had turned pro to make a golf movie, won by eight strokes with an even par 300 total. When she failed to hole a five-foot putt on the last green, Zaharias missed out on another $1,000 which had been put up by an ACCC member for anyone breaking 300. Zaharias said it did not make a difference; it would just have put her in a higher tax bracket.

The WPGA went out of business in the summer of 1949 and was reformed as the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association (LPGA), with Berg as its president. Sponsored by the newly formed LPGA, Prince George’s CC in Virginia hosted the U.S. Women’s Open in September. Louise Suggs put together a 291 over the four rounds to win by 12 strokes over Zaharias. The total prize money was $7,500 again, but first prize was larger at $1,500.

Zaharias won the 1950 U.S. Women’s Open and its $1,250 first prize by nine strokes at the Rolling Hills CC in Wichita, Kansas. The 1951 tournament was won by Betsy Rawls at Druid Hills CC in Atlanta. Her 293 won by five strokes. First prize was $1,500. The last day’s attendance of 6,000 was a record for the tournament’s six years.

The LPGA played for $100,000 in prize money during the 1951 season. In order to save money, the lady professionals ran their tour from top to bottom. They set up the golf courses, promoted the events, made the pairings, and served as the rules committee.  Golf companies Wilson, MacGregor and Spalding kept the LPGA tour alive by signing the top professionals to endorsement contracts. There were Babe Zaharias, Patty Berg and Louise Suggs golf clubs for women. The women’s clothing company, Weathervane, sponsored four tournaments with bonus money at the conclusion of the four events.

The 1952 tournament, sponsored by the Philadelphia Inquirer Charities, was at the Bala Golf Club in Philadelphia. Louise Suggs won the $1,750 top money by seven strokes with a 284. That year the LPGA had hired a man to administrate their tour. There were sixteen tournaments on the schedule. Admission was $1 on week days and $2 on the weekend. For the week, there were 11,000 in attendance. With total prize money of $7,000 the Inquirer’s Charity turned a profit.  

In 1953, after seven U.S. Women’s Opens had been played, the USGA acknowledged that women’s professional golf was going to last. They began sponsoring the tournament, but the money stayed the same or was even less at times for the next ten years.   

At one time the golf professionals had to play with a marker in the U.S. Open!

At one time the golf professionals had to play with a marker in the U.S. Open!

At one time, the USGA assigned markers to the golf professionals in the U.S. Open. Because the professionals were playing for money they were not trusted to keep their own scores, not even by a fellow competitor. A non-competitor walked with each professional recording his score on each hole, while the amateurs were trusted to report their own scores.

On January 17, 1916, a group of 75 golf professionals and leading amateurs, like Francis Quimet and Albert W. Tillinghast, met in New York City at Wanamaker’s Taplow Club to explore the formation of a national organization of golf professionals.  


Philadelphia’s Albert W. Tillinghast, a fine amateur golfer and golf course architect, spoke at length on the need for the golf professionals forming of a national organization.

He related a story from the 1915 Pennsylvania Open at Shawnee Country Club. Tom Anderson, Jr. was on the green of the final hole with a one stroke lead and a short putt to win the title. His golf ball had come to rest in a cupped lie. As the president of Shawnee and architect of the course, Tillinghast was the referee for the Anderson pairing. With his golf ball in the line of his fellow competitor, Anderson was requested to lift his ball. At that time a golf ball was simply lifted and not cleaned.  A ball marker was not used to assist in replacing the ball.    

Tillinghast stated “When he replaced, Anderson put the ball religiously back into the cupped lie, although he was certain to miss the putt and did, owing to the bad lie. How many amateurs” asked Tillinghast “would not have been tempted to give the replaced ball a good lie? I know that the rules are observed no more honestly by any golfers than the pros. It is the amateurs who take liberties with the rules.”

Tillinghast said it was time for the golf professionals to become more independent of the USGA. Until then the USGA had served as a clearing house for golf professional and green keeper positions. Tillinghast added that the golf professionals should have the ability to handle their own affairs. If organized, the professionals would be treated with more respect.

When Rodman Wanamaker offered to put up the money for a championship the PGA of America was founded On April 10, 1916.

By missing that putt in the 1915 Pennsylvania Open, Anderson ended in a tie with Eddie Loos. That same day they played an 18-hole playoff which ended with them still tied. On the 55th hole of the day Anderson won with a par.

Later in 1915, while learning to drive with the assistance of an instructor, Tom Anderson, Jr. died at the wheel of the automobile at age 29. His brother Willie, winner of four US Opens, had died in 1910 at the age of 31.

A bottle of red wine brought Bobby Locke to the 1947 Philadelphia Inquirer Invitation!

A bottle of red wine brought Bobby Locke to the 1947 Philadelphia Inquirer Invitation!

Having won the 1946 British Open, Sam Snead was invited to South Africa in early 1947 to play a series of exhibitions with their leading golfer, Bobby Locke. Locke had finished tied second at that 1946 British Open. Snead was guaranteed a percentage of the gate receipts or $10,000, whichever was larger, along with his expenses.  During the time that Snead was away he would have only collected $17,250, if he had won every tournament. During February and March, Snead and Locke met up twenty times, with Locke, coming out ahead fifteen times to three for Snead, even though Snead averaged close to 70 strokes per round. Two were tied.

With that, Snead encouraged Locke to give the US PGA Tour a try. On April 1 Locke and Snead flew into New York in route to Augusta, Georgia for the Masters Tournament. From New York they boarded a train to Columbia, South Carolina and then were driven to Augusta. In meeting up with Snead at Augusta, his agent Fred Corcoran said “I see you kicked a field goal.”

On his first venture to the states Locke had little time to prepare for a tournament, which began on April 3. He was able to get in one practice round. Locke tied for 14th. Snead was farther down, tied for 22nd, one stroke out of the money. The winner was Jimmy Demaret.

Fred Byrod, the Sports Editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, was in Augusta covering the Masters. The Philadelphia Inquirer Invitation was scheduled for the fourth week of May and Byrod was recruiting for the tournament. One evening during the week of the Masters, Byrod had dinner with Locke. With the assistance of a bottle of red wine, or maybe two, he sold Locke on committing to play in Philadelphia.

With no more tournaments on the PGA Tour until the second week of May, Locke played a series of exhibitions in the southeastern states. In his second start in the USA Locke won the Houston Open by five strokes. Next it was the Colonial Invitational in Fort Worth where Hershey CC’s professional; Ben Hogan, won and Locke tied for third.

1947 Inq Inv-Cedarbrook CC 2

From there the tour moved to Philadelphia for the Inquirer’s tournament at Cedarbrook CC, just north of the city at that time. After a rainout on Thursday 36 holes were scheduled for Sunday. On Sunday nine thousand spectators turned out in a misty rain and wind for the final rounds. Locke put together a pair of 70s to overcome a five stroke lead by Hogan and won by four strokes. Philmont CC’s professional Matt Kowal and Lloyd Mangrum tied for second. Hogan ended up in fourth place.

Locke won again the following week in Boston. After that he finished third at the US Open and then won three more times. When 1947 came to a close Locke was second to Demaret on the 1947 money list with $24,327 to Demaret’s $26,536. Demaret had played in 29 tournaments versus 16 for Locke. They both won six times.

Playing a limited schedule Locke won four more times in 1948 and 1949. In 1949 Locke was banned from the PGA Tour by the PGA of America for not appearing at tournaments and exhibitions when he had committed. Locke chose not to defend his Canadian Open title when the sponsor wouldn’t give him a $1,000 appearance fee. He withdrew from a tournament after 36 holes, saying he had to leave for the British Open which was still 16 days away.

In 1951 the PGA ban was lifted but Locke only returned to the states on a few occasions. During his career he finished third or better in half the tournaments he entered on the US PGA Tour.

Locke had to be one of the twenty best golfers of all time, winning 4 British Opens and a total of 85 professional tournaments world-wide.

Battles with prize money for the attention of professional golfers are nothing new!

Battles with prize money for the attention of professional golfers are nothing new!

In 1931, both Florida and California were staging tournaments for the professional golfers in January. Florida was offering the Miami Open and several other tournaments totaling $25,000 in prize money. There had been a sudden drop in the stock market in late 1929, but many thought it was only something temporary.  

At that time there was no official PGA Tour. What amounted to a professional tour was a loose arrangement of money tournaments across the country. These tournaments might be staged by a local chamber of commerce promoting its city, or a resort selling itself to the world of golf. Even the wives of the golf professionals sent letters to cities in Florida and California extolling the benefits of holding a professional golf tournament. 

As the 1931 Miami Open was coming up in the first week of January, the Miami Chamber of Commerce was feeling the pinch. It announced that it would not be able to fund the $2,500 purse, like it had in 1930. Only through donations by local golf enthusiasts, $2,000 was finally put together to play for.  The tournament director announced that entries would be accepted up until the last player teed off in the first round. Two hundred and four professionals and amateurs entered.

On learning that, three-time defending Miami Open champion Gene Sarazen bolted from his winter home in New Port Richey, Florida for the West Coast and the Los Angeles Open with its $10,000 purse.

The L.A. Open began on January 8 with 291 professionals and amateurs qualifying on six golf courses for 91 open spots in the starting field of 130. Thirty nine were exempt from qualifying. Played at Wilshire Country Club, the three-day tournament finished with 36 holes on Monday, due to rain. Concord Country Club’s professional Ed Dudley came from six strokes back on the final day to win the $3,500 first prize. Former Philadelphia Cricket Club head professional Eddie Loos and Al Espinosa tied for second.

Dudley, Ed 13

The next tournament required a drive south to Mexico for the $25,000 Agua Caliente Open and its $10,000 first prize. Two-time winner of the PGA Championship, Leo Diegel, was the host professional and Sarazen was the defending champion. There was qualifying. The starting field of 114 was advertised as the strongest of the year. Ryder Cupper Johnny Golden won the tournament in an 18-hole playoff over George Von Elm. Second prize was $3,500. Checks were distributed after play at the Agua Caliente Race Track.

In March there were two tournaments in Miami, with total prize money of $20,000. In a one week period there was the $5,000 International Four-Ball and the $15,000 LaGorce Open with a first prize of $5,000.

After LaGorce it was time for most golf professionals to return to their club jobs in the north. To survive at that time, most golf professionals had to be club professionals, and most of the best paying positions were in the north where the industrial cities were located. For those who were interested, there were two more enticing stops on the way north in late March. There was a $5,500 North and South Open in Pinehurst and a $5,000 Southeastern Open in Augusta, Georgia with first prizes of $1,500 and $1,000.

That summer the Western Open, which Dudley also won, had a first prize of $500 with total prize money of only $1,650. Walter Hagen finished second and Sarazen tied for third. The US Open put up $4,550 with its usual top prize of $1,000.  The PGA had a first prize of $1,000 and total money of $7,200 for its championship. At that time the Western Open was nearly as major as the US Open and the PGA Championship. Even though most of the professionals had to take time off from work to be there, there was lasting prestige in winning any of those tournaments, so the best players showed up. 

In August 1945 a golf tournament for the U.S. troops was played in France with one ball!

In August 1945 a golf tournament for the U.S. troops was played in France with one ball!

With the end of World War II in Europe in May 1945 the U.S. military was still needed there, but the troops were able to relax a little. There were baseball games, swimming, archery, horse shoes and even golf tournaments. 

In early August there was a golf tournament at St. Cloud Country Club in St. Cloud, France for the U.S. military men, amateur and professional. It was called the E.T.O. Tournament, standing for European Theater of Operations. There were 88 professionals and 90 amateurs entered. One thousand had attempted to qualify for the tournament at various sites. Each entrant was issued identical seven-piece sets of clubs; driver, 3-wood, 4 irons and a putter. Each day the players were provided with one golf ball. The tournament was 72 holes, and a player could easily be left without a ball to finish the round. After their round was over some golfers went out on the course to see if they might find an extra golf ball. If that was not enough challenge, the golfers had to contend with bomb craters. Also, there were pill boxes to play around or over, that had been installed on the golf course to protect France from the German invasion.

Lloyd Mangrum, who won two Purple Hearts during the war, won the tournament. One Purple Heart was given from being wounded at the Battle of the Bulge, and the other was a broken arm suffered in a jeep accident. His arm was so badly damaged the doctors thought he would never be able to return to tournament golf. While in training for the war he was offered the head professional position at the Ft. Meade (MD) military base golf course, but declined the offer, deciding to fight the German Army.  

Mangrum won the tournament by five strokes with a four-round total of 291. Two professionals who would be a force in tournament golf in the Philadelphia PGA after the war finished second and third in the pro division. Matt Kowal, who served four years in the war, was second, and Rod Munday, who also had won a Purple Heart, finished third. Atlantic City’s Leo Fraser, who would go on to be president of the PGA of America, also played in that tournament. Jimmy McHale, who had been an assistant at the Philadelphia CC, but was now an amateur, defeated William Campbell in an 18-hole playoff for the amateur title.  

Kowal, Matt (TTT)

Earlier that year Kowal had won the Third Army Championship, with Mangrum finishing second.

Later in 1945 there was a tournament in Biarritz where the same three, Mangrum, Kowal and Munday, finished one, two, and three. Then the Army Special Services sent the three of them, along with Horton Smith, on a tour of Europe playing exhibitions for the G.I.’s.

With the war over, Mangrum returned to the PGA Tour, winning the U.S. Open in 1946, to go with a total of 36 PGA Tour tournaments.

Kowal, a native of Utica, NY, returned to the states as the pro at Philmont CC. Kowal won a Philadelphia PGA Championship and a Philadelphia Open. At the 1947 PGA Tour’s Philadelphia Inquirer Invitation, played at Cedarbrook CC, Kowal finished second to Bobby Locke.

Munday, Rod (TTT)

A Californian, Ronald “Rod” Munday returned as a head pro in Ohio in 1946. He tried a year in the business world, 1947, but when Dutch Harrison left the CC of York to play the PGA Tour full time, he was more than ready to get back into golf, succeeding Harrison at York. As the pro at York, Munday, who always struggled with his putting and might use four different putting grips in one round, won the 1951 Philadelphia PGA Championship.  

The Philadelphia PGA and the Maxwell Award for football have a connection!

The Philadelphia PGA and the Maxwell Award for football have a connection!

The Philadelphia PGA held its first Section Championship on June 12, 1922, with the winner having his name engraved on the Evening Public Ledger Cup. The cup, a silver old-English urn, had been donated to the Philadelphia PGA through the efforts of the newspaper’s sports editor Robert W. “Tiny” Maxwell and his golf writer, Percy Sanderson, who wrote under the penname Sandy McNiblick.

Public Ledger Cup TTT

Maxwell, who stood six foot-four and weighed 270 pounds, had been an All-American football lineman at the University of Chicago, playing for the famous coach, Amos Alonzo Stagg. After two years at the U of C, he showed up at Swarthmore College near Philadelphia, where he was again named to an All-American team. Swarthmore lost only one game in 1905 and that was to the University of Pennsylvania (11 to 4) in what was later remembered as one of the most brutal games in the history of college football.

President Theodore Roosevelt demanded changes be made to college football to make it less dangerous. Eighteen college players had died that year. The forward pass was made legal, and the yards required for a first down were doubled from five to ten.

The next year Maxwell played on Philadelphia’s Jefferson College football team, which was his fifth year of varsity college football. 

After college he found employment writing sports for a Chicago newspaper and played some pro football. Then he turned to officiating football games. Due to his integrity and football knowledge, he found himself in demand for the most important games, mostly college but some professional. 

Maxwell began writing about sports for the Evening Public Ledger in 1914,and within two years he was the sports editor for the Public Ledger newspaper. As the sports editor he was a stalwart promoter of all Philadelphia sports.

On June 26, just 14 days after the Philadelphia PGA Championship, Maxwell along with Sanderson, Sanderson’s wife, and another couple were traveling in Maxwell’s $6,000 vehicle. They were on the way home to Philadelphia from a social visit west of Norristown. Sometime after midnight, with Maxwell at the wheel, they came upon a vehicle stalled in the highway near the intersection of Egypt and Trooper Roads. Maxwell swerved to pass the stalled vehicle, crashing into an oncoming six-ton truck, before he was able to apply the brakes. The truck was transporting 23 Boy Scouts who had been attending a dance and were returning to their campsite near Betzwood.

All of the passengers in Maxwell’s automobile were injured, some critically. Sanderson appeared to be the most serious, with a fractured skull. Maxwell had a broken leg, fractured ribs, and broken hip. They were taken to Montgomery County Hospital in Norristown. None of the Boy Scouts or other occupants of the truck were hospitalized.

Maxwell contracted pneumonia four days later and died later that day at age 38. The Maxwell Football Club was founded in his memory. Each year the Maxwell Award is bestowed on a college football player the club members deem to be most deserving.

Sanderson, who was still unconscious when Maxwell died, recovered to write about golf again, but it was a slow process. Leading golf professionals played exhibitions to assist with Sanderson’s hospital bills.

For more than 35 years the Philadelphia Section members competed for a one-year possession of the Evening Public Ledger Cup.

In 2021, the Philadelphia PGA’s Marty Lyons was inducted into the PGA Hall of Fame!

In 2021, the Philadelphia PGA’s Marty Lyons was inducted into the PGA Hall of Fame!

Lone overdue, Marty Lyons was inducted into the PGA of America’s Hall of Fame in November 2021. Lyons should have been inducted many years ago, but first someone had to nominate him. Deceased since 1968, his accomplishments were nearly forgotten.

Lyons spent all but six of his 55 year golf career at the Llanerch Country Club in Haverford Township, Pennsylvania. In 1913 at the age of 9, Lyons was introduced to golf when he took a six mile trolley ride from his home in West Philadelphia to caddy at Llanerch. Lyons would earn 35 cents for carrying a golf bag around the course, and then had to give the caddy master 10 cents of his earnings. The trolley fare was 5 cents each way, so some days he walked to the golf course and then home. 

At age 16 Lyons dropped out of school to become the caddy master at Llanerch. Two years later he was the assistant professional at Llanerch. In 1928 he moved across the Delaware River to southern New Jersey, where he was the head professional at the Spring Hill Country Club for six years.

With his employer struggling with the Great Depression, Lyons returned to Llanerch in 1934 as the assistant to Denny Shute. Having won the British Open in 1933, Shute was away playing in tournaments and exhibitions most of 1934. The next year Shute was off to Chicago for a new head professional position. By popular acclaim of the Llanerch members, Lyons was now the head professional.

At that time the juniors could not play the Llanerch golf course until age 16. As the head professional Lyons changed that and instituted junior golf clinics where he filmed their golf swings. One year five of his junior girls broke 80. His prize pupil, Dorothy Germain, won the 1949 US Women’s Amateur.

The Philadelphia Section hosted the PGA of America’s 25th anniversary at Philadelphia’s Bellevue Stratford Hotel in September 1941. That week, the PGA Tour’s Henry Hurst Invitational was being played in Philadelphia at Torresdale-Frankford CC. The PGA officers, leading players and the national press were among the 800 that attended. Lyons and Jimmy D’Angelo served as co-chairmen.  

Lyons, Marty 3xy

In October 1941 Lyons was elected president of the Philadelphia PGA, an office he would hold for six years. At the 1943 spring meeting Lyons gave tournament chairman Leo Diegel full authority to use the Section’s tournament schedule to raise money for World War II charities.

Exhibitions were played with local amateurs and nationally known professionals. The Philadelphia PGA was planning to buy an ambulance for the Red Cross but someone from the Red Cross suggested they visit the Valley Forge General Hospital for wounded veterans to see what could be done there. Lyons and Diegel decided to build a nine-hole golf course on the hospital grounds. Every member of the Philadelphia donated either time, equipment or money and many did all three. Before they were done, the Philadelphia pros raised enough money to build two golf courses and three putting courses at veterans’ hospitals in the Delaware Valley. Under the leadership of the Philadelphia PGA every PGA Section in the country instituted rehabilitation programs for the wounded veterans during World War II.     

Lyons was elected PGA Secretary at the 1948 national meeting. Even though he was nominated for office again, he chose to serve only one year.

At the PGA’s 1956 annual meeting, Lyons campaigned for his club to host a PGA Championship, and Llanerch was awarded the 1958 championship.

Lyons and some of the Llanerch members attended the 1957 championship in Dayton, Ohio, to learn what they could about hosting a PGA championship. When they returned Lyons wrote a letter to the PGA relating how he had attended a well-run championship that had lost money, and some of the better players had not even entered. He stated that if the format was changed from match play to stroke play, more PGA members could participate. Also with stroke play, a major television company might be interested, as the big name golfers would still be playing on the weekend.

At the 1957 PGA annual meeting, with Lyons selling his format change, the delegates voted to change their PGA Championship to stroke play. Then through the local television affiliate, Lyons sold CBS on televising the tournament.

The 1958 PGA Championship was televised, which was a first for that tournament. CBS broadcast the last three holes of the tournament on Sunday, for a total of two and one half hours. The PGA Championship turned a profit, which it hadn’t for many years. Frank Chirkinian, a young man who was producing the evening news at the CBS affiliate, produced the telecast. He went on to produce the CBS telecast of the Masters Tournament for four decades. Along with that, there was another young sports reporter named Jack Whitaker, who did interviews with the leading golfers for the nightly news at that CBS affiliate. 

Lyons mentored two golf professionals, Leo Fraser and Henry Poe, who went on to be presidents of the PGA of America. He hosted the Philadelphia PGA Championship 9 times, 8 on consecutive years.

In 1968 Lyons was back in harness as the PGA Director from District Two. But that same year, at the Philadelphia Section’s spring meeting, he suffered a heart attack and died at the head table.  His last words were “With the boys coming back from Vietnam, we need to get the golf course at Valley Forge Hospital going again.”

The Philadelphia PGA was founded on December 2, 1921

The Philadelphia PGA was founded on December 2, 1921

The PGA of America, at its 1921 national meeting, decided to turn its seven PGA Sections, which covered all of the 48 states, into more Sections. With that, the golf professionals in the Philadelphia area began to formulate a plan for a more regional association than the Southeastern Section, of which it was then a part. 

The prime movers to create this new PGA Section were Bob Barnett, the professional at Tredyffrin Country Club in Paoli, Pennsylvania and Stanley Hern, a PGA member who was managing the St. Mungo Golf Ball Company in Philadelphia. They began by putting on a Main Line Open golf tournament at Tredyffrin CC on the first Monday of November. Tredyffrin CC put up $250, and with a $5 entry fee there was more than $500 in prize money.

Jim Barnes, who had won the first PGA Championship in 1916 as the professional at Whitemarsh Valley Country Club near Philadelphia, was entered. Due to the strength of the field, the tournament was later considered to be the equivalent of a PGA Tour event. Due to a missed train connection, Barnes did not arrive until nearly noon. On a cool day with an icy wind, Barnes, playing with Hern, toured the first 18 holes in one hour and 45 minutes. Barnes put together a two over par 72, which broke the course record by one stroke. Barnes took 77 strokes in his afternoon round, which took 2 hours and 10 minutes. His 149 total won the $200 first prize by five strokes, and he picked up another $25 for the low round of the day.

That evening the golf professionals met and began formulating plans for their PGA Section. Hern was appointed to draw up plans for an organizational meeting.

At 10 a.m. on Monday November 21, 1921, the PGA members in the Philadelphia region met at 715 Denckla Building, which was at Eleventh and Market Streets in Philadelphia. Temporary officers and temporary committees were appointed, along with plans for another meeting. St. Davids Golf Club professional Bill Byrne was nominated as the temporary president.

PPGA Crest 1920s x

At 8:30 on a Friday evening, December 2, 1921, the first official meeting of the new PGA Section was held. Most of the golf clubs in the Philadelphia area were represented as thirty PGA members gathered at A.G. Spalding & Bros.’ building at 1210 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. Officers were elected. The president was Barnett. They named their PGA Section, Philadelphia PGA. The boundaries went from Philadelphia to Harrisburg and north to Williamsport. It included Wilmington, Delaware and a few clubs just across the Delaware River in South Jersey. The dues were $5 per year, which went to defray the expenses of maintaining the organization, and promoting tournaments.

Later the Section included all of eastern Pennsylvania, all of southern New Jersey south of the 40th parallel, the state of Delaware and a few golf facilities in northern Maryland. Of today’s 41 PGA Sections, it is still the only one named for a city.

President Warren G. Harding’s schedule changed the dates of the 1921 Philadelphia Open!

President Warren G. Harding’s schedule changed the dates of the 1921 Philadelphia Open!

At the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s annual meeting in early 1921, it was announced that its Philadelphia Open would be played in southern New Jersey at the newly constructed Pine Valley Golf Club. The Pine Valley officials said that the GAP should be ready with a back-up plan as there were four unfinished holes on the course. As the year wore on it became apparent that Pine Valley would not be ready by the July tournament dates, so Whitemarsh Valley Country Club agreed to host the tournament.  

On July 10 the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the starting date of the US Open, which had been scheduled to begin on Monday July 18, was being moved to the 19th due to US President Warren G. Harding’s schedule. The US Open was being hosted by the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The USGA wanted to have President Harding play the first tee shot of the tournament, and then be in attendance on the last day for the closing ceremony, to present the trophy to the winner. 

With that, the GAP had a problem. Their plan had been for the two-day Philadelphia Open to begin the day after the US Open ended. The players could hop a train at the conclusion of the US Open and travel north to compete in the Philadelphia Open the next two days, a Friday and Saturday. Now the GAP needed both a Saturday and Sunday in July from Whitemarsh Valley. The Club’ officials said no to that. The tournament could not be held the next Monday and Tuesday as the Met Open was beginning on Tuesday near New York.

Harding, McLeod, Barnes 1921

At the US Open, President Harding drove off the first tee shot on Tuesday the 19th and awarded the trophy to the winner Jim Barnes on Friday the 22nd. Barnes, the professional at Whitemarsh Valley from 1914 to 1917, won by nine strokes over Walter Hagen and the host professional, Fred McLeod, who tied for second. The USGA was fortunate that there was no 18-hole playoff needed, as President Harding had another conflict. That next morning President Harding left the White House and traveled to western Maryland to spend the weekend on a 200-acre farm, camping with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. They referred to themselves as the Vagabonds.

The Philadelphia Open was played on the first Monday and Tuesday of August. Despite having a first prize of $225 and a total purse of $575, the starting field was composed of mostly local players. Held over two windy days, New York’s Willie Macfarlane (1925 US Open champion) won by 13 strokes. Whitemarsh Valley member Woody Platt finished second, and Jack Campbell, a three time winner of the tournament, was third.

If the tournament could have been played at the brand new and highly anticipated Pine Valley Golf Club, there probably would have been a world class field. Sometimes the best of plans doesn’t work out.

The 1963 Whitemarsh Open, the richest yet, wasn’t even on the PGA schedule on January 1!

The 1963 Whitemarsh Open, the richest yet, wasn’t even on the PGA schedule on January 1!

On March 8, 1963 Whitemarsh Valley Country Club member Anthony Cimino and his construction business partner Don Amato, who said he had just learned that a golf ball was round, announced that they would be sponsoring a PGA Tour Whitemarsh Open in the first week of October. The prize money would be $125,000; $15,000 more than the Cleveland Open, scheduled for June. The announcement made it into newspapers all over the United States.

Cimino said that he was confident that 55,000 daily tickets would be sold at an average price of $5. Along with television, a pro-am, parking, concessions and a program book, there would more than enough receipts to cover the tab. Twenty percent of the gross would go to charity. He was hoping the charity connection would encourage the amateur golfers to purchase spots in the pro-am and promote the sale of daily admission tickets. The 1962 PGA Championship at Aronimink Golf Club had drawn 67,000 and Cimino thought Whitemarsh could top that.

The Ryder Cup was being played in Atlanta one week after the Whitemarsh Open. The tournament director said that the British PGA had promised that their players would be playing at Whitemarsh. It was also hoped that most of the United States team would be entered.

Tournament expenses would be around $300,000. Whitemarsh Valley was charging Cimino $25,000 for the use of the course. Daily ticket prices would be Monday and Tuesday $2; Wednesday, Thursday and Friday $5; Saturday and Sunday $6. A ticket for the week, which included grounds, clubhouse and parking, was $35. Grounds and clubhouse was $25. A grounds only pass was $17.

The tournament would be competing for attendance and attention with college football, baseball’s World Series, which was still being played in the afternoons in 1963, and the Philadelphia Eagles would be playing the Dallas Cowboys at home that Sunday.

The second week of August was available, as the $35,000 Eastern Open in Baltimore had recently been canceled. The sponsors told the PGA that after 13 years of the Eastern Open being unprofitable; it was time for better dates. In August the Baltimore golf courses were in poor condition and many local people were vacationing. Even though the August dates were available, WVCC would not give up that week to the Whitemarsh Open.

The 1963 PGA Tour schedule had been planned with a two week gap between the second West Coast swing of the year and the Ryder Cup. But with the offer of $125,000, the Whitemarsh Open was now in that second week.

In July Carling Brewery announced that they would be holding a $200,000 tournament at Detroit in 1964. The Whitemarsh Open tournament director retorted that Whitemarsh would be $210,000 next year.

No one had to enter Whitemarsh, but the money was enticing. Pros that had not been seen on the PGA Tour in years showed up. Just like the 1940s, 1944 PGA champion Bob Hamilton and 1946 Masters champion Herman Keiser drove in together. PGA champions had lifetime exemptions on the PGA Tour. Former PGA champions Jim Turnesa 1952, Walter Burkemo 1953, and Chandler Harper 1950 were entered. Jimmy Demaret, a three time winner of the Masters (1940, 1947, 1950), had entered as well. All 10 members of the US Ryder Cup team were in the field, but no one from the British team was there. They were in Atlanta practicing for the Ryder Cup match, which the US would win 23 points to 9.

With the tournament being played in October the weather was cool and breezy, which made scoring difficult. A five under par 67 led the first round and a pair of 138s led after 36 holes. 151s made the cut. On Saturday Arnold Palmer, who had started with rounds of 70 and 71, put together a 66 to take a three-stroke lead into the final round. On Sunday Palmer had an up and down round of 74. His 281 total edged out 1957 PGA champion Lionel Hebert (282), by one stroke. 51-year old Sam Snead shot a 66 on Sunday to tie Al Balding for third at 283. Palmer picked up the largest check of his career to that time, $26,000, and paid his local Whitemarsh Valley caddy $1,500. Last money was $170, as everyone who made the cut won money. It was Palmer’s lone PGA Tour victory in his home state of Pennsylvania.

Whitemarsh scores

The professional golfers made out well. Gary Player, who was traveling with his wife, three children, a nanny and 22 pieces of luggage, made a profit. His expenses for the week were $2,300.  

But the tournament was not a financial success for the sponsors. There was no TV contract and only 48,500 paying customers turned out. However 20,500 were there on Sunday, which led to an announcement by the sponsors that the tournament would be back in 1964 with better dates and a purse around $200,000 (1964 was again $125,000). The tournament lasted for 18 years, 1963 to 1980, with different names and different sponsors.

The 1929 US Ryder Cup Team had to go back to playing with their wooden shaft clubs!

The 1929 US Ryder Cup Team had to go back to playing with their wooden shaft clubs!

The Ryder Cup match was being contested at the Moortown GC near Leeds, England in 1929. The US team had won the first, of what would become be a long history, on home soil at Worcester CC in 1927.  Now they were headed to England where they were going to have to go back to competing with their wooded shaft golf clubs.

The United States Golf Association had ruled in early 1925 that the golfers could use steel shaft clubs in tournament play. It was now 1929, but the Royal & Ancient GC which made the rules of golf for the entire world, except the USA and Mexico, had not yet made steel shaft clubs legal. Another challenge for the US players was that they would be playing with the smaller British golf ball.

The US team members knew this well in advance of the match. During the 1929 winter tour all members of the US team, except Walter Hagen, Leo Diegel and Horton Smith, had gone back to playing with wooden shafts. At age of 36 and 27 respectively Hagen and Sarazen had plenty of experience with wooden shafts. It was Smith the team was most worried about.  At age 20 he had played most of his life with steel. Smith had been the sensation of the winter tour with seven victories, but at Bellaire, Florida he had tried wooden shafts and finished out of the money.   

It wasn’t only the Ryder Cup in late April where the US golfers would be playing with wooden shafts. Next it was the British Open. Then they were headed back to Moortown for a tournament, followed by a French PGA tournament and the German Open in late May, before heading home. Before the team embarked for England April 11 on the steamship Mauretania, team Captain Hagen had Smith out on a Long Island golf course practicing with wooden shafts.

For the voyage to England Hagen had Smith rooming with Ed Dudley a native of Brunswick, Georgia, who was the new professional at Concord CC, south of Philadelphia. In 1924 as a 15-year-old in Joplin, Missouri, Smith and Dudley had first met when Dudley had come there to be the professional at a club in town. Before the ship had even set sail, Dudley had Smith in the ship’s golf store looking to see if there might be a wooden shaft driver that appealed to him. 

1929 Ryder Cup TTT

The Ryder Cup match was played on April 26 and 27 with all matches scheduled for 36 holes. The weather was very cold with hail and even heavy snow at times. There were ten men on each team, and two had to sit out each day. For the first day’s four foursomes (alternate strokes), Hagen sat Smith as the US took a 2-1/2 to 1-1/2 points lead. Dudley and Sarazen lost 2&1.

 It was Hagen’s belief that if one was good enough to be on the team then he should play. For the eight singles the next day Hagen sat Dudley and Johnny Golden. Smith played and won his match, but only one other American won and one managed to half his match. By a count of 7 points to 5 Great Britain captured the Cup, while their captain was benching the same two players both days.

Hagen told his team “You can’t win them all.” Hagen had lost by 10 & 8, to their captain George Duncan. Hagen said that the British victory would be good for golf, with even more interest at the next Ryder Cup in 1931. There were 10,000 spectators the first day and 15,000 the second day.  

Two weeks later playing with his wooden shafted clubs, Hagen won the British Open by six strokes. Americans Johnny Farrell and Leo Diegel finished second and third. England’s Percy Alliss, who sat on the Ryder Cup bench both days and would sit on the bench both days again in 1931, tied for fourth.

The 1949 Ryder Cup had great golf and controversies!

The 1949 Ryder Cup had great golf and controversies!

Having been revived in 1947 following World War II, the 1949 Ryder Cup was being held during September in Yorkshire, England at the Ganton Golf Course. The US team was led by non-playing Captain Ben Hogan, who was recovering from a February near fatal automobile accident. On September 3rd the team sailed for England aboard the RMS Queen Elizabeth.

Golf had returned to normal in the United States following the war, but even by 1947 that wasn’t the case in the United Kingdom, which had been devastated by the war. No one was sure if a Ryder Cup would be played again. Robert A. Hudson, a fruit grower, canner and packer decided to revive the competition by bringing the 1947 Ryder Cup to his club, Portland Golf Club. Hudson paid the travel expenses for the British Team on the RMS Queen Mary. On their arrival, Hudson met them in New York. The Brits were wined and dined at the Waldorf Astoria by Hudson, before he boarded a train to travel with the team on a three and one/half-day cross country trip to Portland. Hudson paid for the British Team’s housing, meals, everything. He spent $70,000 hosting the event. The US won 11 points to 1.

1949 Ryder Cup voyage Lyons

When it came time for the US team to travel to England for the 1949 Ryder Cup, Hudson was with them, along with the title, Ryder Cup Secretary. Still suffering the after effects of the war, Great Britain was on meat rationing. To be safe, the US team took along 600 steaks, 6 dozen hams, 12 sides of beef and 4 boxes of bacon. No one ever said that the meat was Hudson’s idea, but it seemed like it must have been. During the days leading up to the match on September 16-17, there were endless articles in the British press about the Americans bringing along a half ton of meat, which the US Team shared with the British Team. Hogan told the British press that for 12 days he had been reading articles mostly about the US Team’s food, and very little about the Ryder Cup itself.

Something that could have been a problem for the US professionals was that they had to play with the smaller British golf ball. The British ball was smaller, 1.62 inches in diameter vs. 1.68, but weighed the same as the US ball. It played better in the wind but being smaller, it did not sit up as well on the turf. Hogan said that during the voyage his team had been hitting the British golf balls into the ocean off the deck of the ship every day. He figured it would take about three days on the Ganton course for his men to adjust to the smaller ball. 

On the eve of the matches Captain Hogan filed a complaint with the British captain concerning the depth and spacing of the grooves in some of his players’ irons. Hogan said that 1939 British Open champion Dick Burton’s whole set of clubs should be disqualified. Burton had drilled small holes in his wedges for better control of the ball on greens that were baked out from a warm summer. British team member Charlie Ward said that if British Captain Henry Cotton had not been so nasty in 1947, we wouldn’t be having these problems. At the 1947 Ryder Cup, Cotton had forced most of the American team to file down the faces of their wedges. Cotton had made the team in 1949, but declined to play.

World famous British golf writer Bernard Darwin, grandson of biologist Charles Darwin, and Ed Dudley, honorary US Captain and past PGA President, were chosen to oversee the adjustments to the Brit’s clubs. Darwin stated that there was nothing that a little filing would not correct. After all that, the British players agreed to play with the same grooves as the US Team.

Despite missing most of 1949 due to his auto accident, Hogan still had plenty of points to be a playing member of the team. Though not fit to play, he was not replaced with another player, so the US had just nine healthy players. All matches were scheduled for 36 holes. The first day of foursomes left the US in a 1 point to 3 points deficit. The US team got a break when overnight rain softened the greens after round one, which made them more like what they were accustomed to. The next day in the singles, the US won 6 of the 8 matches, for a 7 to 5 victory.

While on the Wilson staff, Sam Snead played with an Izett driver for more than 30 years!

While on the Wilson staff, Sam Snead played with an Izett driver for more than 30 years!

When Sam Snead first ventured out to play some tournaments on the PGA Tour, he could drive a golf ball so far, he even amazed the touring professionals. But where it ended up was quite often a problem.

With fall’s arrival in 1936, a 24-year-old Snead decided to give the PGA winter tour a shot. The winter tour began at Pinehurst that year with the PGA Championship being played in November. Not being a PGA member yet, Snead was not eligible for the PGA Championship. The next stop was the Augusta Open, then the Miami Open and Nassau Open. Snead cashed once, a $100 check for a 16th place tie at Miami. (That year there was an Augusta Open at the Augusta CC and Forest Hills CC, as well as the Masters at Augusta National GC in April.)

After Christmas, Snead headed to California with Johnny Bulla for the west coast swing. Preparing for the Los Angeles Open, Snead met up with Henry Picard on the practice field. Picard mentioned that he had heard Snead was having problems with his driver. Picard told Snead that with his power he needed a driver with a stiffer shaft. Picard went to his car and returned with a driver for Snead to try.

Snead hit three drives and right then he knew that was the driver for him. It was an Izett driver that Ardmore, Pennsylvania club maker George Izett had made for Picard. The club had eight degrees of loft and a stiff shaft that weighed five ounces. The driver weighed fourteen and one-half ounces. When Snead asked Picard how much he wanted for the driver, Picard said five-fifty ($5.50). Snead later said that he would have paid more.

 With his new Izett driver Snead finished sixth at LA winning $400. The next week he won the Oakland Open and picked up another $1,200. Snead won four more times that year and ended up second on the money list with $10,243.73. When his one-year contract with Dunlap expired that year he left Dunlap and signed a contract with Wilson Sporting Goods.

George Izett was born in Scotland and grew up playing golf on the Children’s Course at the Gullane Golf Course. He came to the United States in 1928 to work as a clubmaker at Merion Golf Club. When it came to making golf clubs Izett was a master craftsman. In 1930 when Bobby Jones was completing his Grand Slam, the insert in the face of his driver had cracked during his semifinal match. That evening Izett put a new insert in the driver. Jones won.

Izett, George TTT

For the public to think Snead was playing with a Wilson driver, the driver was shipped to Izett with a Wilson soleplate and a Wilson decal for the crown. Due to the differences in the soleplates, George had to do some carving to make it fit properly.

For more than 30 years Snead played most of his tournament golf with that Izett driver, winning more than 80 times on the PGA Tour, including seven majors.

George Fazio’s first foray into golf architecture was at Cobbs Creek Golf Club in 1955!

George Fazio’s first foray into golf architecture was at Cobbs Creek Golf Club in 1955!

George Fazio, winner of the Philadelphia Open five times, was one of the best golfers to come out of Philadelphia. Fazio learned to play golf as a caddy at Plymouth Country Club in Norristown. A playing pro is what he wanted to be, but in his time only a few could make a living just playing tournament golf.

Like most golf professionals in the 1930s, he started out as an assistant pro. In 1940 he was the head pro at Glendale GC in Havertown, but the next year he was at Cedarbrook CC as the playing pro so he could enter more tournaments. He spent 1946 and 1947 as the pro at Hillcrest CC in Los Angeles, only to leave to play the PGA Tour full time.  Then he was in Maryland as Woodmont CC’s professional in 1950, but even that year he was 20th on the PGA Tour money list. Being a club professional was not what he wanted in life.

For a while he had a scrap iron business, and through the generosity of William Clay Ford he owned a Ford automobile dealership in Conshohocken. He leased and operated semiprivate golf courses in the Philadelphia suburbs; Flourtown CC and Langhorne CC. Along the way he won the 1946 Canadian Open and tied for first at the 1950 US Open, only to lose the playoff.

In December 1954 Fazio was awarded a one-year $12,000 contract by the Fairmount Park Commission to make the city of Philadelphia’s five public golf courses profitable. The five courses had experienced a combined loss of $57,000 for 1954. First he had the tees at three courses regrassed with the more durable U-3 Bermuda grass. Then he negotiated the hosting of the Daily News Open, a PGA Tour tournament, at the jewel of the city’s courses, Cobbs Creek GC. With Cobbs Creek hosting the PGA Tour, Fazio knew some changes were needed. He relocated the 18th green and redesigned the 17th hole. Along with that, he added 500 yards to the course. The tournament was held two years, 1955 and 1956.

In 1960 he was asked to assist with the design of Atlantis CC in Ocean County, NJ. He created a routing for the course. Because he did not do a total design of the course he never claimed it, but Atlantis still advertises it as a George Fazio design.

Fazio, George TT 2

That year Fazio heard that Bob Hays, the University of Pennsylvania golf coach, was planning to build a golf course near Phoenixville. He called Hays to say he was going to build his golf course. Hays said he already had someone lined up to do that, but Fazio insisted he was going to be the one. Hayes agreed to have lunch with Fazio. Fazio showed up at the lunch with four framed designs for the course. He had hired an airplane with a photographer to take pictures of the property. Fazio had designed 18 holes by sketching on tracing paper over the photographs. With that, Hays agreed that Fazio to be the architect of his Kimberton GC.

At that time there were few construction companies that built golf courses. Bill Elliott, a friend of Fazio, and a member of both Pine Valley GC and St. Davids GC, put up the money for the equipment and labor to build the course. Fazio completed the whole project, from moving the dirt, to drainage, irrigation and grass.

After that Fazio and Elliott built Squires GC on their own, which they sold to some men as it was nearing completion. They then built Moselem Springs GC for Hawley Quier, who owned the Reading Eagle newspaper. Next it was Waynesborough CC, which opened in the fall of 1965. Elliott’s vision was a golf course with a hotel catering to corporate outings and meetings during the week, with weekend golf memberships. Before they could finish the project a group who wanted to have a private club purchased the project from Fazio and Elliott, while paying them to complete the course.

In 1968 the USGA held the US Women’s Open at Moselem Springs. Within a few days Fazio and Elliott were inundated with offers to build golf courses from the Caribbean to Hawaii.

Sam Snead played his first tournament on the PGA summer tour at the 1936 Hershey Open!

“Did You Know”
Sam Snead played his first tournament on the PGA summer tour at the 1936 Hershey Open!

In early September 1936 twenty-four-year-old Sam Snead ventured out of the Blue Ridge country to test his golf game in a summer PGA Tour event, the Hershey Open. Before that, only a trip to Florida for the 1935 Miami Open and a missed cut at the North and South Open in March had been his attempts at professional touring golf.  

Having learned golf as a caddy at the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia he was now in his first year as an assistant professional at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. In July he had won a tournament called the West Virginia Closed by 16 strokes with rounds of 71 and 61. It was played at The Greenbrier’s 6,317-yard championship course and open only to West Virginia professionals. The 61 was made up of nine pars and nine birdies. He drove the green on two par four holes, only to take three putts for pars.

By late summer Snead had saved up $75 so he decided to try his luck in Milton Hershey’s $5,000 Hershey Open, where the prize money was the same as the US Open and the Masters that year. Snead took a train to Philadelphia and then a second train to Hershey. He arrived on Wednesday for a practice round. There for a practice round as well was George Fazio, who invited Snead to join him. The first hole at that time was a straightaway 329 yard par four, with its green near the Hershey Chocolate factory. (Later the factory was enlarged and the hole was changed to a dogleg left.) Snead’s first two drives were in the factory grounds.  His third drive was on the green.

Snead-1939 Program TT

In the first round Snead toured the par 73 course in 70 strokes, which was two off the lead. After a second round 77 and a third round 70, he was within three strokes of the leaders. In the last round Snead birdied the 343 yard 11th hole after driving the green, but putting failures led to a 74 that left him four strokes behind the winner, host professional Henry Picard (287). A tie for sixth at 291 earned Snead $285. Picard won $1,200. Before Snead could leave town Craig Wood signed him to a $500 contract with Dunlop Sporting Goods to play its clubs and golf balls.   

The world of professional golf had been made aware that a new star was on the horizon, but Johnny Bulla was one who had not gotten the message. In January Bulla and Snead drove to the west coast for the winter tour in Bulla’s automobile. Snead’s auto wasn’t road worthy for a trip to the west coast. During the drive west Snead offered to split all the expenses and winnings, but Bulla declined, figuring he would play better than Snead. That was a mistake. Snead won the second tournament they entered, the Oakland Open, and the rest is golf history.

Struck by lightning at the Philadelphia Open, Ed Dudley should have been the winner!

Struck by lightning at the Philadelphia Open, Ed Dudley should have been the winner!

The 1931 Philadelphia Open, sponsored by the Golf Association of Philadelphia, was hosted by the Manufacturers Golf & Country Club in the second week of August. The tournament was scheduled for 72 holes over two days and attracted professionals from New York and the Middle Atlantic states.

On Monday morning more than 100 plus professionals and amateurs teed off in the first round and played in perfect sunny weather, but no one was able to even equal the par of 71. Concord Country Club professional Ed Dudley posted a 72 to lead the field by one stroke.

During the second round of the tournament that afternoon, severe storms swept across the course. Those players with decent scores from the morning round continued on, while many headed for the clubhouse. Some of the greens were so flooded the golfers had to use lofted irons to hole out. No one from the tournament’s committee appeared on the course to stop play.

At about 6:30 p.m. Dudley, paired with Clarence Hackney and Felix Serafin, was approaching the 18th green, which was near the clubhouse high above most of the course. With his umbrella over his head and putter under his arm, lighting struck nearby. Electricity reflected off Dudley’s steel shafted umbrella and putter temporarily paralyzing his right arm and leg. After a few minutes rest he putted out, finishing with an 81. Just after he putted out another bolt of lightning struck nearby. Dudley threw his putter into some bushes. 43 players turned in a score for the second round.

Dudley, Ed TTT

Dudley was examined at a hospital where he was found to have some red marks on his leg and his right arm and leg were stiff. He seemed to be alright other than that and was sent home. Due to Dudley being a member of the 1929 Ryder Cup team and having won the Western Open only a few weeks earlier, the incident made newspapers all over the country. Most of the articles mentioned that he would not be able to finish the tournament.  

The competitors assumed that the first round would count and the second round would be wiped out due to the course conditions, but the tournament committee canceled out both rounds and made it a 36-hole tournament. The committee sited a USGA rule.

Rule No.2 section 2 “If the committee considers that the course is not in playable condition or that insufficient light makes the proper playing of the game impossible, it shall at any time have the power to declare the days’s play null and void.

On Tuesday Dudley was back for his assigned time and played all 36 holes. Playing in what the newspapers described “an all day downpour” he posted a pair of 75s but it only earned him a four-way tie for second. Hackney, who benefited from the Monday cancellation after a first round 80, won with a (72-75) 147 total and picked up a check for $350.

If only Monday’s second round, when the golf course was unplayable for most of the time, had been washed out, Dudley would have won with ease.

A Philadelphia club professional won the British Open after losing the Ryder Cup!


In early July 1933, Llanerch Country Club’s professional Densmore “Denny” Shute, was in St. Andrews, Scotland playing in the British Open at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. Everyone, even the holder of the title, Gene Sarazen, had to pass a 36-hole prequalifying test. Once the tournament got under way, Shute never led until the 72nd hole. He started out with even par rounds of 73 and 73 to trail by six strokes. On the final day of 36 holes Shute began with another 73 and trailed by three as five were tied for the lead. On a windy afternoon, the scores ballooned. Craig Wood managed a 75 to take the lead in the clubhouse at 292. Later in the day Shute posted a fourth 73 to tie Wood at 292. In a 36-hole playoff the next day Shute was around in 75-74 to win by five strokes. It was nearly a home victory for the Scots. Denny’s father, now a golf professional in Ohio, had done his apprenticeship at St. Andrews, and his grandmother still lived in Scotland.

Just 10 days before that, Shute had been with the US PGA team competing against the British PGA team in the Ryder Cup at the Southport & Ainsdale Golf Club in Southport, England. With victories in 1927 and 1931 against a loss in 1929, the United States held the Cup and a slim lead. The British PGA was determined to retake the Cup with a win on their home soil. The great John Henry Taylor was the captain, and he took his appointment seriously. Taylor had his team members out running on the beach at daybreak each day.

Shute, Dennyx (TGH)

The match was played over two days. The first day there were four 36-hole foursome matches (alternate strokes), and the second day there were eight singles matches, which were also scheduled for 36 holes.

Taylor’s training may have helped. At the end of day one the British led by 2-1/2 points against 1-1/2 for the visitors. The second day’s singles matches were tightly contested. Late in the day the final score came down to the last match still on the course. The two combatants were Denny Shute and Britain’s Syd Easterbrook.  They came to the 36th hole, and after some indifferent golf, both reached the par four green in three. Both were putting from about 25 feet. Easterbrook putted first and was left with a three-foot putt.  The Ryder Cup result was now all on Shute. If he two putted, the match would most likely end in a tie and his team would retain possession of the Cup. If he holed his putt they would win.

The playing captain, Walter Hagen, should have been on the green to remind Shute that two putts would be alright, but Hagen was not there. He was up on a knoll behind the green talking to Prince Edward (who later as the King of England abdicated the throne). Shute, who was putting downhill, went past the hole by four feet and missed coming back. Easterbrook holed his putt and the British were victorious. When Hagen was asked why as captain, he was not there to advise Shute that a tie would keep the cup; he said that he felt it would be rude to interrupt a conversation with a future king.

One might say that Prince Edward won the 1933 Ryder Cup for Great Britain. Walter Hagen always called him Eddie.

George Fazio teed off first in the final round of the 1950 US Open and well might have won!

George Fazio teed off first in the final round of the 1950 US Open and well might have won!

At 8 a.m. Saturday June 10, 1950, two local golf professionals, George Fazio and Al Besselink, were the first two players teeing off for the double round finish of the US Open at Merion Golf Club’s East Course.

At that time there were no gallery ropes, so the USGA would spread out the leaders. Crowd control of the 10,000 spectators each day was up to volunteer marshals. Before the tournament began Ben Hogan had said that his biggest problem might be getting under the gallery ropes. Hogan had circulation problems in his legs from the near fatal automobile accident just one year earlier in February 1949. Large veins had been tied off to mange blood clots. This caused cramping.

For the 36-hole finish on Saturday, players were paired in twos at six minute intervals. Fazio (145) and Besselink (143) may have been put in the first pairing by the officials, because they were not slow and knew the golf course. Actually it was Merchantville, New Jersey’s Besselink who struck the first tee shot of the day with Norristown, Pennsylvania’s Fazio next.

Fazio TTT

Halfway leader Dutch Harrison (139) was at 9:00 with Julius Boros (140). Johnny Bulla (140) and Lloyd Mangrum (142) were off at 8:30. Ben Hogan (141) and Cary Middlecoff (142) had a 9:30 time. Jim Ferrier (140) and Henry Ransom (143) had a 9:54 tee time. It had taken a score of 149 to make the cut (low 50). Most of the players with the higher scores had later times, but some were arly. Only five strokes back at 144, Denny Shute, once the professional only a few miles away at Llanerch CC and a winner of three majors, was last off at 10:30.

In the tournament’s third round that morning Fazio kept himself in the conversation with a 32 on the second nine to post a 72 for 217, while Mangrum with a 69 took the lead at 211. With a 73 Harrison (212) was still there, in second place. Hogan (72), Middlecoff (71) and Johnny Palmer (70) were tied for third at 213.

Back on the course at 12:30, Fazio played the last nine holes in 33 strokes for an even par 70. His 72-hole 287 total on the scoreboard looked great, but probably not a winner. Then the US Open pressure began to take its toll. Middlecoff and Palmer, each were in the process of taking 79 strokes to finish. Harrison with a 76, came in one worse than Fazio’s 287. Mangrum was out in 41 and staggered in with pars on the exceedingly difficult final three holes for a 76. That managed to get him into a tie with Fazio.

Fazio (1971 TTT

Out on the course one hour after Mangrum, Hogan made 10 pars and a bogey on the first eleven holes. His legs were giving out. On the last nine holes either Middlecoff or Hogan’s caddy removed his ball from the hole. On the 12th tee Hogan’s drive found the rough. He limped over and leaned on Harry Radix, who was there as a spectator. He said “Harry I don’t think I can finish.” (Before there was a Vardon Trophy for the low scoring average on the PGA Tour it was the Radix Cup. The Radix Cup, donated by Radix, a Chicago jeweler, was awarded for that achievement from 1934 to 1936.) Hogan’s second shot was long and would have ended up over the green out-of-bounds in Ardmore Avenue if not for the throng of spectators at the back of the green. From there he made a bogey. It has been reported that after the short 13th hole, which was near the clubhouse, Hogan considered quitting but his caddy was on the way to the 14th tee so he kept walking. He three putted 15 for a bogey. He made a par on 16 when his second shot hit a lady spectator near the green and ended in a good lie just off the green.   On the par-three 17th, his tee shot found a back bunker and he made another bogey. Hogan was now in a tie with Fazio and Mangrum. On the last hole he was on the green after a drive and a 1-iron. From 40 feet he putted four feet past the hole. Without much though a dead tired man made the next one coming back. With his 74 there was now a three way tie at 287; Fazio, Mangrum and Hogan.  

In 72 holes, if one more putt had been holed by Fazio or one more missed by Hogan and Mangrum, Fazio would have won the US Open. In the last round, he had made a great 4-iron shot from the rough on the 16th hole to four feet, only to miss the putt. Fazio would have been a long-shot and a dark-horse, but no more than some others. Fazio had won once before, the 1946 Canadian Open.

In an 18-hole playoff on Sunday which began at 2 p.m. because of Pennsylvania’s “Blue Laws” (The law is still on the books in Pennsylvania, but not enforced). Hogan won with a 69 against a 73 by Mangrum and a 75 by Fazio. First prize was $4,000 and worth much more in endorsements.   

Johnny McDermott won two straight US Opens and is not in the World Golf Hall of Fame!

Johnny McDermott won two straight US Opens and is not in the World Golf Hall of Fame!

Johnny McDermott was the first American born golfer to win the United States Open. Born in west Philadelphia on August 11, 1891, he learned golf as a caddy at the Aronimink Golf Club, which was in west Philadelphia at that time. McDermott tied for first in the 1910 US Open at the Philadelphia Cricket Club with Alex Smith and his brother Macdonald Smith, only to lose an 18-hole playoff the next day to Alex.

One year later in 1911, McDermott again ended up in a three-way tie for first in the US Open at the Chicago Golf Club. This time he prevailed, becoming the first American born to win his country’s open championship. The first 16 US Opens had all been won by golf professionals born in Great Britain. He was the youngest winner, and in the year 2021 he still is. Only Young Tom Morris won a major golf tournament, the British Open, at a younger age.

McDermott (Leach) (TTT)

At the 1912 US Open hosted by the Country Club of Buffalo, McDermott won again. He also finished the tournament under par, making him the first to accomplish that in any major golf tournament. Now he had come within one stroke of winning three straight US Opens. In the 121 years that the tournament has been played, McDermott is only one of seven who won the tournament in back to back years.

Along with his success in the US Open he won other important tournaments, like the 1914 Western Open, which he won by seven strokes. At that time the Western was the second most prestigious tournament in the United States. When it came to golf tournaments the description of “major” was not yet in use, but the Western was a major golf tournament until the late 1930s. 

With many of the world’s greatest players in the field, McDermott won the 1913 Shawnee Open. After trailing by five strokes at the end of 36 holes he won by eight. Most of the golfers there were entered in the US Open a month later. Two-time US Open champion Alex Smith finished second and Vardon ended up fifth.  

McDermott won the Philadelphia Open three times, 1910, 1911 and 1913. On last hole of the 1912 Philadelphia Open McDermott holed out a pitch shot for a birdie on the last hole to tie, only to later lose an 18-hole playoff to Wilmington CC professional Gil Nicholls, twice a runner-up in the US Open. There were great players in those tournaments. In 1910 McDermott edged out Philadelphia Cricket Club’s professional Willie Anderson, who had won the US Open four times, by one stroke.

For a period of five years (1910 to 1914) McDermott and Harry Vardon were probably the two best golfers in the world. His golf career was short but brilliant. In late 1914 mental problems brought it to an end.

Even with all those successes McDermott is not in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Hollywood celebrities are in that hall of fame but not John J. “Johnny” McDermott.

Bill Orr and his company Telra created a video on the career of Johnny McDermott using information from Trenham Golf History. As a favor to Bill Orr, Jack Whitaker supplied the voiceover of the narrative. The video is on our website—trenhamgolfhistory.org

Below is a link to the McDermott video.

Sam Snead had to beat Jim Turnesa and the US Army to win the PGA Championship!

Sam Snead had to beat Jim Turnesa and the US Army to win the PGA Championship!

Seaview Country Club in Absecon, New Jersey hosted the PGA Championship in the last week of May 1942. The tournament was played on Seaview’s Bay Course back nine, and its nine holes in the pines. At that time only nine holes of the Pines Course had been completed. Local qualifying had been held around the country in the various PGA Sections. Some professionals were exempt as former winners, and some off their recent record on the PGA Tour. One hundred and eleven PGA members who were in the armed services were offered exemptions if “Leave” could be arranged.  

36-hole qualifying began on Monday for the match play ladder. The ladder had been reduced from the usual 64 spots to 32 in order to shorten the tournament one day. Ben Hogan, the leading money winner on the PGA Tour, had hit so many practice balls his wrist was hurting. PGA Tour director Fred Corcoran moved Hogan’s starting time back a few hours so he could receive treatment. 

Harry Cooper led the qualifying with 138 strokes, while Merion Golf Club assistant Sam Byrd and Corporal Jim Turnesa were one stroke back at 139. The players who missed qualifying were paid mileage money from the $7,550 purse.

Turnesa had entered the US Army in June 1941, then released in October due to being more that 28 years old, only to be recalled in January with the country at war. Stationed just 51 miles away at Ft. Dix, Turnesa was given a ten-day furlough to play in the PGA Championship, with one stipulation. He had to donate whatever money he won to a US Army charity.  

With all matches being 36 holes, Sam Snead who was representing the Shawnee Inn & CC in the Poconos, swept through the top of the draw. His most difficult win was a one-up victory over PGA President Ed Dudley in the quarter-final. In the bottom half Jim Turnesa, wearing his army uniform for each round, faced more difficult opposition. Round by round he defeated big names. It was Dutch Harrison in round one, Jug McSpaden one-down in the second round and Hogan by 2&1 in the quarter-final. Now it was on to the semifinals vs. Byron Nelson. At the end of 36 they were deadlocked. Corcoran gave Nelson a ten-minute break to stop in the locker room and settle his stomach. Still, Turnesa won the 37th hole and moved on.

In the final it was the US Army vs. the US Navy. After the tournament Snead was reporting for navy duty. As the tournament progressed more and more soldiers from Ft. Dix had joined Turnesa’s gallery. Most did not know golf but they knew they were rooting for the golfer in the army uniform.  In Turnesa’s match with Nelson, someone had picked up Nelson’s errant tee shot on the 37th hole before he could see for himself if it was out of bounds or not. On the eve of the final, Snead urged PGA President Dudley to do something to control Turnesa’s followers. Snead said “Turnesa hasn’t had a bad lie in the rough all week.” Dudley said “They don’t know you are joining the Navy. They only know they are not pulling for someone not in uniform.” Along with that the marshals were not about to fight Ft. Dix.

1942 Snead & Turnesa TTT

In the final on Sunday May 31 Turnesa held a three-hole advantage over Snead through 23 holes. Then Snead began to whittle away at the deficit. With nine holes to play the contest was even, and then Snead won the next hole. On the par three 12th hole, Snead’s iron shot was headed for the trees only to strike a spectator and end near the green. He won the hole with a par and was now two-up. The match stayed the same through the next four holes. On the par three 17th hole Snead was over the green and Turnesa was on the green. From 50 feet Snead holed his chip shot and the tournament was over. Snead had won his first of seven major titles.

First prize was $1,500 but during the war-years one could take it in a War Bond, for one-third more. Snead chose the $2,000 War Bond. Turnesa took his winnings in a check for $750, which he then turned over to the Army Relief Fund. All profits from the tournament were presented to the Army and Navy Relief Funds.

On Monday Snead reported to the Navy in Washington D.C. Turnesa, now back at Ft. Dix on Monday, was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. Turnesa would later win the 1952 PGA Championship.

A link to the program book for the 1942 PGA Championship is below.

A plan for the PGA’s first national golf club began in the Llanerch CC golf shop!

A plan for the PGA’s first national golf club began in the Llanerch CC golf shop!

One day in 1942 Sam Byrd and Jimmy D’Angelo were in the Llanerch Country Club golf shop talking with Llanerch’s golf professional, Marty Lyons. The idea of the PGA of America having a winter home with its own golf course was mentioned. Byrd, a former major league baseball player and now an assistant at Merion Golf Club, had spent a number of spring trainings in Florida.

Byrd had played eight years in the major leagues with the New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds. Both teams held spring training in the Tampa Bay area, so Byrd, who was as good at golf as baseball, knew Florida golf courses. Byrd told D’Angelo and Lyons that due to the Great Depression there were golf courses in Florida that could be bought for next to nothing.

In November 1942 Lyons and D’Angelo were in attendance at the PGA’s annual meeting in Chicago. On the floor of the meeting they brought up the idea of the PGA owning its own golf course. They did not receive much of a response. Well before that in 1936, Leo Fraser then the professional at Seaview Country Club had written a letter to the PGA suggesting the association own its own golf course.   

Lyons and D’Angelo were back at the PGA’s annual meeting in November 1943. They stood on the floor of the meeting and again presented the idea of the PGA owning its own golf course. With that, President Ed Dudley appointed them a committee of two, to make a study of the idea, and return to the 1944 meeting with a report.

In November 1944 Lyons and D’Angelo were at the annual meeting with a proposal. They showed a film of the Dunedin Isles Golf Club, which was north of Tampa in Dunedin. They told the delegates that the golf course, which had been designed by the renowned golf course architect Donald Ross and was owned by the city of Dunedin, could be theirs through a 99-year lease at $1 per year. Their presentation was so thorough the delegates approved the plan with little discussion. (It was Jimmy D’Angelo who later played a major role in making Myrtle Beach a golf destination on the East Coast.)

Finding a home course for the PGA turned out to be the easy part. After some years of neglect, the golf course and clubhouse had to be refurbished. Each PGA Section was assessed an amount based on its number of PGA members. Two months later Dunedin Isles, now PGA National Golf Club, hosted its Senior PGA Championship


The course was a huge success during January and February, with the golf professionals taking a break from their club jobs. By the late 50s the Senior Championship was such a sellout, the 72-hole tournament had to be played over six days. Beginning on a Tuesday the various age groups played on alternate days. After 36 holes age group prizes were awarded and there was a cut, which got the field into a manageable number. The PGA, which had moved its national office to Dunedin, was outgrowing its 18-hole home in the winter months but finding it to be a financial struggle the rest of the year.

The PGA made a connection with John D. MacArthur, one of the largest land owners in Florida. He would provide two championship golf courses and office space for the PGA of America staff in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. In late 1962 the PGA moved from Dunedin to the east coast of Florida.  MacArthur provided the PGA with two championship golf courses at reasonable prices, and space in the large clubhouse for its office.

By 1975 the PGA was looking for a new home. The PGA had made MacArthur’s golf courses too popular, so the prices were being increased. For a few years the PGA bounced around Florida looking for a new home, until making arrangements with a new developer on a long term lease along with office space it would own, still in Palm Beach Gardens. (That is the present home of the PGA Tour Honda Classic.) When that became too much of a success the PGA built a complex with three golf courses in St. Lucie County, which it owns.

Over the years many PGA members made these locations their winter home and then retired there. Now the PGA national headquarters is on the move again. Golf course architects Gil Hanse and Beau Welling are putting in two championship golf courses in Frisco, Texas for the PGA and the PGA is building a 100,000-square foot office complex and education facility.

John J. “Johnny” “Jack” McDermott attempted a comeback in 1924!

John J. “Johnny” “Jack” McDermott attempted a comeback in 1924!

In 1911, at only 19, Philadelphia’s Johnny McDermott won the U.S. Open, and then won it again in 1912, only to suffer a mental breakdown in late 1914. There was a great deal of speculation concerning what might have been the cause.

McDermott & trophy (TT) 2

The great British professionals, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, were in the states for the 1913 US Open. A few weeks before the US Open, with Vardon and Ray in the field, McDermott won the Shawnee Open by eight strokes. During a speech he was asked to make, McDermott stated that the people of this country needn’t worry or fear as to the US Open cup going to the other side. He was told that he had insulted the visitors, so he went to them and apologized. A.W. Tillinghast, the designer of the Shawnee course and the club’s golf chairman, asked the golf writers not to mention the speech. All agreed, but then one ran an article about what McDermott had said. It turned into a torrent of criticism.

The USGA threatened to bar him from the US Open. A week later Philadelphia’s Public Ledger newspaper published a rebuttal for McDermott explaining what he had been trying to say, and what he had meant with his words, but it was too late to calm the storm.  

In spite of the uproar McDermott played in the US Open, finishing a disappointing 8th, four strokes out of a tie for first. He had difficulty adjusting to the wet golf course. McDermott liked to play a low approach shot that would hop twice and stop. With the wet greens his shots kept coming up well short of the hole. Francis Quimet, a young amateur from the USA, defeated Vardon and Ray for the title in an 18-hole playoff.

In October McDermott got back on the winning track winning the Western Open at the Memphis Country Club by seven strokes.

He finished second at the North and South Open at Pinehurst in March 1914, and then was off to the British Open in June for a third time. He had tied for fifth in 1913. Somehow he missed a ferry and a train and was late for his starting time to qualify for the tournament. The tournament officials said he could play, but McDermott declined, saying it would be unfair to the other players.

He headed home, boarding the Kaiser Wilhelm II. Soon after leaving port in heavy fog, the ship was struck by a grain freighter. The life boats were lowered but not needed, as the ship made it back to shore. McDermott sailed for home on another ship.

Back in the states McDermott did not attempt to defend his title in either the Shawnee or Western Opens, or play in the Met Open. At the US Open in August he tied for 9th and then a month later he tied for 7th at the Philadelphia Open. He seemed to have lost his usual fiery confidence.  

In October he collapsed in the pro shop at Atlantic City Country Club where he was the professional. His parents came and took him home to West Philadelphia. One of McDermott’s sisters said that everything seemed to happen to him in less than a year; the Shawnee speech, the British Open, the ship wreck and losses in the stock market.

8 J. McDermott (2)

In and out of mental hospitals, McDermott played in just one tournament in 1915, the Met Open on Staten Island. At the end of the first day he was in third place with 145 strokes. On the second day he seemed to tire, shooting a 79-81. His 305 total left him tied for 15th.   

With his father being a mailman the family was unable to afford private hospitals. McDermott was committed to the State Hospital for the Insane in Norristown, PA in 1916, less than two months before his 25th birthday. The hospital had a 1,232 yard golf course that McDermott could play. Though a state hospital, his family had to pay $1.75 a week for his care.

Exhibitions were played to assist the family with McDermott’s expenses. Walter Hagen, Jim Barnes, Johnny Farrell and Joe Kirkwood, Sr. played a 36-hole exhibition at Merion GC in October 1922. The professionals received no remuneration and paid their own expenses.

A year later in October, Hagen was at Gulph Mills GC playing a 36-hole exhibition. On hearing where McDermott was, Hagen had someone drive him there after golf at Gulph Mills. He played the hospital course with McDermott that day. Hagen reported that McDermott had lost little of his old prowess.    

In mid December 1923, Zimmer Platt (brother of Caddy Scholarship J. Wood Platt) and McDermott played an exhibition match against two professionals at Whitemarsh Valley CC. In spite of winter conditions McDermott refused to improve his lie at any time. On the 14th hole McDermott put his greenside bunker shot two inches from the hole to close out the match. McDermott was three over par for the 14 holes.   

In the summer of 1925 McDermott attempted a comeback. He played in four tournaments; Shawnee Open, Philadelphia PGA Championship, Philadelphia Open and Pennsylvania Open.  Though he hadn’t won a tournament in 12 years he usually attracted a gallery. His scores were in the 80s and he was never in contention. 

After that his golf was relegated to playing with various Philadelphia professionals. On August 1, 1971, one day after playing nine holes at Valley Forge GC, Johnny McDermott died of heart failure, 11 days before his 80th birthday.  

Leo Fraser held a senior open at his Atlantic City CC 23 years before the USGA’s first one!

Leo Fraser held a senior open at his Atlantic City CC 23 years before the USGA’s first one!

In September 1957, Leo Fraser, owner and professional at the Atlantic City Country Club, staged an open tournament for senior golf professionals and amateurs, 50 years of age or older. Fraser was always looking for a way to promote golf and his club.

Since 1937 the PGA of America had held a senior championship for its members who had reached the age of 50. In August of 1957 there had been an inaugural tournament called the U.S. Senior National Open in Spokane, Washington.  At Spokane Gene Sarazen had lost a playoff for the title.

Spokane had a bigger purse and larger field than Fraser’s tournament, but there were some great golf professionals from the past entered in the Atlantic City Seniors Open. Former Philadelphia PGA member Denny Shute, the winner of two PGA Championships and a British Open, was entered. Harry Cooper, who some still refer to as the greatest golfer to never win a major championship was there. Along with winning 30 times on the PGA Tour in the 1920s and 30s, Cooper had finished second in two Masters Tournaments and two US Opens, losing the 1927 US Open in a playoff.  

At Atlantic City Pete Burke, the 1956 Senior PGA Champion, led the three-day tournament until the last green where he carelessly missed a one-foot putt. That left him tied with Joe Zarhardt, who had just turned in a 67, with 212 totals. The two pros were sent right back out that day for an 18-hole playoff.  Zarhardt, a Jersey boy who had won a Philadelphia PGA Championship and a Philadelphia Open, was now a pro in North Carolina.  He won the playoff with a 69 against a 71 for Burke. Shute finished fourth and Cooper was eighth. First prize was $650 and ten pros won money.

Former Atlantic City CC professional Johnny McDermott, winner of the 1911 and 1912 US Opens, was in attendance as a guest of Fraser. McDermott had been confined to mental hospitals since suffering a nervous breakdown in late 1914.Fraser, McDermott, Cooper 2

Fraser held the tournament one more year. Zarhardt returned nearly defending his title, losing a sudden death playoff to Virginia’s Jack Isaacs. Cooper finished third. The US National Senior Open continued on out west for many years, finding a home in Las Vegas. At one point, Tommy Bolt won that tournament five straight years.  

It took 23 more years for the USGA to embrace senior professional golf. It June 1980 the newly formed PGA Senior Tour held its first tournament at the Atlantic City Country Club. One week later, the USGA held a senior open at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York. That first US Senior Open was for golfers 55 and over, but in 1981 with Arnold Palmer having turned 50, the tournament was changed to accept entries from those 50 and over.

At one time, big name golf professionals like Byron Nelson played in local tournaments!

At one time, big name golf professionals like Byron Nelson played in local tournaments!

Byron Nelson won the 1937 Masters Tournament on the first Sunday of April and then reported for work at the Reading Country Club as the new head professional.

On Monday, two weeks after winning the Masters, Nelson played in what was termed a Philadelphia PGA sweepstakes (one day).  The professionals played for their entry fees. Nelson shot two 73s, finishing second to Bruce Coltart by one stroke.  

1937 was a Ryder Cup year, with Great Britain being the host. The final four spots on the US team were determined from the two qualifying rounds at the PGA Championship and the US Open’s four rounds. As the medalist at the PGA, and a tie for 20th at the US Open in Detroit, Nelson earned one of those last spots.

Three days later on Tuesday, Nelson was in New York at a dinner for the Ryder Cup team.  That next morning, June 16, the Ryder Cup team set sail from New York for the one week trip to England. The US team defeated the British on their soil for the first time. Two weeks later Nelson finished fifth in the British Open.

On Thursday July 29th Nelson returned to the states, stepping off a ship in New York Harbor. On Sunday he was in Jamestown, NY playing an exhibition with Henry Picard. That night he drove home, nearly 300 miles, to host the Central Pennsylvania Open on Monday. 

With little sleep, Nelson put together rounds of 69 and 71 at RCC to tie Bruce Coltart for the title with 140s. An 18-hole playoff was held on Saturday, which Nelson won, picking up a check for $150. On Sunday Nelson and Picard played an exhibition at Lehigh CC.

Nelson hosted the Central Pennsylvania Open again in August 1938. He led after the morning round with a course record 66, but in the afternoon he finished with four straight bogies for a 75. Delaware’s Ed “Porky” Oliver, who was around the 36 holes in 140 strokes, edged him out for the title by one stroke. When Oliver could not get any of his three attempts in the fairway, Nelson won the driving contest with a poke of 273 yards, 6 inches. That evening Nelson and Oliver left for Cleveland to play in the $10,000 Cleveland Open, the richest tournament of the year.  

In 1939 Nelson won the US Open in June and the Western Open in July. One week after winning the Western he was hosting the Central Pennsylvania Open, which he won for a second time. His 137 total won by three strokes. First prize had dwindled from $150 to $100.

The 1939 Philadelphia PGA Championship was held at Llanerch CC in September, and Nelson was there playing in the one-day 36-hole qualifying. He won the medal by four strokes with a 137 and picked up $100. Booked to play an exhibition near Boston that weekend, he couldn’t stay on for the match play, which determined the Section champion. 

In early October 1939 Nelson, who had won the US Open earlier in the year, played in the Philadelphia PGA’s Lady-Pro Championship. This was no one-day social event. The format was selective drive/alternate shots. The teams qualified on Tuesday morning and then played the first round match that afternoon. For the survivors, there were two more rounds of matches on Wednesday, with the final on Sunday. The Nelson team qualified with a 79 and met the medalists, Joe Kirkwood, Sr. and his partner, in the first round. All square at the end of 18, the two teams returned to the first tee for sudden death. With little daylight remaining the golfers couldn’t see the green on the 245-yard par-3-hole. Kirkwood’s drive was on the green and Nelson’s was in the right rough. The two ladies were well short of the green. The Kirkwood team won with a 3 and went to the final before losing to the three-time Ryder Cupper Ed Dudley and his partner. Two-time PGA Champion Leo Diegel and his partner won the second flight.

Later in October Nelson bade farewell to the Philadelphia PGA by playing in the Pro-Green Chairman tournament. He had resigned from RCC to be the next professional at the Inverness Club in Ohio. Nelson and his chairman were paired with Henry Picard, who had defeated Nelson in the final of the PGA Championship that July.

Instead of defending his Philadelphia PGA title, Gene Kunes won the 1936 Canadian Open!

Instead of defending his Philadelphia PGA title, Gene Kunes won the 1936 Canadian Open!

Born in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1909, Gene Kunes arrived in Philadelphia in 1934 as an assistant to Ed Dudley at the Philadelphia Country Club. Kunes had assisted Dudley at Augusta National Golf Club that winter and in April he followed him north to his summer position. Kunes arrived in Philadelphia as a two time winner of the Connecticut PGA Championship. When Jeffersonville Golf Club professional Frank Wood died suddenly in May, Kunes became the professional at Jeffersonville.

That summer Kunes won the Philadelphia PGA Championship, defeating his assistant Bud Lewis in the final. When it came time to defend his Section title in 1935, Kunes had a dilemma. The tournament was the same time as the Canadian Open. He had made the semifinals of the PGA Championship the summer before and had recently tied for 21st in the 1935 US Open. Also, his old employer Ed Dudley was entered in the Canadian Open, so Kunes decided to give it a try.

At Montreal Kunes was on his game, outplaying a strong field which included Walter Hagen, Paul Runyan and Horton Smith. Kunes won by two strokes as he put together rounds of 70-68-74-68 for an even par 280. Vic Ghezzi finished second at 282. Tony Manero and Dudley tied for third with 285 totals.  

In the fall of 1935 Kunes had his gall bladder removed and was not able to defend his Canadian Open title the next summer. That operation was the first of what would be many stomach operations. Due to problems with his health he resigned from Jeffersonville in late 1936, heading south for six months of rest and no golf.

By the summer of 1937 Kunes was back playing in tournaments. Exempt off having been in the top 30 at the 1940 US Open, Kunes, now the professional at Holmesburg GC, was at Ft. Worth, Texas for the 1941 US Open. With the usual 36-hole Saturday windup at that time, he tied for 20th, which qualified him for the 1942 US Open, and flew home to Philadelphia.  

On Monday he teed off at Merion GC in the one-day 36-hole Pennsylvania Open. At the end of the day he and Terl Johnson were tied for the title with 150 totals. On Tuesday morning there was an 18-hole playoff which ended in a tie. Kunes and Johnson were back on the course that afternoon for another 18-hole playoff, which Kunes won. Having played 72 holes in the Texas heat and 72 holes at Merion over a six day period, it appeared that Kunes was back in good health, but it was not to be.

In December 1942 he was in the hospital for an operation on his liver. While he was there, his appendix and spleen were removed. In June 1943, nearly 300 golfers turned out to benefit Kunes with a day of golf at Llanerch CC. After several months in a hospital he was convalescing at the Seaview Hotel & GC., but not in condition to make the trip from the Jersey shore to Llanerch.

In August 1945 there was a seventh operation, this one on his liver again, along with 19 blood transfusions. With all that he was back playing tournament golf by June of 1946. In 1947, as the professional at the Englewood Golf Club in New Jersey, he won the New Jersey Open, New Jersey PGA, Philadelphia Open and Massachusetts Open, all in that one year. If not for poor health that haunted him for years, Kunes might have been someone the world of golf remembers.

Golf’s leading touring professionals played in the Wood Memorial at Jeffersonville GC!

Golf’s leading touring professionals played in the Wood Memorial at Jeffersonville GC!

Frank Wood and Joe Capello were introduced to golf as caddies at the Essex Country Club, a Donald Ross designed course north of Boston. As young golf professionals they worked for Ross at Pinehurst during the winter months. When Ross completed Aronimink Golf Club in 1928 he installed Joe Capello as the professional. Capello brought Wood along as his assistant.

When the Jeffersonville Golf Club in Norristown, Pennsylvania, another Ross design, opened for play in 1931, Ross paved the way for Wood to be the professional there. Born in Canada to French Canadian parents in 1902, Wood’s family moved to the states when he was a young boy. Born Francois Dubois, his name was Americanized to Frank Wood.

Wood fell ill while participating in the 1934 US Open qualifying round and died of pneumonia on May 23. In Wood’s memory, the Jeffersonville GC members decided to hold a Wood Memorial tournament open to professionals and amateurs. 

The tournaments were a huge success with early winners from the Philadelphia PGA, like Ed Dudley, Ed “Porky” Oliver, Sam Byrd and Gene Kunes. In the 1942 tournament, 42 professionals and 250 amateurs teed off. 50 more amateurs showed up but had to be turned away. After that the lower handicap amateurs played on Monday with the professionals and the other amateurs playing on Tuesday.

After an interruption for World War II the tournament was resumed in 1946. Fifty-one-year old Charlie Hoffner came out of competitive retirement to play in the 1947 Wood Memorial. At one time the strongest player in the Philadelphia Section and a member of the 1926 pre-Ryder Cup team that took on a British team in Scotland, Hoffner hadn’t made a tournament appearance for nearly a decade. He arrived at Jeffersonville with woods and a putter. He borrowed a set of irons and teed off before 8 a.m. Early in the round his driver broke, so he drove with his brassie the rest of the round. In spite of a double bogey, he posted a two under par 68 before many of the 244 professionals and amateurs had even teed off. No one else broke 70 and Hoffner collected the $200 first prize.

In the 1950s the purse was increased and the tournament began to attract professionals from the PGA Tour. The tournament would be scheduled on a Monday after the Eastern Open in Baltimore, Insurance City Open in Hartford or Reading Open.

Tommy Bolt and Merchantville, New Jersey touring professional Al Besselink tied for first in 1952 with 65s and with no playoff each picked up $275. Oliver, Dow Finsterwald, Jimmy Thomson, Marty Furgol, Dave Douglas and George Fazio, who had been an assistant at Jeffersonville in the 1930s, were in the field.

Tour player Max Evans drove in from Hartford for the 1953 Wood Memorial. After a four hour nap in the lockeroom he posted a 65 that put him in a tie for the top money with Fazio, who had played earlier. Arriving late, defending co-champion Al Besselink joined the Evans pairing on the eighth hole. After putting out on the 18th green he played the first seven holes with a marker and posted a 66 for third money. Besselink was last off the course, just before it was too dark to see. 

Oliver took the top prize for a third time in 1954, winning $500. In spite of a fatted 3-iron shot on the par three 18th hole, which resulted in a bogey, he tied Dudley’s tournament record score of 64 and won by four strokes.

The committee reduced first prize to $400 in 1955 and spread the money over more places. With that, even though the PGA Tour was in Philadelphia for the Daily News Open which ended on Sunday, the touring pros did not stick around for the Wood Memorial and headed north to the Carlings Open in Boston and a more lucrative one day tournament en route.    

The 21st and final Wood Memorial, which Besselink won, was played in 1959. The tournament was always open to all comers including the Negro professionals like Howard Wheeler and Charlie Sifford who each won the Negro National Championship six times. During the 1950s ten professionals who would be Ryder Cuppers were entered.  

A young Ben Hogan finished second to Byron Nelson on and off the golf course!

A young Ben Hogan finished second to Byron Nelson on and off the golf course!

As most golfers know, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson were born in 1912 and grew up caddying at the Glen Garden Golf Club in Ft. Worth, Texas. Nelson’s golf game may have developed sooner, due to Hogan beginning with left-handed clubs.

Nelson always seemed to have a bit of an edge. One year, in the club’s annual caddy tournament Hogan and Nelson tied for first place. There had been no mention of a playoff being part of the tournament, but the committee called for a playoff which Nelson won. As a result of that Nelson was asked to work in the golf shop and was able to play the course more often.

They both turned pro at an early age. Nelson had success almost right away, winning money on the PGA Tour. Nelson began winning tournaments while Hogan was struggling to win enough money to even cover his expenses.  

In late 1936 Nelson and Hogan both applied for the head professional position at Reading Country Club in Pennsylvania. RCC hired Nelson. A few months later Nelson won the Masters and then headed north to his new job at RCC. Hogan wasn’t invited to the 1937 Masters. At times Hogan was working odd jobs in the oil fields and gambling houses to enter some more tournaments.

In the spring of 1938 Hogan landed a job as the teaching and playing professional at the Century Country Club in White Plains, New York. In the embedded photo, Hogan and Nelson, pictured with William Flynn, are at the Philadelphia Country Club the week after the 1939 Masters, playing a practice round for the upcoming US Open. Nelson was back at Reading CC and Hogan was on his way to White Plains.

In June Nelson finished 72 holes in the US Open at the Philadelphia Country Club tied for first with Craig Wood and Denny Shute. On Sunday there was an 18-hole playoff, which Nelson won after a second 18-hole playoff on Monday. Hogan finished 62nd.

(What follows was told to me by Henry Poe.) During the playoff Nelson told Wood and Shute that he was going to be the professional at the Inverness Club in Toledo in 1940. Nelson asked them if they knew of anyone who might be right for Reading CC. Wood recommended Henry Poe who was working for him at Winged Foot Golf Club.

Hogan had also applied at Inverness. Again he had finished second to Nelson. Nelson being Nelson said that the committee must have liked the way he tied his tie better than Ben.

Poe told me he really wasn’t interested in the Reading position. He loved working at Winged Foot for Wood, but he agreed to an interview. During his interview he was invited to stay for dinner and told he could have the same contract as Nelson. Poe signed on and stayed 27 years. He went on to be president of the Philadelphia PGA and the PGA of America.

In 1940 things began to turn around for Hogan. In March he won the North and South Open for his first individual title on the PGA Tour, but it was back to Century CC for a third year. Hogan won three more times that year and tied for fifth at the US Open.

In early 1941Henry Picard resigned as the professional at Hershey Country Club to buy a farm in Oklahoma. A great supporter of Hogan, Picard recommended him to Milton Hershey, who owned the club. Hogan was now a head professional. He won five times on the PGA Tour in 1941 and six in 1942. At the same time Nelson’s golf game was improving as well.

By late 1941 the United States was at war. Hogan enrolled in a flight school and learned how to fly. In 1942 he volunteered for the US Air Force and taught flying during the war. Nelson, who was turned down by the draft board due to a blood disorder, won even more often than before.

In 1945 Nelson won 11 straight tournaments and 19 in total. Late that summer Hogan was a civilian again. Before the year was over he had won 5 times. About the time that Hogan had figured out tournament golf, Nelson seemed to have tired of the tournament trail. After winning six times in 1946 Nelson retired in late July. It is too bad that the world of golf wasn’t able to witness two of the greatest golfers ever, competing against each other at the peak of their careers.

A former Merion Golf Club locker room employee was runner-up in a major golf championship!

A former Merion Golf Club locker room employee was runner-up in a major golf championship!

When golf arrived in Philadelphia in the 1890s, Merion Cricket Club in Haverford (later Merion Golf Club), was one of the first clubs to have a golf course. Born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania in 1886, Emmett began working in the Merion locker room as a young man. Whenever possible he would be on the golf course working on his golf game.

By 1908 he was an assistant pro at the club. In 1913, one year after Merion opened its famous East Course, French left Merion to become the professional at the Country Club of York. At York his golf game began to show signs of greatness. In 1919 he finished second to Walter Hagen at the Met Open, lost in the quarter final of PGA Championship to Jim Barnes the winner, finished third at the Shawnee Open and won the Philadelphia Open which was open to all comers. At the end of the year he was ranked eighth in the United States.

French was named to a 12-man team to oppose a team from Great Britain at Gleneagles Golf Club in Scotland in 1921. Hagen made French the captain of the team. The Americans were soundly defeated, but 2-1/2 of the 4-1/2 points the visitors garnered were won by French, who defeated Ted Ray in a singles match.

The 1922 PGA Championship was held at the Oakmont Country Club in August. The field was composed of 64 PGA members who had qualified in their PGA Sections. The first two rounds were 18-holes and the next four were 36 holes. French swept through the first five rounds winning each match by four holes or more. In the final he met Gene Sarazen, a 20-year old professional who had just won the US Open in July. The match was all square on the 27th tee, but Sarazen proceeded to win the next three holes. The match ended on the 33rd hole with Sarazen the victor by 4 & 3. First prize was $500 and a diamond studded medal. French picked up $300 and a gold medal.

 Later that year he won the Ohio Open at the Donald Ross designed Youngstown Country Club, with an 18 under par score of 274.  It was considered a world record.

French’s golf career would include a second place finish in a Western Open, along with winning a Philadelphia Open and a Pennsylvania Open. He played on another US PGA team in 1926 against the British at Wentworth, England, which was sponsored by Sam Ryder. One year later the first Ryder Cup Match was held.

Arthritis put an early end to French’s career as a tournament player.

Whitemarsh Valley CC hosted a substitute for the 1917 US Open, for charity only!

Whitemarsh Valley CC hosted a substitute for the 1917 US Open, for charity only!

In the early 1900s the USGA would ask the golf professionals where the US Open should be held. The professionals chose Whitemarsh Valley CC for 1917.

In January 1917 at the USGA’s annual meeting in New York, Philadelphia’s Howard W. Perrin was elected president. Perrin was a member at Philadelphia Cricket Club, St. Davids GC, Merion Cricket Club and president of Pine Valley GC. With the US Amateur slated for Oakmont CC and the Women’s Amateur for Shawnee CC, the delegates decided that holding all three of their 1917 championships in the same state would not be proper. With that the US Open was moved to Massachusetts’ Brae Burn CC, which had been the second choice of the professionals. 

In late January 1917 Germany announced a submarine offensive against any ships bringing supplies to its enemies. With that President Woodrow Wilson called for a vote of Congress for war with Germany, which passed decidedly in both houses. On April 6 Wilson declared war on the German government, not the people of Germany. In April the USGA canceled its championships for the year.

On May 21, Perrin announced that a tournament called National Patriotic Open, a substitute for the US Open, would be played at Whitemarsh Valley in June. The tournament would benefit the Red Cross. The New England golfers were not pleased with the shift to Philadelphia, but saying as much would have seemed unpatriotic.

There would be no prize money for the professionals or silver for the amateurs. The entry fee was $5. For the first time in Philadelphia, spectators were charged an admission fee. With no prize money it was thought that the professionals might not enter, but nearly all did.

The 72-hole 3-day tournament began on Wednesday June 20, with 100 players teeing off on what was described in the newspapers as strong winds blowing across the course. Walter Hagen telephoned to say he would be there on Thursday and catch up by playing 36 holes. Former Shawnee professional Alex Cunningham led by two strokes with a two over par 74. Only 16 players broke 80. Jim Barnes, holder of the 1916 PGA Championship title and professional at Whitemarsh Valley, posted an 84. After the score was posted Barnes realized that his scorer had made a mistake and he had actually shot an 83. When the USGA ruled that the score Barnes had signed for had to stand, the professionals made a protest. They said that if Barnes had to be held to the rules, then Hagen should also and not be allowed to arrive late. Hagen did not play. The officials were surprised how serious the professionals were; considering there was no prize money. 

Thursday the wind died down and Pittsburgh’s Allegheny CC professional, Jock Hutchison, took the lead at 149. In Friday’s 36-hole finish, Hutchison put together rounds of 71 and 72. His 292 total won by 7 strokes. Boston’s Tom McNamara, who was national sales manager for Wanamaker’s golf division, finished second at 299.

At that time in a US Open, the top ten professionals would have received checks, so the top ten were presented with framed certificates commemorating the tournament and their showing. In those days the winner of major tournaments would receive a gold medal. The Red Cross came through with a gold medal, which had a red cross in the middle, for Hutchison. Also the USGA presented him with a medal similar to what a winner of the US Open would receive. With the player’s entry fees and the admission monies, $5,000 was raised for the Red Cross.

Perrin was only president of the USGA that one year. When the US Open resumed in 1919 after WWI, it was played at Brae Burn and the winner was Hagen.

With a unique plan, Torresdale-Frankford CC held a PGA Tour tournament!

With a unique plan, Torresdale-Frankford CC held a PGA Tour tournament!

One year a young boy received a bow and arrow for Christmas. He tried out his archery skills by setting some arrows on fire and launched them into Torresdale-Frankford CC’s golf course maintenance building. The building caught on fire. With that the club realized it needed a fence around the property to tighten its security.

TFCC member Henry Hurst, a linen merchant and member of Augusta National GC, was attending the 1940 Masters where he purchased Jimmy Demaret in a Calcutta Pool. When Demaret won Hurst picked up $5,000, some of which he shared with Demaret. Demaret told Hurst that if he ever ran a tournament in Philadelphia he would play and recruit some of the touring professionals as well. 

Hurst approached the TFCC Board, of which he was a member, with a proposal. If they would let him hold a PGA Tour tournament at their Club, he would make enough profit to build the fence. The Board agreed and a date for September 1941 was secured with the PGA.  

In April 1941 Hurst began promoting his tournament to the press. The Henry A. Hurst Invitation would have a field of 50 professionals and amateurs along with ten professionals from the Philadelphia PGA. Hurst announced that Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead along with Demaret had already accepted invitations. Prize money would be $5,000, with another $2,500 for special feats during the practice rounds.

By August 20, 13,000 season tickets which included the practice rounds had been sold. A ticket for the full week cost $2.50. Daily tickets were $1.10. Hurst wanted the tickets to be affordable for everyone.

When tournament week arrived in the third week of September 1941, Hurst and TFCC were ready. Three grandstands had been erected on the course, with one near the 18th green seating 2,500.  There were large scoreboards at various locations. Scoreboard operators were connected by 6,000 feet of cable to tees 4, 9, 13, 16 and 18 for updates.

Pre tournament days included more than practice rounds for the contestants. There were exhibitions on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. As a favor to Hurst, Bobby Jones played on Tuesday and Wednesday. Hogan played on Tuesday and Bud Ward, 1941 US Amateur champion, played on Wednesday. Bob Hope was the draw for Thursday. 

There was prize money for the low practice round scores each day. Hogan won a driving contest, held on the 10th hole, with a drive of 287 yards, and picked up $75. On Wednesday evening 12 touring professionals showed off their golf shots across the street at Holmesburg CC under floodlights, which was free of charge to the public.  

On Friday 73 professionals and amateurs teed off in the first round. Sam Snead took the lead with a course record 64 for the 6,397 yard course. Despite a second round 74 Snead was still in the lead, but tied. On Sunday morning Snead posted a 69 to lead by 5 and then an afternoon 65 ended all doubt. His 272 total won by nine strokes. Dick Metz (281) was second and Demaret (282) was third. First prize was $1,500, as 12 professionals shared the $5,000.

At the closing ceremonies Hurst announced that the prize money would be $12,300 in 1942, but by December the USA was at war. The Club had the money to build its fence, but due to war the needed steel was not available for several years. The tournament was not held again.

In 1930 the Philadelphia Cricket Club hosted a championship for senior PGA pros!

In 1930 the Philadelphia Cricket Club hosted a championship for senior PGA pros!

On the fourth Monday of May, 1930 a group of golf professionals who called themselves the Professional Golfers Seniors Association, met at the Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Flourtown course. It was the first of what they planned to be many annual championships.

There were 22 entries, some from as far away as Cleveland. To be eligible, one had to have been a head professional for at least 25 years. They had set themselves up as a national organization with more than 100 members. Albert R. Gates, PGA of America business administrator, was on hand to oversee the competition.

Along with cash the prize for the winner was the engraving of his name on the Willie Anderson Trophy. The trophy’s namesake, a four-time winner of the U.S. Open, served as the professional at the Cricket Club in 1910. A few months after hosting the 1910 U.S. Open, Anderson died at the age of 31. Also engraved on the trophy were the names of all deceased winners of the U.S. Open. 

The competition was scheduled for one 18-hole round. At the end of 18 holes, 1908 US Open champion Freddie McLeod was tied for the title with Long Island’s Charlie Mayo, with 76s. A sudden death playoff was held, beginning on the first hole. Representing Maryland’s Columbia Country Club, McLeod’s drive was in the fairway and his iron shot to the green finished 8 feet from the hole. Mayo, the professional at Pomonok Country Club, drove into the right rough and his second shot was barely on the green. From there Mayo holed his putt of 30 feet for a birdie. McLeod failed to hole his putt and Mayo was crowned the champion.

Ashbourne Country Club professional Dave Cuthbert shared third place at 77 with Gill Nicholls, who had been the professional at the Wilmington Country Club twenty years before.  

In another casualty of the Great Depression, the tournament was discontinued. Seven years later the PGA of America introduced a Senior PGA Championship. The Championship continues today.

There was threat of a players strike at the 1939 PGA Championship!

There was threat of a players strike at the 1939 PGA Championship!

In the second week of July the 1939 PGA Championship was played at the Pomonok Country Club, which was in the Queens borough of New York on Long Island. The tournament was at Pomonok because it was just two miles from where the World’s Fair was being held that summer.

Two weeks before the championship former Llanerch Country Club professional Denny Shute, was informed by the PGA that he was not eligible for the tournament because he had been late paying his $25 dues. The deadline was May 20 and Shute’s check had arrived two days late. When news about Shute became known, some of his fellow tournament professionals began voicing threats not to play. Shute, who had won the PGA Championship in 1936 and 1937, appealed the ruling.

When the professionals arrived at Pomonok for the tournament, Shute was informed that his appeal had been denied. The PGA officers and District Vice Presidents, which made up an 11-man executive committee, had voted 6 to 5 against Shute playing in the tournament. As a Ryder Cup Team member and former PGA champion, he had been exempt from local qualifying.

When the other professionals entered in the tournament heard the results of the vote, 51 prominent tournament players signed a petition stating that they would not play unless Shute’s entry was accepted. A Pomonok member, Corky O’Keefe, who had put up $15,000 to sponsor the tournament, threatened a lawsuit against the PGA and Pomonok, stating there would not be a tournament unless Shute was playing.  More meetings of the PGA executive committee were held. Philadelphia CC professional Ed Dudley, who was the PGA Tour tournament chairman and a national vice president, was in favor of Shute playing. 

36-hole qualifying began with the issue unresolved. There were 120 competing for the 64-man match play ladder. Shute teed off in a pairing with Walter Hagen. He was not issued a score card. When Hagen learned that, he sent someone back to the clubhouse for a scorecard.

During the second day of qualifying, Tom Walsh secretary of the PGA, approached Shute after nine holes and offered him a check for $300 to withdraw. He said Shute could consider it an exhibition fee. Shute refused the offer and went on to post a 143 and qualify comfortably.

The committee had voted again and this time the vote was 8 to 3 against Shute. George Jacobus, president of the PGA, and Walsh emerged from the clubhouse. Walsh announced that Shute was out of the tournament, but Jacobus said that he was president and was overruling the committee. Shute was in.

Match play began with Shute losing in the third round. The final was a neighborhood battle. Hershey Country Club professional Henry Picard defeated Reading Country Club professional Byron Nelson in 37 holes. The purse was $10,600 with a first prize of $1,100. The players were reimbursed for their travel expenses which used up the remainder of O’Keefe’s $15,000.

The final 4 spots on the 1931 Ryder Cup Team were decided by a 72-hole playoff!

The final 4 spots on the 1931 Ryder Cup Team were decided by a 72-hole playoff!

The PGA of America held its annual meeting in Chicago in November 1930. One topic of discussion was the Ryder Cup eligibility. Tommy Armour, who had been born in Scotland and was now a resident of the United States, had won the PGA Championship that year. There were PGA members who thought that Armour should be on the US Ryder Cup Team. After much discussion the delegates passed a by-law stating that all members of the Ryder Cup Team had to be born in the United States, which meant no Armour. Up to that time it was only an unwritten rule that the Team members had to be native born.

PGA President Charles B. Hall announced the PGA of America’s selections for the 1931 Ryder Cup Team, which was being held at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio. Walter Hagen was the playing captain for a third time. Five other professionals; Gene Sarazen, Johnny Farrell, Horton Smith, Al Espinosa and Leo Diegel who would be the professional at Philmont CC three years later, were on the team. Having lost the Cup in 1929 Hagen was determined to take it back. At the 1929 Ryder Cup, British captain John Henry Taylor had his team out running on the beach at sunup each day. Hagen named 13 professionals that he was inviting to Scioto for qualifying, to determine the last five places on the team.

On Monday June 22, the contingency of professionals trying to qualify for the last four Ryder Cup spots were at Scioto. One of those professionals was Pennsylvania’s Ed Dudley, the professional at the Concord Country Club. Dudley, the winner of the Los Angeles Open in January, had won the Western Open on Sunday in Dayton beating runner-up Walter Hagen, by four strokes. Now on Monday, he had to battle it out for a berth on the Ryder Cup Team.

On Monday and Tuesday, the hopeful professionals played 36 holes each day. At the conclusion Billy Burke led with a one over par 289. (Bobby Jones had won the 1926 US Open at Scioto with a 293) Wiffy Cox (294) was next and Craig Wood (299) picked up the third place. Denny Shute, who would be the professional at Llanerch Country Club two years later, tied Frank Walsh and Henry Cuici for the fourth and last spot with 302 totals. On Wednesday they played an 18-hole playoff which Shute won with a 72. Dudley, who had been on the team the previous year, missed the playoff by one stroke with a 303 total.

On Thursday the Ryder Cup began. The matches, which were all scheduled for 36 holes, began with 4 foursomes the first day and 8 singles the second day. With 90 holes under his belt in three days, Shute was in Thursday’s starting lineup along with two of the other qualifiers, Burke and Cox. Hagen paired himself with Shute. They won their foursomes match 10 & 9. The next day Shute won his singles match 8 & 6. With temperatures topping out in the mid 90s each day the Brits were out of their element. The US Team won by 9 points to 3.

The US Open was one week later in Toledo at the Inverness Club.

The 1959 Ryder Cup was awarded to Atlantic City CC, but it was moved to California!

The 1959 Ryder Cup was awarded to Atlantic City CC, but it was moved to California!

The Ryder Cup, which was first contested in 1927, was interrupted by World War II, and postponed twice. The 2001 Ryder Cup was postponed to 2002 due to the 9/11 attack and now in 2020, due to COVID-19, it has been rescheduled for 2021.

With war in Europe and then World War II there were no matches from 1939 to 1946. That could have been the last of the Ryder Cup if not for Robert A. Hudson, a fruit grower and canner from Portland, Oregon. Hudson had been sponsoring the $16,000 Portland Open and had spent $25,000 as the sponsor of the 1946 PGA Championship at the Portland Golf Club. He decided to revive the Ryder Cup. His club would be the host and he would provide whatever finances were needed for a 1947 match.  

Hudson paid the travel expenses for the British Team on the Queen Mary. He met them in New York upon their arrival. They were wined and dined at the Waldorf Astoria, before boarding a train with Hudson to travel on the three-day cross-country trip to Portland. Hudson paid for the British Team’s housing, meals and everything else. To help the British professionals make up for lost income while away from home, the PGA of America arranged paid exhibitions. The American Team swept the foursomes and lost only one of the eight singles, posting an 11-1 victory. Hudson spent $70,000 of his own money hosting that Ryder Cup. He is often referred to as the “The Savior of Ryder Cup”.

In 1949 the US Team was in Ganton, England for the Ryder Cup with its non-playing captain Ben Hogan, who was recovering from his near fatal auto accident.  Hudson wanted to be sure the US Team was properly fed. He shipped a half ton of meat to England with the Team; 600 steaks, 6 hams, 12 sides of beef and 4 boxes of bacon. The British newspapers ran articles about their food being not good enough for the Americans. Hogan said he read more about food in the sports pages than golf. In the end, the US Team shared their food with the British Team.

With the 1951 Ryder Cup back in the states, Hudson was a co-sponsor of the match, which was held at Pinehurst. Four years later he sponsored the Ryder Cup at the Thunderbird Golf & Country Club in Palm Springs, California, where he had a winter home. Just as before, Hudson paid the expenses; travel, lodging and meals, for the British Team.

In May of 1957 the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the officials of the Atlantic City Country Club had been practically assured that the 1959 Ryder Cup would be played at their club. In November, at the PGA’s national meeting it was announced that Atlantic City CC would be hosting the Ryder Cup in 1959. The club and its pro-owner Leo Fraser would be sponsoring the match. In December, an article in the Inquirer mentioned that new championship tees were being built at Atlantic City CC for the Ryder Cup, adding 400 yards to the course. As late as August of 1958, news articles were still mentioning the upcoming Ryder Cup at Atlantic City.

Later in 1958 Robert Hudson decided that he would like to host the Ryder Cup at another one of his Palm Springs clubs, the newly opened Eldorado Country Club. For all that Hudson had done for the PGA, its officials decided to grant his wish. Hudson was also a member of the PGA’s advisory committee. Leo Fraser agreed to release the PGA from its commitment. Again Hudson paid all expenses for the British Team, including travel from England.

As a favor to Fraser, the British Team would practice at Atlantic City CC before heading to California. The British Team had also practiced at ACC in 1955. They practiced for two days and then participated in a pro-am that was held in a driving rainstorm. Everyone played the 18 holes and then were treated to a five-course dinner. From there the British Team traveled to the White House to visit President Eisenhower, who would later become an honorary member at Eldorado.  From Washington it was on to Augusta National and California. Having lost the Cup in 1957, the US Team won by a margin of 8-1/2 to 3-1/2 points.  

Due to minority golfer issues, the PGA Championship was and was not at Aronimink GC!

Due to minority golfer issues, the PGA Championship was and was not at Aronimink GC!

In 1947 Charlie Sifford was in Detroit playing in the Negro National Championship. Heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis and entertainer Billy Eckstine were playing in the amateur division. Louis sold Eckstine on hiring Sifford as his private golf pro and chauffeur. Sifford had been living in Philadelphia and honing his game at Cobbs Creek GC, but now he was on the road with Eckstine. They would spend winter months in California where it was warm and had golf courses open to them.

Sifford played on what was called the United Golfers Association tour, which was for Black golfers. The UGA tour offered two-day weekend events in various locations with meager purses, but it was an opportunity to compete. Beginning in 1932 the UGA held a national championship, which Sifford would later win six times.

Golf was the last professional sport in the United States with a national schedule to become integrated. The PGA of America had a by-law stating that only Caucasians could be PGA members. With the threat of lawsuits in the early 1950s, the PGA announced that Black golfers could play PGA Tour events if invited. Now many of the tour events, especially in the south, became invitation tournaments, in order to not invite the Black golfers.

Sifford began entering the Monday qualifying events for tour tournaments that were open to Black golfers. Most of those were in the northern states.

By the late 1950s, with the growth of golf and more golfers wanting to play on the PGA Tour, the PGA devised an “Approved Players Card”, for non PGA members. Those were attained through the local PGA Sections. Only non exempt PGA professionals and those with Players Cards could enter the Monday qualifying rounds for PGA Tour events.

In 1960 on his third attempt and now with the help of an attorney, Sifford’s application for an “Approved Players Card” was accepted by the PGA, after an eight week wait. Even with that he could still only play in the Monday qualifying rounds for tournaments that were open and not invitations. With such a limited schedule, winning enough money to be among the top sixty money winners and gain full exemption for the next year was difficult.

In July 1960 the PGA announced that its 1962 championship had been awarded to Los Angeles’s Brentwood Country Club. One month earlier in June of 1960 Sifford had qualified for and played in the US Open, but he was most likely not going to be playing in a PGA Championship. To play in the tournament as a non PGA member he would have to be in the top 25 money winners on the PGA Tour the previous year.

When California attorney general Stanley Mosk was informed of that, he announced that there would not be a PGA Championship in California unless Sifford was in the field. The PGA replied that because Sifford was not a PGA member or an exempt player, he was not eligible for entry. Then the Los Angeles Junior Chamber of Commerce, which was the sponsor of the tournament, decided they did not want to be involved in a segregation issue and asked out of its contract with the PGA. Instead they would run an L.A. Open in 1962, rather than skipping a year as planned.

The PGA came back with a statement that it had a valid contract with the Chamber, but at the same time went looking for a new venue. On the other side of the country near Philadelphia, the PGA found a club with a championship course that could host the tournament on short notice, the Aronimink Golf Club. Just a few years before the PGA had held a highly successful PGA Championship at Llanerch Country Club in 1958, which was not far from Aronimink, so there was some comfort in a shift to Philadelphia.

In the third week of May, 1961 the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an article stating that the 1962 PGA Championship might be coming to Philadelphia. PGA Tournament Director J. Edwin Carter was on his way to check out the course at Aronimink. At the annual meeting of the PGA in the fall of 1961, the Caucasian Only clause was removed from the by-laws. The tournament was played at Aronimink in June 1962 without Black golfers. The winner, Gary Player, was the first non PGA member to win the tournament and the first foreign born winner not domiciled in the United States.

In October 1988 the PGA announced that its 1993 PGA Championship would be held at Aronimink GC. In 1990 the PGA Championship was played at the Shoal Creek Country Club in Alabama. Leading up to the tournament it was learned by the press that Shoal Creek did not have any minority members and did not plan to. Now the press was on the case. With the 1993 championship on the horizon the press inquired as to whether Aronimink had minority members. When it was learned that they did not, there were more articles in the newspapers.

In early November 1990, officials of Aronimink GC informed the PGA that the club was withdrawing from its contract to host the 1993 PGA Championship. They said that with its current seven year waiting list for full golf privileges, the club was not going to be able to achieve minority representation in its membership prior to 1993.

If Joe Lewis had not introduced Charlie Sifford to Billy Eckstine, Aronimink GC may not have hosted the PGA Championship in 1962. Aronimink is now scheduled to host the PGA Championship in 2026. 

Aronimink GC’s pro in 1899 was the USA’s first African American golf professional!

Aronimink GC’s pro in 1899 was the USA’s first African American golf professional!

John Matthew Shippen, Jr. was born in Washington D.C. on December 2, 1879. His father John Sr., was born into slavery in Virginia. When the Civil War ended he was a free man. He moved to D.C. and attended Howard University. Upon graduation he became an Episcopalian minister. In 1888 the church sent John Sr., his African American wife and children to the far end of Long Island to bring Christianity to the Shinnecock Indians.

The Shinnecock Hills Golf Club opened in 1891 and the golfers needed caddies. John and his brother Cyrus along with some of the Indian boys became caddies and some learned to play the game.

By 1896, with the US Open scheduled for Shinnecock Hills, 16 year old John Shippen was being proclaimed in newspapers around the USA. It was written that he was a long straight driver and could play all the shots. He was the holder of the Shinnecock Hills course record, having lowered the number set by then Shinnecock professional Willie Dunn, by six strokes. Dunn had given Shippen pointers on how to play the game.

When the 1896 US Open rolled around in July, Shippen was paired with Charles Blair MacDonald, 1895 US Amateur champion. Oscar Bunn, one of the Shinnecock Indian caddies was also entered. Some of the Shinnecock members paid their entry fees. When the British born professionals learned there was a black golfer entered they produced a signed petition, refusing to play. USGA President Theodore Havemeyer stated that there would be a tournament even if only Shippen and Bunn were in the field. The protesting players decided to play.

The tournament, one day of 36 holes, was won by James Foulis, a Scotland-born professional from Chicago with rounds of 78 and 74 for 152. Despite poor putting, Shippen posted a 78 in his morning round. In the afternoon he took 11 strokes on the 13th hole when his tee shot ended up on a sandy road, where it took several strokes for him to escape. He finished with an 81 for 159 and a tie for sixth and last money. Some years later he said the hole was an easy par four, but his drive was a little too far to the right.

After working as the professional at Maidstone Golf Club, Shippen became the professional at Aronimink Golf Club in 1899, for that one year. His brother Cyrus was his assistant. At times his employers, to justify his employment, would say that he was not a black man but of English/Indian decent. It was said and written that Shippen was related to John Raife on his father’s side and Pocahontas on his mother’s side, which was far from realty. Shippen himself had registered for that 1896 US Open as a Shinnecock Indian, to avoid problems. In later years in an interview with his daughter, she said her father was 100 percent black.   

As the professional at Aronimink, Shippen finished third in a driving contest at the 1899 US Open. He played in six US Opens, tying for 5th in 1902 along with his tie for 6th in 1896.  

For many years Shippen was the professional and course supervisor at the Shady Rest Golf & Country Club in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. It was later Scotch Hills Country Club. In 1991 the John Shippen Foundation was created to offer golf instruction and competition for young minority golfers.  

A Philadelphia PGA pro was the only person to play in a World Series and a Masters!

A Philadelphia PGA pro was the only person to play in a World Series and a Masters!

Samuel Dewey “Sam” Byrd was born October 15, 1907 in Bremen, GA and grew up in Birmingham, AL. As a young boy he learned to play golf as a caddy. In high school he was a star on the basketball and baseball teams.

In 1926, at age 18, he began a professional baseball career in Class D. He batted .348 and was promoted to Class B Knoxville, where he hit .331 in 1927. The New York Yankees purchased his contract and sent him to Albany, NY, which was in the Class A Eastern League. At Albany he batted .371 and was invited to the Yankees spring training in 1929, where he made the team.

At that time the Yankees had three great outfielders; Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel and Earle Combs. Byrd was relegated to pinch hitting, pinch running and playing in the late innings as a defensive replacement along with filling in for Ruth when he was not feeling well from too much beer or too many hot dogs. Byrd was a great defensive outfielder, with a rifle arm and legs to match.

In late 1934 the Yankees released the aging Ruth. They were bringing Joe DiMaggio up from the Pacific Coast League. After six seasons with the Yankees, Byrd was no longer needed. He was sold to the Cincinnati Reds, where he played two years before being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. That is when he decided to leave baseball and concentrate on golf. His batting average for his eight major league seasons was .274. Baseball historians later wrote that Byrd’s baseball career was wasted sitting on the Yankees bench during his prime years.

Byrd had turned pro in 1933, playing in a few professional tournaments during the winter months, but now he was all in. Philadelphia Country Club professional Ed Dudley hired Byrd as an assistant. In 1939 he won the Philadelphia Open. The next year he moved over to Merion Golf Club as an assistant. During his four years at Merion, Byrd won the 1942 Pennsylvania Open and won twice on the PGA Tour; 1942 Greensboro Open and 1943 Chicago Victory Open.

In 1940 Byrd was invited to play in the Masters Tournament. At that time the tournament was strictly an invitational tournament. A player was there solely at the invitation of Bobby Jones. It may have helped that Dudley, his boss at Philadelphia CC, was also the professional at Augusta National GC as well. The next year Byrd finished third in the Masters, and a year later he finished fourth. In 1945 as the professional at the Plum Hollow CC in Detroit, Byrd was runner-up to Byron Nelson in the PGA Championship.

In spite of getting a late start in professional golf, and the cancellation of tournaments during World War II Byrd played in 5 Masters, 9 US Opens and 6 PGA Championships. During his career he won eleven professional tournaments of note.

Late in one of the 1932 World Series games Byrd played one inning. Today he is still the only person to play in both a World Series and a Masters Tournament.

82 holes were needed to determine a winner at the two-day 1936 Wildwood Open!

82 holes were needed to determine a winner at the two-day 1936 Wildwood Open!

In 1936 the PGA Tour was still finding its way and wasn’t organized like it is today. The third Masters Tournament, that was not yet called the Masters, had ended on Sunday April 5th. The tournament with a purse of $5,000 was still listed as the Augusta National Open on the PGA schedule.

After Augusta the professionals began working their way north. The next week they were in Richmond for the three-day, 72-hole, $3,000 Richmond Open. The tournament ended with 36 holes on Sunday, which Shawnee Country Club’s playing professional Jimmy Thomson won with a first prize of $700.

From there some of the professionals drove to Wildwood, NJ for the two-day 72-hole Wildwood Open which would begin the next day. Due to the tight schedule and a purse of only $1,500 the field wasn’t filled with big names. Many of the pros had returned to their club jobs after having been out on the tour for most of the winter. Sam Parks, the holder of the U.S. Open title, and international tournament player Joe Kirkwood, Sr. were in the field.

The Wildwood Golf & Country Club was starting the golf season off with a bang. A three-day amateur tournament had ended on Sunday, and the two-day Wildwood Open was beginning the next day. On Sunday evening the members opened pari-mutuel betting on the Open tournament and posted odds.

Missouri professional Leonard Dodson, who had tied for tenth at Richmond, arrived in time to see he was posted at 50 to 1. He promptly bet $100 on himself. Dodson may have been an unknown in Wildwood, but he had won the St. Petersburg Open in February that year and was in 20th place on the 1936 money list, leaving Richmond.

On Monday Ray Mangrum (brother of Lloyd) jumped out to a four-stroke lead with what Fred Byrod of the Philadelphia Inquirer called “a sparkling 71-72—143 over a wind-whipped course”. Philadelphia Country Club’s defending champion George Smith and Atlantic City’s Clarence Hackney were in second place.

Tuesday, opening day for major league baseball, was another cool windy day. The Phillies were hosting the Boston Bees at the Baker Bowl before 10,000 fans. Mangrum posted a 73 in his morning round to take a five stroke lead into the final round. In the afternoon he took 78 strokes, but still appeared to be the winner. He retired to the bar, while waiting for the rest of the field to complete their rounds. Later in the afternoon Dodson brought in a 72 to tie Mangrum at 294. First prize was $500 and second was $225. Woodcrest CC professional Bruce Coltart (296) finished third, and Smith (298) was fourth. Kirkwood (299) and Hackney (299) tied for fifth.  

The two pros were all set to call it a tie, split the top two prizes and move on out of town, but the tournament chairman, Gus Heil, stated that there had to be a tournament champion and no unsettled tie. Heil suggested a nine-hole playoff. Mangrum protested saying “I can’t go out now I’ve had a few drinks to warm me up.” “How many did you have” asked Dodson who was said to not drink. “About four” said Ray. “Set up four for me,” said Dodson. He tossed them down one after another. “Now we’re even” Dodson said. “Let’s go.”

Out they went into a cold twilight wind. The golf was not of championship caliber and when Mangrum three-putted the ninth green Heil still didn’t have a winner. They had ended up tied again with 42 strokes apiece. They then agreed to a sudden-death playoff. On the tenth hole, Mangrum made a par four, and when Dodson missed a five-foot putt for his par Mangrum was the winner. Mangrum and Dodson completed 46 holes that day and it was only April 14th. The touring pros must have played much more quickly in the 1930s.

The PGA selected two wartime Ryder Cup teams!

The PGA selected two wartime Ryder Cup teams!

Even with the Ryder Cup matches canceled in 1939 due to war in Europe, the PGA of America selected a team. Walter Hagen was the non-playing captain. Now the PGA had a team with nothing to do. Ideas were presented. One was to host a team of professionals from Argentina. With the threat of a world war, the United States was doing everything possible to maintain friendly alliances in South America.

Gene Sarazen, who had been left off the Ryder Cup team for the first time since the inception of the matches in 1927, voiced his displeasure with the makeup of the team. He said it was not about him, but he could field a better team. He went on to announce his team which had three players; Tommy Armour, Harry Cooper and Jimmy Thomson, who had not been born in the United States and not eligible for a Ryder Cup team.

Nothing materialized that year but in 1940 Oakland Hills Country Club, near Detroit, came up with a proposal. They would host a match for charity between Hagen’s Ryder Cup team and Sarazen’s Challengers. Hagen had been the professional at Oakland Hills in 1919 and Detroit was his adopted home town. Sarazen said that they should play for the Cup itself, which the US was holding, having won in England two years before. Hagen said that he was the captain of the Ryder Cup team and he would make the rules.

When the match was played on July 16-17, Sarazen was there with his three players who were not citizens. All ten members of the Ryder Cup team were there. The players on both teams were reimbursed for their travel expenses. The format was 4 foursomes (alternate shots) the first day and 8 singles the second day, with all matches 36 holes. Hagen and Sarazen had a side bet of $1,000, with the money going to the Red Cross. The first day Sarazen sat himself out as Hagen’s team won three matches. Ben Hogan and Jimmy Demaret defeated Shawnee CC’s Sam Snead and Ralph Guldahl 1-up for the Challengers’ only point. On day two the points were divided even (4-4), even though Sarazen lost to Hershey CC’s Henry Picard 8&7. That made it a 7 to 5 victory for the Cup team. $18,500 was raised for the Red Cross.

With the city of Detroit behind the challenge match, a second one was played at the Detroit Golf Club in August 1941. Bobby Jones, who was no longer an amateur, was the Challengers playing captain. Jones had made a golf instruction film, written books on golf and had a product line of Spalding Robert T. Jones Golf Clubs on the market. When Jones retired from competitive golf in 1930 the PGA had made him an honorary member. All Cup team members were on hand. Sarazen was on Jones’s team. All matches were 36 holes. The first day Nelson and Jug McSpaden beat Jones and Sarazen 8&6 as Hagen’s Cuppers led 3 to 2. The Haig declared victory, but the second day was a different story. Jones came back from being four down to Picard after nine holes to win 2&1. Hogan beat Nelson 2-down and the other Challengers won four and tied one of the matches. The final count was 8-1/2 for the Challengers against 6-1/2 for the Cup Team. (Hogan was now the professional at Hershey CC, as Picard had bought a farm in Oklahoma). $18,221 was raised for the Red Cross.

A third challenge match was back at Oakland Hills in August 1942. In late 1941 the PGA had selected another wartime Ryder Cup team. Sarazen was back on the team along with newcomers Hogan and Demaret. Harold “Jug” McSpaden, who was now the professional at the Philadelphia CC, was on the team again. For the first time since the first match in 1927, Hagen was not the captain. The captain was Craig Wood. Hagen was now the captain of the Challengers. Hagen invited Jones to play on his team, but Jones was in the Army and could not arrange leave. Snead was in the Navy so Ed Dudley, who was a veteran of three Ryder Cup teams and president of the PGA, subbed for Snead. The Cup team won all five foursome matches and split the second day singles for a 10-5 victory. $25,000 was raised for the Red Cross.

Plum Hollow Country Club in Detroit hosted a fourth challenge match in August 1943. Wood captained the Cup team and Hagen captained the Challengers. Hogan, Snead and Horton Smith were in the service and unavailable. For local interest two Detroit professionals filled in. The Cup team won 8-1/2 to 3-1/2.

With many of the leading professionals now in the service, a 1944 challenge came down to a winner-take-all match between Craig Wood and Sam Byrd for $2,500 in War Bonds. The match was played at Plum Hollow, where Byrd, who had been an assistant at Philadelphia CC and Merion GC, was now the head professional. Byrd routed Wood by eight strokes in the 36-hole match. 

A Philadelphia PGA professional would have been host to the cancelled 1939 Ryder Cup!

A Philadelphia PGA professional would have been host to the cancelled 1939 Ryder Cup!

On March 18, 1939 George Jacobus, president of the PGA of America, announced that the Ponte Vedra Golf Club had been chosen to host the Ryder Cup sometime that fall. The course, 22 miles south of Jacksonville, lay near the Atlantic Ocean. In trying to be a gracious host, Jacobus said the location might be to the liking of the British team, with windswept golf holes and weather that was not extremely hot. The PGA of America was the holder of the Cup having won at Sandwich in 1937. That was the first time either side had won on foreign soil.

Walter Hagen had been named team captain for the seventh time (now non-playing). Hagen did not seem enthusiastic about providing a friendly venue for the invading team. He said there might be more seagulls than spectators on hand for the matches. 

It was going to be the first time a major golf tournament would be held in Florida. Why in Florida and why at Ponte Vedra? The golf professional at Ponte Vedra was A.B. “Al” Nelson. Nelson had been a head professional at the Country Club of York, Yardley CC and then just across the Delaware River in New Jersey at Hopewell Valley CC. before becoming the professional at Ponte Vedra in 1936. He played in PGA Championships and US Opens along with being an officer in the Philadelphia PGA. Once he attended his first national PGA meeting in 1932, he seemed to attend them all. Thru all of this, Nelson knew nearly everyone in professional golf and sold the PGA on bringing the Ryder Cup to Ponte Vedra.

The PGA scheduled November 18 and 19 for the Ryder Cup and the British team was announced on August 23. On September 5, before the US team was finalized, British captain Henry Cotton wired Ed Dudley, the tournament chairman for the U.S. PGA Tour, that due to war in Europe the British PGA would not be sending a team to the states.

Even with the cancellation of the Ryder Cup, a ten-man U.S. team was selected and announced at the PGA’s national meeting on November 13. The selection committee was composed of Jacobus who was now the past president of the PGA, Dudley, Hagen, Leo Diegel and Olin Dutra.

Over the next four years the Detroit, Michigan golf community hosted four Ryder Cup challenge matches, with teams of professionals taking on the Cup team to raise money for the Red Cross and other wartime charities. Bobby Jones, who was no longer an amateur, and an honorary member of the PGA, led a team of challengers to victory as a playing captain in 1941.

In late 1941 a wartime Ryder Cup team was selected by the PGA of America. There were professionals on those two wartime teams like Harold McSpaden, Vic Ghezzi, and Jimmy Hines who never received credit for being Ryder Cup team members. They only played for charity.  

A little-known Philadelphia professional, helped stop Byron Nelson’s 1945 winning streak!

“Did You Know”
A little-known Philadelphia professional, helped stop Byron Nelson’s 1945 winning streak!

George Low, Jr. was born in 1912 next door to the Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey where his father George, Sr. was the golf professional. He began golf by putting on the Baltusrol greens when the golfers were not around. George Sr. was one of many pros who had emigrated from Scotland to the United States in the late 1800s. He tied for second in the 1899 U.S. Open and won the Met Open in 1906. He was one of the most respected golf professionals in the country.

In early 1928, feeling that he had made his fortune in America, George Low Sr. decided to leave Baltusrol. He moved back to his homeland of Scotland and settled in St. Andrews, where he planned to live on his American investments. That is when George Jr. was exposed to something that would support him for the rest of his life. For three years he putted for eight to twelve hours a day on the 36-hole putting course at St. Andrews. When the stock market crashed in 1929 George Sr. found that he needed to go back to work. He returned to the states in 1931 as the professional at the Huntingdon Valley Country Club, with young George in tow as his assistant.

George, Jr. became the head professional at Plymouth Country Club in 1936 and the next year he was the assistant at the Manufacturers Golf & CC, but those jobs were probably too much like work for him. He was good enough to be able to make a few dollars playing golf and for the next few years he assisted his father with a driving range in Jenkintown. He qualified for the 1931 PGA Championship and two US Opens.  After that he spent his down time in Clearwater, Florida while playing the PGA Tour off and on.

In August 1945 Byron Nelson arrived at the Memphis Open riding a streak of 11 straight PGA Tour victories. At Memphis his streak would finally end at the hands of two amateurs and a little-known professional, George Low, Jr. Fred Haas, Jr., who was still an amateur, was the winner at 18 under par 270. George, Jr. and amateur Bob Cochran tied for second at 275. Low picked up first money, which was either $2,666 in US War Bonds or $2,000 in cash. (If a player wanted a check, they received 25% less than the War Bond value.) Nelson and Jug McSpaden, who had been the professional at the Philadelphia Country Club for the past three years, tied for fourth at 276. Haas’ prize was a $100 War Bond, which was the acceptable USGA limit for amateurs.   

In late 1945 Ben Hogan and Sam Snead returned from the service and picked up right where they had left off, winning tournaments. It didn’t take long for George Jr. to figure out that there had to be an easier way to make a living than trying to beat the likes of Nelson, Hogan and Snead week in and week out. He knew more about putting than anyone else and could beat everyone on the practice putting green for money. Sometimes he would beat them putting with the side of his shoe. At Aronimink Golf Club in qualifying for the 1938 US Open he had put together a 141, which was low for the day, while putting right-handed with a left-handed putter.

Soon, instead of entering tournaments, George, Jr. was just hanging around the PGA Tour. He would give putting instructions to any golf professional or multimillionaire who would pay for his room, buy him dinner or loan him his car. He had a deal with Ramada that meant he had a free room in any town that had a Ramada Inn. His shoes were courtesy of Foot Joy. Later on he was on retainer with Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Frank Stranahan for assistance with their putting whenever it was needed. He designed a line of putters with his name on them that sold very well. Some are selling on the internet today for more than $1,000. Nicklaus and Gary Player won on the PGA Tour with Low’s putters. With the help of golf writer Al Barkow he wrote a book titled “The Master of Putting.” George, Jr. had a way with putters before the technology of today. He could give a recalcitrant putter a little whack on his foot, or bend the shaft a bit on his knee, and improve the putter’s performance.

In a practice round before the 1962 PGA Championship at Aronimink, Nicklaus, on leaving the 11th tee, summoned George who had been resting next to a shade tree. George took Nicklaus’ putter and massaged the shaft on the tree, gave the shaft an eyeball inspection and handed it back to Nicklaus. In the mid 70’s he was quoted as saying that he was spending $50,000 a year of other people’s money.  He said that he didn’t want to be too specific about his income, since the best line of defense with the IRS was a little discretion.

At the Masters he always drove up Magnolia Lane in someone else’s Cadillac with a clubhouse pass. You would see him sitting on the veranda under an umbrella sipping a drink with corporation presidents. Inevitably one of the top players would come and invite him to the putting green for a few tips. The PGA Tour and tournaments like the Masters haven’t been the same since he passed away in 1995. George Low, Jr. was called “America’s Guest” because he would never pick up a check and always found a way to avoid paying for anything. He should be in someone’s hall of fame.  

The world’s greatest trick shot artist was a great golfer!

The world’s greatest trick shot artist was a great golfer!

Joe Kirkwood was born in Australia in 1897. He grew up working on a sheep ranch where he learned to play golf on its rudimentary three-hole golf course. While tending the sheep he passed the time by experimenting with trick shots. At age 19 he turned pro.

During World War I he entertained the wounded veterans with golf shots and found that they were more interested in his trick shots. In 1920 he won the Australian Open, New Zealand Open and New Zealand PGA, all in that one year! At the New Zealand Open he broke the tournament record by 12 strokes.

A year later he left Australia to test his golf game on the world stage. In April he was playing his first tournament in the states at the North and South Open in Pinehurst where he was paired with Walter Hagen the first day. He played well enough to tie for ninth but had putting problems having never played on sand greens before. In 1922 he was back playing in the North and South Open where he finished second.

In 1923 he made the United States his permanent residence, settling in Glenside a suburb of Philadelphia and joined Cedarbrook CC. From 1923 to 1949 he was a dues paying member of the Philadelphia PGA. He played in PGA Tour tournaments and gave trick shot exhibitions. He traveled the world with Hagen and Gene Sarazen. He might have become one of the great players of all time, but money came easier through golf exhibitions.

During Kirkwood’s playing career he won 13 times on the PGA Tour, without being a regular participant.. He was also a semifinalist in the 1930 PGA Championship. He won five times in 1923. In 1933 he won the Canadian Open and the North and South Open, but what he did in 1924 may have been his greatest feat. In the month of February, Kirkwood won three straight PGA Tour tournaments in Texas: Texas Open, Corpus Christie Open and Houston Open. He won the Texas Open by seven strokes and Houston by five, but his margin of victory at Corpus Christie of 16 strokes is still the PGA Tour record, tied but not bettered. With cold north winds sweeping across the course both days, Kirkwood put together a total of 285. Bobby Cruickshank finished second at 301 and Johnny Farrell was third, two strokes further back.

With the Great Depression of the 1930s money for golf exhibitions dried up. So Kirkwood, in need of regular income, signed on as the professional at Huntingdon Valley Country Club. He stayed there from 1938 through the 1940s, when money for golf exhibitions began to flow again.

In 1941 the Philadelphia PGA held its second annual Golf Week. To promote golf, Section president Ed Dudley, Leo Diegel and other Section members played exhibitions and staged golf clinics at numerous locations. One of those exhibitions was held at the Langhorne Country Club on Saturday May 10. The host professional Al MacDonald and Jimmy Thomson, the longest driver in professional golf, took on Kirkwood and Ben Hogan, who was in his first year as the professional at the Hershey Country Club. Hogan, who was not known for watching others hit golf shots, can be seen in the photograph watching Kirkwood warm up.

The annual winner of the Australian PGA Championship receives the Kirkwood Cup.

More than 200 players teed off in the first round of the 1946 Orlando Open!

More than 200 players teed off in the first round of the 1946 Orlando Open!

World War II was over and the PGA Tour was back in full swing. Entries were pouring in for tournaments, especially during the winter months when northern golf courses were closed and the club professionals could get away. Due to the increase in entries, tournament management was becoming an issue. Some tournaments had limits to the entries; some held qualifying rounds and some just accepted whoever entered.

The PGA of America’s national meeting was held in Chicago in the middle of November. Ben Hogan, who was the professional at the Hershey Country Club, while playing a full schedule on the PGA Tour, made an unannounced appearance at the meeting. Hogan, the leader of an unofficial players group met with the PGA Executive Committee the day after the meeting ended. He presented a proposal for establishment of a seven-man player constituted board. The board would arrange schedules, control the PGA Tournament Bureau and punish absenteeism. A date was set to meet with Hogan’s committee later in the month at the Orlando Open. PGA President Ed Dudley, who had been a tour player, stated that Hogan’s committee and the PGA were both working toward the same objectives.

The Orlando Open was held in late November at the 6,454 yard Dubsdread Country Club. An edict had gone out from the PGA that future PGA Tour events would have no more than 100 players. There were 25 amateurs entered. Some thought had been given to a qualifying round for the amateurs, but it was decided to let them all into the starting field. The problem was that entries were accepted right up to the day of the tournament, so it was difficult to have qualifying rounds for the marginal players. 210 were in the starting field.

On Thanksgiving Day, Thursday November 28, the Orlando Open with Hogan as the defending champion began at daybreak. The low score for the day was 65, with Hogan shooting 75. Even with less daylight to operate with, everyone finished. The field was cut to 100 players for the second round, and 70 for the last 36 holes. Dallas professional Harry Todd won the tournament with a nine under par 275, while Hogan finished six strokes back at 281. First prize was $2,000.

At Orlando a seven-man player board was elected and met with the PGA officers on Saturday evening. After the meeting Hogan and PGA Tour tournament manager Fred Corcoran made a joint announcement. Among other items, Hogan mentioned standardization of appearance money for the top players, better promotion of the tournaments, and the restriction of tournament fields to 150 players. Hogan said that they hoped to have the policies in place by the Los Angeles Open in January. Hogan and Corcoran stated that there was no friction between the players and the PGA. The control measures were necessitated only due to the increased number of tournaments, and the expansion of the entry lists. Hogan said that they were only trying to help Corcoran have a smoother running operation.

That all lasted in some form until 1968 when the tournament players and the PGA split up and became two organizations.     

Three Philadelphia PGA members who were not eligible played in the 1931 PGA!

Three Philadelphia PGA members who were not eligible played in the 1931 PGA!

On the third Monday of August 1931, forty members of the Philadelphia PGA were at The Springhaven Club to try to qualify for the PGA Championship. There was a bit of a quandary though. Six of the professionals had been late paying their PGA dues. One of those in question was the host professional Andy Campbell.

The PGA rule was that $35 of the $50 PGA dues had to be paid by July 15. Campbell and Charlie Hoffner (Ocean City GC) had been two days late paying their dues while Clarence Hackney (Atlantic City CC) and Harry Markel (Berkshire CC) had been 30 days late. Two others; Morrie Talman (Whitemarsh Valley CC) and Howard Slattery (Bucks County CC) had been late paying as well. The PGA had set a precedent by accepting Campbell’s entry but not the other five.

Since the PGA had accepted Campbell’s entry, Herb Jewson (Roxborough CC), secretary of the Philadelphia PGA, allowed the others to play under protest. Jewson said that he would refer the matter to Albert R. Gates, business administrator for the PGA of America. Late in the afternoon a telegram arrived from Gates stating “Should the gentlemen you refer to be certified as qualifiers for the P.G.A. Championship their entries will probably be accepted, but cannot decide definitely until full report from sectional officers”. The officers agreed that since Campbell’s entry had been accepted the others should be also.

Nineteen-year-old George Low, Jr. (Huntingdon Valley CC) led the 36-hole qualifying with a 145. Also qualifying for the seven allotted spots were Ed Dudley (Concord CC), Joe Kirkwood (PGA Tour), Hackney, Hoffner and John Beadle (Paxon Hollow GC). Markel defeated Al Heron (Riverside CC), who he used to work for, in a sudden death playoff to pick up the last spot. Even though Dudley had won twice on the PGA Tour in the past year he had to qualify along with Kirkwood who had been a semifinalist in the PGA the year before.

That night George Sayers (Merion GC) wired Gates to protest allowing Hackney, Hoffner and Markel to be accepted as qualifiers for the PGA Championship. Gates, who was considered the Judge Landis of professional golf, then ruled that Hackney and Markel were not eligible, so Heron was in. With three players, Campbell, Sayers and Marty Lyons (Spring Hill CC) having tied for ninth with 151s, Jewson announced that there would be an 18-hole playoff on Friday for the seventh spot. Campbell then wired the PGA to say that he did not care to play in the PGA Championship.

On Friday Lyons and Sayers played off at Springhaven in an all day rain. At the end of 18 holes they were tied, so out they went for another 18, which Lyons won.

In the third week of September, nine Philadelphia Section members, seven apparent qualifiers plus Hackney and Markel, arrived at the Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford, RI for the PGA Championship. Hackney and Markel along with Hoffner were told that they were not eligible to play in the tournament. Hackney said that he had not been told he had been barred from playing and threatened to sue the PGA. He was seen walking around with important looking papers sticking out of his back pocket. Hackney stated that he was going to get an injunction against the playing of the championship.

When the PGA officers were informed of that they changed their stance. Hackney, Hoffner and Markel were added to the 104 that were there for onsite qualifying and given starting times. They all failed to qualify for the 32-man match play ladder, with Hackney missing by one stroke.

The tournament was won by the darkest of dark horses, Tom Creavy a twenty-year-old. He defeated Denny Shute, who would later win the PGA twice and a British Open, in the final. Two years later Shute was the professional at Llanerch Country Club, near Philadelphia.  

When the PGA was founded in 1916 there were only seven PGA Sections for the entire USA!

When the PGA was founded in 1916 there were only seven PGA Sections for the entire USA!

When the PGA of America was founded on April 10, 1916 there were only seven PGA Sections, which covered the entire United States. Pennsylvania and West Virginia along with the states south of Pennsylvania down along the Atlantic coast to the Florida border were in the Southeastern Section. The states of New York and New Jersey made up the Metropolitan Section. The six New England states comprised a New England Section. The other four Sections covered the rest of the United States.

Due to these geographical challenges most PGA Sections did not have a Section Championship. Attending meetings was difficult unless you were near a sizable city.

When the PGA was being created Rodman Wanamaker of the Wanamaker’s Department Store, had promised to fund the prize money for a championship and with that he dictated the format to be match play. The PGA’s first championship was scheduled to be held at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, New York.

The PGA decided that 32 PGA members would make up the match play ladder, with Sectional qualifying to determine the starting field. Each PGA Section was allotted spots based on the number of PGA members in its Section. The Met Section had 12 spots and the SE Section had 5. Walter Hagen made the trip from Rochester to Innwood CC on the south shore of Long Island and won the Met’s last spot in a driving rainstorm. The professionals from other PGA Sections had even greater problems with distances to travel.

The Southeastern Section held its qualifying rounds at the Wilmington Country Club in Delaware on the second Wednesday of September. The course is now the municipal Ed Oliver Golf Club. No one was there from Atlanta. Charlotte was the farthest south that anyone came from. Whitemarsh Valley CC’s Jim Barnes and Jock Hutchison, the professional at the Allegheny CC in Pittsburgh, tied for medalist honors at 147. The next two spots went to CC of York professional Emmett French, and host professional Wilfrid Reid with 149s. Philadelphia CC’s Jim Thomson and Philmont CC’s Charlie Hoffner tied for the last spot at 151, which called for an 18-hole playoff. The next day Thomson won the last spot from Hoffner while Barnes and Hutchison were in a 9-hole playoff for the medalist prize, which Hutchison won by one stroke. There was $350 in prize money.

In the second week of October the successful qualifiers were at Siwanoy for the first PGA Championship. There were only three players from west of the Mississippi River; one from Kansas City, one from Sioux City, Iowa and one from California. Wanamaker paid the travel expenses for all of the qualifiers. All rounds were scheduled for 36 holes. Barnes and Hutchison each won four matches and met in the final. All even through 35 holes, they came to the last green, each facing five-foot putts for the title. After a measurement it was determined that Hutchison was away. Hutchison missed his putt and Barnes holed his. First prize was $500 and a diamond medal. Second prize was $250 and a gold medal.

With the United States at war in 1917 and 1918 the PGA Championship was canceled and the travel problems were forgotten. With the war over, the PGA Championship was being played again. 1919 and 1920 were held with local qualifying along with many complaints about travel. In 1921 there was no Section qualifying. The defending champion and the low 31 PGA pros in the 1921 US Open who wished to play in the PGA Championship were entered in the match play.

The PGA members didn’t like that process either. At the PGA’s national meeting in July, which was held during the week of the US Open, a motion was made for each state to be a PGA Section. That motion didn’t pass but the message was heard. A committee was formed to study the problem. The committee came up with a plan to divide the original 7 PGA Sections into 24 Sections. On December 2, 1921 one of the new Sections was the Philadelphia PGA, the only PGA Section named for a city. There are now 41 PGA Sections.

A Philadelphia PGA pro won the 1952 Tucson Open and wasn’t invited to the Masters!

A Philadelphia PGA pro won the 1952 Tucson Open and wasn’t invited to the Masters!

Henry Williams, Sr., the professional at the Lehigh Country Club, showed his son Henry Jr. how to grip a golf club and then told him to just go hit some golf balls. As a lifelong club professional in the Philadelphia PGA, Henry Jr. had an outstanding playing record.   

His first position as a head professional was at the nine-hole Phoenixville Country Club (1938 to 1941), where he was the pro and green superintendent. During the week he worked on the golf course and on the weekends he manned the golf shop. That program wasn’t conducive to becoming a great golfer.

With the United States suddenly at war in late 1941, Henry went to work in a defense plant. That is when he became a real golfer. Every day after work, for nearly three years, he would play until dark at the Spring-Ford Country Club, where his father was now the golf professional.

After the war he became a head professional again and began entering the local PGA tournaments. Each winter for ten years, right after Christmas, Henry would head for the west coast to join the winter tour with $1,500 in his pocket. He would follow the tournament trail, playing the Monday qualifiers and winning a check on some occasions. When the $1,500 was gone he would head home. He said he usually lost money, but the lessons were invaluable. In those days the players would spend their evenings sitting around hotel lobbies talking about the golf swing.

In 1949 Henry made it to the quarter-finals of the PGA Championship, and won the Philadelphia PGA Championship. By being a quarterfinalist in the PGA he earned an invite to the 1950 Masters Tournament. That year he went all the way to the final of the PGA, losing to Chandler Harper. With that he qualified for the Masters again.

Out on the winter tour again in 1952, Henry won the Tucson Open in early February. That year he made a profit on the tour but there was no invitation to the Masters. Invited were former winners of the Masters, all winners of a US Open, US Amateur champions, Ryder Cup team, Walker Cup team, PGA winners and quarter-finalists, US Amateur quarter-finalists, top 24 in the 1951 Masters and top 24 in the 1951 US Open. 104 invitations went out, but winning a PGA Tour event did not earn an invite. 76 entered.

Along with the two trips to the Masters, Henry played in 12 PGA Championships and 7 US Opens. He won the Philadelphia Section Championship three times along with the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Opens twice each. In 1962 at the age of 45, he won the Jamaica Open on the Caribbean Tour.

On the other hand, three pros from the Philadelphia Section had invitations to the Masters and did not play. In 1937 Zell Eaton, an assistant at Saucon Valley Country Club, had an invitation and did not play. He was at Saucon Valley only that one year. In 1940, Leo Diegel, a two-time winner of the PGA Championship in the 1920s and his assistant at Philmont Country Club were both invited to play but did not enter. Diegel hadn’t played for several years. Eaton and Kowal had invites off their finishes in US Opens.  

Even though Henry did not receive an invitation in 1952, he attended nearly every Masters until he was well into his 80s on his complimentary ticket through his PGA membership. In the late 1990s three of us professionals had the privilege of attending several Masters with him. On the way to Augusta he would tell us “You won’t hear anyone yelling ‘You da man’ or ‘In the hole’ at this tournament.

We would begin each day at the practice area watching the players warm up. Then he would take us to the best locations on the course to see the golf shots. Late in the day we would be back watching the players practice. Every year during Wednesday’s practice round when Arnold Palmer was playing the eighth hole, Henry would be on the right side next to the gallery rope about fifty yards up the fairway. Somehow Palmer would always find him and they would have a short visit. 

Along with a great golf swing, one thing that made Henry successful was his conviction that he was right. He was very sure of himself. He said he never played well at the Masters, because by the time it was played, he had been back in Pennsylvania stuck in cold rainy weather for awhile and had lost his tournament edge. With the $2,000 he won at Tucson in 1952 he was able to play the winter tour until it was time to report for work at Berkleigh CC. If invited he might have fared better that year.  

Every year at the Masters, Henry would be talking about not being invited in 1952 and say, “They owe me one.” 




Gene Sarazen left Miami on an exhibition tour two days before the first Masters Tournament!

Gene Sarazen left Miami on an exhibition tour two days before the first Masters Tournament!

On Tuesday March 20, 1934, Gene Sarazen and Joe Kirkwood boarded a Pan American flight in Miami for a world tour playing golf exhibitions.

Two days later Bobby Jones and his invited guests teed off at Augusta National in the first Masters Tournament. Sarazen was invited but he thought it was a land promotion that he didn’t need to help the “Emperor” publicize. Sarazen said if Jones had considered taking part in helping him promote golf events at the Miami Biltmore he would have returned the favor by competing at Augusta. 

Kirkwood was the perfect partner for a golf exhibition. Kirkwood was the leading golf trick shot artist in the world. Kirkwood grew up in Australia. As a young boy he worked on a sheep ranch that had a three-hole golf course, where he learned to play. While tending the sheep he would pass the time attempting trick shots. During World War I he entertained the Australian soldiers with his various shots. He could do more than hit unusual shots. At age 23 he won the Australia Open, New Zealand Open and New Zealand PGA, all in 1920. The next year he left the South Pacific for the United States. He played his way across the country arriving in Pinehurst in April for the North and South Open. One round after having been paired with Walter Hagen, he was asked to show off his array of trick shots. When he finished, Jimmy Walker, the mayor of New York, passed a hat to collect tips for Kirkwood. When Hagen saw how much money was in the hat he could see someone he should team up with for exhibitions. It was a partnership that would last for the rest of their lives. On occasion like 1934, Kirkwood would also team up with Sarazen. In 1923 Kirkwood moved to the states. He purchased a home in Glenside, a suburb of Philadelphia, and joined Cedarbrook Country Club. For many years he kept a home in Glenside, no matter what club he might be representing.   

The Sarazen/Kirkwood tour would last almost one year and cover 100,000 miles. First they visited South America returning to the states in time for the U.S. Open at Merion in June. Then they were off to the British Open and a tour of Europe. In late July they were back in the states for the PGA Championship in Buffalo, where Sarazen was the defending champion. After that, the two pros toured Canada and then they headed for the Far East where they visited eight countries that included China, Japan and Australia.

By 1935 Sarazen could see that the Masters was more than a land promotion, so he was in the starting field. In the final round he holed a 230-yard fairway wood on the 15th hole for a double-eagle that allowed him to tie Craig Wood for the title. The next day Sarazen defeated Wood in a 36-hole playoff.


Philadelphia hosted a long drive contest 3 days after Bobby Jones completed his Grand Slam!

Philadelphia hosted a long drive contest 3 days after Bobby Jones completed his Grand Slam!

On the last Saturday of September 1930, Bobby Jones won the US Amateur at Merion Golf Club. Three days later a competition billed as the National Open Driving Contest took place a few miles away at Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium, which had a seating capacity of 75,000.

Municipal Stadium later named John F. Kennedy Stadium was demolished in 1992 to make room for more modern sports venues. The stadium was an open horseshoe. Tees with an elevation of forty feet were constructed at the South end of the field. A fairway, sixty yards in width, extended 422 yards.

The event, held under the lights, was open to professionals and amateurs. Due to the large number of professionals who were sending in entries, only those playing in the US Amateur were allowed to enter, and they were all invited. Gene Homans, who lost to Jones in final of the Amateur, and Boston’s Jesse Guilford, the longest driver in amateur golf were there. Charley Seaver, the father of future NY Mets pitcher Tom Seaver, was entered. Professionals Gene Sarazen and Tommy Armour had signed up. The contest was sanctioned by the United States Golf Association.

The contest was sponsored by the Arena Corporation of Philadelphia and supervised by the Valley Forge Golf Club in King-of-Prussia. With total prize money totaling $7,500, entries poured in. The total prize money at the US Open that year had been $5,000. Tickets for the east and west stands were $1, with reserved seats directly behind the driving tees $2 and $3.

The evening of Tuesday September 30, more than 200 professionals and amateurs were at Municipal Stadium for fame and fortune. In order to handle the large number of entries, players were hitting drives from more than one tee at the same time. Each contestant hit four drives, with the average of the best two that ended up inbounds counting. The ten best qualifiers were in the final. In the final each contestant hit five drives. The average of the three best drives determined the winner and where the others placed.  

During the evening there were strong winds sweeping across the field from left to right. Many weren’t able to keep their required drives inbounds. Ed Dudley, who had been on the 1929 Ryder Cup and was the professional at the Concord Country Club, qualified for the final but then could not get the required three drives in bounds. The same went for 1927 Ryder Cupper Bill Mehlhorn.   

Clarence Gamber

The winner was Pontiac, Michigan’s Clarence Gamber. His three best drives averaged 256 yards, 5 and 1/3 inches. His longest drive, which was the longest of all contestants, was 262 yards, 1 inch. Cliff Spencer of Baltimore finished second at 252 yards, 2/3 inches. Tops among Philadelphia area professionals were Reading professional Al Heron in sixth place and Atlantic City professional Alex Hackney in seventh place.

In 1925 the USGA had allowed the use of steel shafted clubs for the first time. There may have been a reason why the USGA sanctioned the Municipal Stadium driving contest. For seven years the USGA had been studying why the golf ball was being driven farther, nearly every year. On January 1, three months after the Philadelphia driving contest, the USGA came out with mandatory changes to the golf ball. Instead of the ball having to be no less than 1.62 inches in diameter and not more than 1.62 ounces in weight the ball now had to be at least 1.68 inches in diameter and no more than 1.55 ounces. The larger/lighter ball solved the distance concern, but presented many problems on windy days.

Ed Dudley fared well with the new ball. In 1931 he won the Los Angeles Open and the Western Open along with compiling the low scoring average for the year on the PGA Tour. On September 15 the USGA pulled the plug on the changes to the golf ball and came out with new specifications, which are still the regulation today. The 1.68 inch ball size stayed the same but the ball could weigh up to 1.62 ounces. 

{See Treasure Trove article–Once upon a time the USGA let the air out of the golf ball!}

The Philadelphia PGA Championship was won twice by someone not a member of the Section.

The Philadelphia PGA Championship was won twice by someone not a member of the Section.

When the Philadelphia PGA was officially formed on December 2, 1921, Bob Barnett was elected president. He was 25 years old. In June 1922 he hosted their first Section Championship at the Tredyffrin Country Club in Paoli, Pennsylvania. That evening Barnett was reelected president.

In March 1923, Barnett left Philadelphia to be the professional at the Chevy Chase Club in Maryland. The Philadelphia Section members wanted the popular Barnett to continue as their president, but he said he could not run the Philadelphia Section from Maryland.

In 1925 Barnett was a founder of the Middle Atlantic PGA. He was its second president in 1926 and 1927 and was president again in 1933. He was also the Middle Atlantic’s Section champion in 1929. As the professional at Chevy Chase he gave golf lessons to Presidents W. Howard Taft and Warren G. Harding.

In 1930 the Indian Creek Country Club in Miami hired Barnett as their golf professional. He was now the professional at Chevy Chase in the summer months and Indian Creek in the winter. As the professional at those two clubs he had several assistants who went on to prominence in golf. Max Elbin, president of the PGA of America 1966-68, and Bill Strausbaugh were with him at Indian Creek. Strausbaugh went on to be one of the countries’ leading golf instructors and a PGA of America award is named for him, for his lifelong endeavor to assist golf facilities in finding the right head professional.

Lew Worsham worked for Barnett at Chevy Chase. During Worsham’s employment at Chevy Chase, Barnett made Lew practice every day and he paid all of Worsham’s tournament entry fees. Worsham won the 1947 U.S. Open along with 5 other victories on the PGA Tour.

In 1923 the Philadelphia Section’s second championship was played at the Stenton Country Club. Barnett, who was no longer a member of the Philadelphia PGA, was invited to play in the tournament, which he won. With all of southern New Jersey now being in the Philadelphia PGA, the Section’s 1924 championship was at the Linwood Country Club. Barnett was on hand to defend his title, but had to withdraw due to the death of his father on the eve of the tournament. The 1925 Section Championship was back at Tredyffrin and Barnett won the tournament for a second time. In 1926 he was in the starting field for the championship at Ashbourne Country Club, but failed to defend his title, finishing eighth. 

Barnett represented Middle Atlantic PGA for three years on the board of the PGA of America and is a member of the Middle Atlantic PGA Hall of Fame.

Charlie Sifford was not the best black golfer at Philadelphia’s Cobbs Creek Golf Club!

Charlie Sifford was not the best black golfer at Philadelphia’s Cobbs Creek Golf Club!

Charlie Sifford was born in Charlotte, NC in 1922 and learned to play golf as a caddy there. At age 17 he had an altercation with a white man. For his safe keeping, his father sent him to Philadelphia to live with an uncle. He got a job with Nabisco, working in the shipping department. One day he saw a black man with a set of golf clubs waiting for a street car and asked where he was headed. The man told him about Cobbs Creek Golf Club. Charlie started spending his weekends at Cobbs Creek. After a few weeks of practice he felt the swing that had made him one of the best golfers in Charlotte returning.

Won Negro National Championship 6 Times

Someone had told Charlie that the best golfer at Cobbs Creek was a black man named Howard Wheeler. When Charlie saw Wheeler on the practice tee, he challenged him to a game. He did not think a man with such a strange golf grip could beat him. Wheeler asked Sifford how much money he had. When Charlie replied $10, Wheeler said let’s go, we’ll play for $10 on the front nine and $10 on the back nine. With several holes left to play, Charlie’s $20 was in Wheeler’s pocket.

Howard Wheeler was born in Atlanta, GA in 1911 and learned to play golf as a caddy. Six feet-two-inches tall and one of the longest drivers in professional golf, he played cross-handed (left hand below the right). Wheeler moved to Philadelphia, where he could play golf at Cobbs Creek any day he wanted to, and there was a steady supply of money games.

At that time the PGA Tour was not open to black golfers, so they created their own tour, the United Golf Association (UGA). They held a series of tournaments on public courses. Each year there was a championship called the Negro National Championship. From 1933 to 1958 Wheeler won the championship six times. He qualified for the 1950 and 1951 US Opens.

Charlie practiced and played more rounds with Wheeler. He observed how Wheeler played the course and certain shots. Then he began to beat Wheeler on occasion. Wheeler began taking Charlie as a partner. Both lost valuable time serving in the US Army during WWII. When the war ended the UGA was back with a schedule. Wheeler took Charlie to the 1946 Negro National Open in Pittsburgh. Wheeler told Charlie that major tournament golf was different from playing money games at Cobbs Creek, but Sifford just thought Wheeler was messing with his mind. When he got there he could see what Wheeler was talking about. There were more than 200 entries, with an amateur division and ladies tournament along with the professional 72-hole tournament. In order to handle the number of entries the amateur events started a day before the professionals began. Celebrities like Joe Lewis and Billy Eckstein were entered. Wheeler won the tournament and Charlie did not fare well.

The next year the Negro National Open was at Cobbs Creek. Wheeler won again and Charlie finished second. From 1952 to 1956 Charlie won the tournament five straight times. He would win it one more time. The best day of golf in Charlie Sifford’s life was the day he met Howard Wheeler.

In 1961 the PGA removed the “Caucasian Only” clause from its constitution at the annual meeting and black golfers like Charlie Sifford got a chance to play in more PGA Tour events. Some tournament sponsors in southern states turned their tournaments into invitationals and only invited white professionals. The PGA should have taken a stand against this, but didn’t for fear of losing sponsors.

One day in the 1970s a man named Chet Harrington, who played golf, was in a trophy store in Philadelphia. He saw a dusty golf trophy on a shelf high up behind the counter. The clerk took it down from the shelf for him, saying that he was not sure what it was for. Having heard of Howard Wheeler, one of the names on the trophy, he bought it, cleaned it up and stored it in a bank vault for 35 years.

The trophy for the winner of the Negro National Championship was donated in 1935 by a black lawyer from Washington DC named Albert F. Harris. It must have been left at the trophy store for engraving and then forgotten. The trophy is now on display at the United States Golf Association.


A Philadelphia golf club raised $3 million for WWII US War Bonds in one day!

A Philadelphia golf club raised $3 million for WWII U.S. War Bonds in one day!

With the United States fighting World War II on two fronts, the golfers decided to sell War Bonds and raise money for wartime charities. With the Ryder Cup matches canceled in 1939, four Ryder Cup Challenge matches were played in Detroit from 1940 to 1943. Those four years of challenge matches raised $236,521 with the sale of War Bonds and money for the Red Cross. 

In May of 1943 Llanerch Country Club and its professional Marty Lyons hosted an exhibition featuring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. They were paired with Ed Dudley, president of the PGA of America and Jug McSpaden, a member of the wartime Ryder Cup teams. Special trains ran from the city every 15 minutes and 6,000 fans of Hope and Crosby, each paid $1. With rain predicted the exhibition was reduced to nine holes. The Club had lined up 100 policemen and military personnel to keep order, but with the spectators being movie fans and not golfers the marshals could not keep order. Rain turned the golf turned into five holes. The golfers fled to the locker room for dry clothes. Then Hope and Crosby returned to the practice putting green. Hope told jokes and Crosby sang, while at the same time they auctioned off war bonds. Golf balls, scorecards, and sweaters were autographed and along with golf clubs, were sold for war bonds. Mrs. John B. Kelly bought a $5,000 bond in return for a phonograph record signed by Crosby. Thirteen years later her daughter Grace was starring in the movie True Love, with Crosby. In total War Bonds sold that day came to $130,52

In June the Philadelphia PGA, Golf Association of Philadelphia and Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia played an exhibition at Bala Golf Club, which raised $3,000 to buy an ambulance for the Red Cross. The Red Cross suggested, instead of buying an ambulance they should visit the Valley Forge General Hospital to see what might be done there. While visiting the hospital, golf professionals Marty Lyons and Leo Diegel decided to build a nine-hole golf course for the veterans who were being rehabilitated there. Within a year the Philadelphia PGA had another golf course at Fort Dix and putting courses at three other hospitals for wounded veterans.

In October Torresdale-Frankford CC members Henry Hurst and Ollie Troup staged an affair at their club,  to raise money for the Red Cross and the golf course at VFGH. There was an exhibition and a pro-am tournament in the morning. The exhibition featured Craig Wood, Byron Nelson, Vic Ghezzi and Leo Diegel. In the afternoon there was an 18-hole tournament with $2,000 in prize money. The $12,000 proceeds from the day went to the golf course at VFGH and the Red Cross.  

During the summer of 1944, Sonny Fraser, the owner of Atlantic City CC, and Tavistock CC professional Dick Renaghan played a series of exhibitions in southern New Jersey that raised $10,000 for the Red Cross. In October another mixed golfer exhibition was played at Bala GC for VFGH. The proceeds of $1,000 went to VFGH.  

During the years 1944 to 1946 the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper sponsored three PGA Tour tournaments with all proceeds earmarked for wartime charities and the golf course at VFGH. Lancaster CC opened their golf course to the public three Sundays during the summers, with all money collected from the green fees going to the Red Cross.

On the fourth Sunday of June 1944, Philmont Country Club then a jewel of Philadelphia golf with its 36 holes of championship golf, staged an event to sell US War Bonds. Ellis Gimbel of Gimbels Department Store was president of Philmont. A golf exhibition featuring Craig Wood, Bud Lewis, Helen Sigel and Patty Berg was played in the afternoon. Wood was the holder of the US Open title, Lewis the Philadelphia Open holder, Sigel runner-up in the 1941 US Women’s Amateur and Berg one of the countries’ leading women professionals who was stationed with the Marines in Philadelphia. In the evening Ella Fitzgerald entertained the members and guests. Philmont CC, which was predominantly composed of Jewish members, sold $3,000,000 in War Bonds. To purchase a War Bond one paid 75 cents on the dollar. That meant that $2,250,000 had been paid to purchase the bonds, which with inflation equates to $32,979247 in 2020 dollars.  

A man who would win 3 major golf titles was a patient at Valley Forge General Hospital!

A man who would win 3 major golf titles was a patient at Valley Forge General Hospital!

Dr. Emmet Cary Middlecoff was born in Halls, Tennessee in 1921 and was raised in Memphis. His father, a dentist and club champion, introduced Cary to golf at age 7.  At 17 he won the Memphis city championship. He then proceeded to win the Tennessee state amateur championship four straight years. Middlecoff played on the golf team at the University of Mississippi and then earned a degree in dentistry from the University of Tennessee. He was soon commissioned into the United States Army as a dentist where he filled 12,093 teeth. While filling a tooth in 1945 a fragment brook off and flew into his eye. Middlecoff was sent to Valley Forge Military Hospital near Phoenixville, which specialized in eye injuries.

Once he began to recover from his eye injury he started playing golf again at the public Meadowbrook Golf Club, which was not far from the hospital. The nine-hole golf course that had been built at the hospital for wounded veterans returning from World War II lacked the distance and challenge for someone of Middlecoff’s ability. It was feared that Middlecoff’s career as an elite golfer might to be over but in October 1945, while still a patient at VFMH, he decided to enter the James “Sonny” Fraser Invitational golf tournament at the Atlantic City Country Club. At that time Sonny Fraser, who was a brother of future PGA president Leo Fraser, was the owner of Atlantic City CC. Playing his first competitive golf in three years, Middlecoff won the tournament.

One month later in November Middlecoff won the North and South Open in Pinehurst, North Carolina by five strokes, becoming the one of the few amateurs to win a PGA Tour tournament. He was discharged from the Army in 1946. His father hung a dentist’s shingle for his son next to his at his office, but Cary had seen enough bad teeth. He began playing golf every day and turned pro in 1947.

He went on to win 40 times on the PGA Tour, which included two victories in the U.S. Open (1949, 1956), the 1955 Masters Tournament and the 1949 Reading Open. He was a member of three Ryder Cup Teams, all victorious. Middlecoff’s father kept his son’s shingle next to his for ten years but Cary never filled another tooth. His father tried to get Bobby Jones to talk Cary into returning to the practicing dentistry, but when he won the 1955 Masters Tournament, Jones told the father “I think your son did a very nice job of filling 72 cavities this week”. In 1986 Cary Middlecoff was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

The Philadelphia PGA professionals taught the world’s greatest blind golfer how to play!

The Philadelphia PGA professionals taught the world’s greatest blind golfer how to play!

At the Philadelphia PGA’s 1943 spring meeting, Section President Marty Lyons gave the tournament chairman Leo Diegel full authority to use the Section’s tournament program in any way to assist the World War II effort. Before the meeting was over Diegel had come up with a plan.

Diegel’s plan was for the Philadelphia PGA, Golf Association of Philadelphia and Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia to hold an exhibition. Woody Platt, Glenna Vare and Diegel would each put together a team of twelve partners to play an exhibition with a male amateur, lady amateur and golf professional in each pairing.

To host the event a club had to pay $500, with all proceeds going to the Philadelphia PGA’s wartime charity fund. Bala Golf Club agreed to be the host. The admission fee for the spectators was $1 or a steel shafted golf club for the country’s scrap iron drive. The exhibition was played on the third Sunday of July. The amateurs received two handicap strokes and the ladies seven strokes. Some of the 36 team members were two-time PGA champion Leo Diegel, six-time US Women’s Amateur champion Glenna Vare, George Fazio, Jug McSpaden, Sam Byrd, Billy Hyndman, Dot Germain and Helen Sigel. All 36 players agreed to donate blood to the Red Cross on a specified date.

Two thousand spectators turned out that day, with the proceeds coming to $3,000. The plan had been to purchase an ambulance for the Red Cross, but the Red Cross officials suggested that the golf professionals visit the Valley Forge General Hospital near Phoenixville where the wounded service men were being sent for rehabilitation. Lyons and Diegel visited the hospital and decided to build a golf course for the hospital’s patients. More exhibitions and pro-ams were played to raise money and with the assistance of the Philadelphia Golf Course Superintendents, a nine-hole golf course consisting of holes from 95 yards to 275 was constructed. Every golf professional in the Philadelphia PGA gave his time, equipment or money to the project and many donated all three.

Charley Boswell, who had been a football player at the University of Alabama, was pitching for the Atlanta Crackers in Double AA when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Now, the United States was in World War II. Boswell was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Georgia. After graduation from Fort Benning, Boswell was fighting the war in Germany when a Sherman Tank caught on fire. While trying help his men out of the burning tank it exploded, blinding Boswell permanently. He was sent to VFGH, which specialized in eye injuries. The golf professionals introduced Boswell to golf, which he had never played before. 

In 1946 Boswell finished second in the National Blind Golf Championship and the next year he won the tournament. He went on to win the U.S. championship 16 times and the international title 11 times. He played golf with celebrities like Bob Hope.

Back in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, he managed the Boswell Insurance Agency for more than 40 years and served as the Revenue Commissioner for the state of Alabama for nine years. Thanks to the Philadelphia PGA, Charley Boswell had a full and successful life.

Art Wall won the 1959 Crosby Pro-Am, while making only one par on the last nine!

Art Wall won the 1959 Crosby Pro-Am, while making only one par on the last nine!

Watching the more recent AT&T Pro-Ams at Pebble Beach is a reminder of how difficult some golf courses were before technology took over the game of golf. A great example is the last eleven holes at the Pebble Beach Golf Links.  

The tournament, a brainchild of entertainer Bing Crosby, began in southern California in 1937. After World War II the tournament moved north to the Monterey Peninsular. It was played for 50 years as the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, sometimes referred to as the “Crosby Clambake”. The tournament was held over three courses with 150 pros paired with 150 amateurs playing better-ball stroke play. Also the professionals were competing on an individual basis in a stroke play event, which offered the largest portion of the purse.

In January of 1959 Honesdale, Pennsylvania’s Art Wall arrived at Pebble Beach for the Crosby Pro-Am at the height of his career. Wall had won two times on the PGA Tour in 1958 and just two weeks before the Crosby he had led the L.A. Open going into the last round only to be done in by a 63 from Ken Venturi, which left him in second place. Wall opened the tournament with a 69 at Cypress Point and followed it up with a 65 at Monterey and a 70 at Pebble Beach. His 204 total carried him into the final round with a four-stroke lead over Jimmy Demaret.

On Sunday Wall began his round with birdies on the first three holes and he completed the front nine in 34 strokes. He was now seven strokes in front of Demaret and eight ahead of Gene Littler. A birdie on the 10th hole put Wall nine in front. On the next seven holes Wall carded one birdie, one par, four bogeys and one double bogey. Standing on the 18th tee Wall held a one-stroke lead over Littler, who was paired with him. Wall and Littler both reached the 18th fairway safely with their drives but Littler proceeded to hook his #4 wood second shot over the seawall and into Stillwater Cove. Wall completed the hole with a bogey six for a 75, giving him a 72-hole total of 279 and a two-stroke victory over Littler and Demaret.

The tournament was televised from 6 pm to 7 pm Eastern Standard Time, but the TV viewers didn’t see the final putts as the allotted time ran out and the network moved on to the next show. First prize from the $50,000 purse was $4,000 and Wall also won the pro-am in partnership with the national amateur champion, Charley Coe, for another $2,000.

That year Wall went on to win two more tournaments and the Masters. At the Masters he birdied five of the last six holes on Sunday to win by one stroke over Cary Middlecoff. Wall finished with a 66 and only one other player broke 71 that day. That finish, one of the greatest in Masters history, seems to be nearly forgotten. In 1959 Wall was the PGA “Player of the Year”, won the Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average, led the PGA Tour in money winnings and earned a spot on the Ryder Cup team.

A Philadelphia golf pro called in the 1987 Craig Stadler rules infraction at San Diego!

A Philadelphia golf pro called in the 1987 Craig Stadler rules infraction at San Diego!

The PGA Tour is in the midst of its wrap around season. With the world’s greatest golfers competing, memorable things occur, and sometimes they involve the rules of golf.

One of those took place during the 1987 Andy Williams San Diego Open at the Torrey Pines South Course. Craig Stadler and George Burns were tied for the lead after 36 holes with 13 under par 131s, and thus were paired together in the third round. Playing the 14th hole, Stadler’s tee shot came to rest under the low hanging limbs of a tree. To play the next shot Stadler had to get on his knees. With the ground wet from overnight rain, Stadler placed a towel on the ground to keep his pants dry.

One day later, Stadler made a birdie on the 72nd hole for a 270 total to finish in a tie for second place, four strokes out of first. Burns was the winner with a tournament record 266. Upon walking off the last green, Stadler was informed by a PGA Tour rules official that he had broken a rule during Saturday’s round.

Stadler was told that he had violated USGA rule 13-3. The rule covered building a stance, which took place when he used the towel to protect his pants. Someone had telephoned the PGA Tour office while Stadler was playing the 17th hole on Sunday, stating that a golf rule had been broken. After checking a TV replay, the PGA Tour had to disqualify Stadler. Because of a penalty of two strokes not being assessed on Saturday, he had signed for an incorrect score, which was lower than his actual score. The disqualification cost Stadler $37,333.33.

Robert “Skee” Riegel

The interesting part of this is that Skee had turned on his TV late Sunday afternoon and saw Stadler playing a shot while kneeling on a towel. Not realizing that he was looking at a replay from Saturday, he grabbed his telephone and called the PGA Tour. Thinking that what he saw had happened in the fourth round, he wanted to make sure that Stadler was penalized before he signed for a wrong score, which would have been two strokes lower than his score with the penalty. Skee was only trying to save Stadler from being disqualified.

Skee said, that if he had known what he was seeing had taken place the day before, he never would have made the telephone call. If the tournament officials had not been notified until after Stadler and all the other players had completed the last round, the results would have been final, with no penalty.

Al Besselink won the Tournament of Champions and donated half to charity!

Al Besselink won the Tournament of Champions and donated half to charity!

Merchantville, New Jersey’s Al Besselink turned pro in 1949. In late July of 1952 he picked up his first victory on the PGA Tour with a final round 64 at the Sioux City Open in Iowa.

A new event was created for 1953 PGA Tour, the Tournament of Champions. To play in that tournament one had to have won on the PGA Tour during the past calendar year. As the tournament was being played in late April, Besselink’s win at Sioux City made him eligible.

The tournament was held in Las Vegas at the Desert Inn Country Club. Before the tournament began Besselink bet $500 on himself to win at 25 to 1 odds, with a Las Vegas bookie. The tournament itself had a large purse of $35,000. The largest purse at any of the major golf championships that year was $26,000 at the Masters.

With rounds of 72, 68 and 68, Besselink led by one stroke entering the final round. On Sunday he made birdies on the 16th and 17th holes to regain that one stroke edge. On the last green, with 5,000 spectators looking on, he holed a six-foot putt for a par to win by one. First prize was $10,000 and he picked up another $12,500 from the $500 he had bet on himself. The $10,000 was delivered to him in a wheelbarrow filled with 10,000 silver dollars.

One year earlier, Babe Zaharias had asked Besselink to be her partner in the 1952 International Mixed Two Ball Open in Orlando, which they had won. Having recently heard that Zaharias had been diagnosed with cancer, Besselink donated half his first prize, $5,000, to the Damon Runyan Cancer Fund.

Being the gambler that he was, it was said that Besselink left Las Vegas that week with about the same amount of money he had arrived with.

The Berks County PA golfers provided financial assistance for the 1953 US Ryder Cup Team!

The Berks County PA golfers provided financial assistance for the 1953 US Ryder Cup Team!

Beginning with the first Ryder Cup match between the PGA of America and the British PGA, the matches always operated at a financial deficit. Over the years the Ryder Cup only existed with the financial assistance of those two organizations. Not only would they lose money on the Ryder Cup, the team members were impacted financially. There was no prize money and due to travel being by ocean voyage until the 1950s, the visiting team members would be away from home for a couple of weeks. As most of those professionals were head professionals at golf facilities, being away meant loss of income from golf lessons, tournament play or exhibitions. Only a few professionals, like Walter Hagen or Gene Sarazen, were able to make a living by just playing golf.

The Ryder Cup was played every other year from 1927 to 1937, only to be put on hold due to the war in Europe in 1939. The 1939 match was to have been hosted by the Ponte Vedra Inn & Golf Club near Jacksonville, Florida. A.B. “Al” Nelson, who had been the professional at the Yardley Country Club, and a Philadelphia PGA officer, was now the professional there.

During the war years the PGA still continued to select Ryder Cup Teams. The Cup Team would play challenge matches against other professionals of note with the proceeds going to wartime charities. Following the war, the matches resumed, but continued to lose money.

In 1953 a challenge match was played with the ten Ryder Cup Team members facing off against ten challengers in the Ryder Cup format on the third weekend of September. The plan was to help defray the expenses of the team members who were going to be competing in the upcoming Ryder Cup match in England. A similar match had been played in Boston in 1949. It was through the hard work of the Berks County Golf Association and its history of having recently hosted five successful Reading Opens that Reading was selected by the PGA. 

On Friday, the 20 professional golfers, along with some local pros, played in a pro-am at Reading’s Berkshire Country Club, which offered $1,500 in prize money. Jackie Burke picked up $350 for the lowest professional score, while putting together a course record 63.

On the weekend the professionals were at Reading Country Club for the challenge matches. There were five two-ball (alternate stroke) matches on Saturday, five four-ball matches on Sunday morning and ten singles matches on Sunday afternoon. Tickets for spectators were $2 on Friday, $3 Saturday, $4 Sunday or $6 for the three days.

Lloyd Mangrum was the playing captain of the Ryder Cup Team. Two of his team members were Philadelphia PGA members, Ed “Porky” Oliver and Dave Douglas. The Challengers captained by Jimmy Demaret were a formidable group, with several players, like Tommy Bolt, Doug Ford and Lew Worsham who won major championships. He also had three Philadelphia Section members, Henry Williams, Jr., George Fazio and Al Besselink, on his team. The Ryder Cup Team members prevailed by the count of 12-1/2 points to 7-1/2. The exhibition drew 3,000 spectators on Saturday and 3,000 again on Sunday. Each Ryder Cup Team member received $850 and each challenger received $400. Another $2,500 was presented to the Ryder Cup Team to help with its expenses.

Reading, a small city of 100,000, had raised $15,000 along with the pro-am money, for the PGA of America and its Ryder Cup team members. The total purse at the PGA Championship that year had been $20,700. It was not a bad three-day gig, even for the challengers. One week earlier a tie for eighth at the $15,000 Eastern Open in Baltimore had earned $460.

A Delaware Valley professional golfer was the military’s longest serving professional athlete!

A Delaware Valley professional golfer was the military’s longest serving professional athlete!

It was January 1941. There was war in Europe and the United States was building up its army.  Ed “Porky” Oliver, a 25-year-old established tournament player with three victories on the PGA Tour, was on the West Coast playing the Winter Tour. In the second week of January he was competing in the Oakland Open when a messenger boy broke through the gallery and presented him with a telegram on the 10th tee. The telegram contained orders to report to his draft board for a physical. Oliver shook hands with his fellow competitors and withdrew from the tournament.  He drove across the country to his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. Even though he was the professional at Hornell CC in New York his home address with the Draft Board was Wilmington. Oliver passed the physical but was given a “Hardship Deferral”, as he was the sole support of his family. His brother was making just $16 a week working in a factory.

Oliver then got in his car and drove back across the United States to play in the Crosby Pro-Am, where he was the defending champion and Bing Crosby’s partner. When Oliver arrived back in California he opened the trunk of his car and discovered his golf clubs were not there. While he had been home in Wilmington his father had taken the clubs out of the car and put them in the garage, thinking that his son would not be playing golf for awhile. Using a borrowed set of clubs Oliver led the two-day Crosby tournament the first day with a 66 but did not win. (For another piece of trivia Ray Watson, a law student at Stanford and later the father of Tom Watson, won the pro-am, helping his partner 15 strokes to a twenty under par 124.)

Porky Oliver–1953 Ryder Cup

A week later Oliver won the Western Open at Phoenix and one month after that his deferral was withdrawn. In late February while playing in the St. Petersburg Open he received a letter from the Draft Board stating that his deferment had been revoked. He was to report for induction into the U.S. Army on Monday. Somehow thinking he had clearance to play in the International Four-Ball that next week Oliver headed for Miami.

On Sunday Oliver and his partner Clayton Heafner won their first round match in the Four-Ball, but then he received a telephone call from his brother saying that he had to report for induction that next morning.  Heafner was given a substitute partner. Oliver hopped on a plane to Wilmington and at 7:30 a.m. Monday morning he was inducted into the U.S. Army at Newark, New Jersey. He was the first big name professional golfer drafted into the U.S. Military.

You can see from the attached letter that Oliver thought he would only be in the Army for one year, but that was before Pearl Harbor. One has to wonder why Oliver had to spend four years and eight months in military service during World War II without serving overseas or reenlisting. That was much more than any professional athlete.

Jim Thomson’s honesty paid dividends!

Jim Thomson’s honesty paid dividends!

Born in 1881, James R. “Jim” Thomson immigrated to the United States from North Berwick, Scotland in 1905 to be the assistant at Merion Cricket Club (later Golf Club). One of the best golfers in North Berwick, Thomson had worked as a plasterer, because it paid better than golf. One year after arriving in the states, he was the head professional at Merion. Thomson won the 1913 Pennsylvania Open. In 1916 he was a founding member of the PGA of America and a board member.

John D. Rockefeller  & Jim Thomson 

In July of 1912 Thomson, now the professional at the Philadelphia Country Club, was playing in the Metropolitan Open at The Apawamis Club in Rye, NY, where he tied for third. After turning in his scorecard, he realized that he had signed for a score, one stroke less than what he had shot and reported it to the tournament committee. Thomson was disqualified. The tournament committee then proceeded to present a check for $62.50 to Thomson for what he would have won if not disqualified. The check for Thomson was extra and not a part of the tournament purse. .

In 1921, Thomson was now the professional at Overbrook Golf Club. Apawamis was looking for a new head professional and remembered James R. Thomson as a golf professional their club might like to be associated with. Thomson was hired and spent the remaining 25 years of his head professional career at Apawamis.

Ed Dudley saved golf during World War II!

Ed Dudley saved golf during World War II?

On December 7, 1941 Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States was at war. As 1942 rolled along our country’s leaders were trying to figure out a plan of attack. One thing they knew was that all raw materials and man power were needed for the war effort. The U.S. Office of Price Administration (OPA) rationed gasoline on the East Coast on May 15 and by December it was nationwide. Based on your type of work, you would be issued a sticker for the car’s windshield. The average person was given an A sticker, which limited them to four gallons of gas a week. As it turned out it wasn’t gasoline that was being rationed, but tires. The Japanese army had cut off the supply of rubber from the Far East. To receive a gasoline sticker, one had to swear he had no more than five automobile tires. Driving to a golf course to play golf or be a spectator was considered pleasure driving and totally outlawed in 1943.

In 1942, except for the Masters Tournament and the US Open, the PGA Tour played nearly a full schedule, but 1943 was a different story. Even with the country at war, there were quite a few great players not in the service. Byron Nelson and Jug McSpaden were 4F. Players like Gene Sarazen and Tommy Armour were still competitive, but none of them could assure cities like Los Angeles or Miami that they would play there due to the gas rationing. In 1943 only four PGA Tour equivalent events were played.

Ed Dudley

Ed Dudley, who was then the president of the PGA of America, knew everyone. He had been the tournament chairman for the PGA Tour and a three time Ryder Cup team member. He had been a professional in California, Oklahoma and Philadelphia, and was now the professional at Augusta National Golf Club, even though it was closed for the duration of the war. With Augusta closed, Sonny Fraser engaged Dudley as the professional at his Atlantic City Country Club.

Dudley decided to go to Washington DC to see what he could do for the game of golf. He met with many people, getting the runaround. His efforts took some time, but in mid March of 1943 Paul V. McNutt, chairman of the War Manpower Commission “approved wartime golf provided it does not interfere with the war effort”. The ruling meant that professional golfers could purchase gas to travel to tournaments and people could attend golf tournaments without it being considered joy riding. Even the local golf professionals were able to revive their tournament schedules.

A few days later Joe Dey, executive secretary of the United States Golf Association, congratulated Dudley on “a good piece of work” convincing the United States government that playing golf during the war was not unpatriotic. Dey said “The USGA never had any doubt about this matter, but Dudley and the PGA are to be congratulated. The golfers wanted it, but it was Dudley who made it happen.”

A year later, in 1944, the PGA Tour was back with a schedule of 23 events, one being the PGA Championship. That year at the Tam O’Shanter Open in Chicago, 43-year-old Ed Dudley finished second to Nelson. If not for Dudley’s efforts, Nelson wouldn’t have had 11 straight wins in 1945, because there won’t have been 11 tournaments on the PGA Tour. 38 tournaments were played that year.

Before there was a PGA, there was an Eastern Professionals Golf Association!

Before there was a PGA, there was an Eastern Professional Golfers Association!

Before the PGA of America was formed in 1916 there were several professional golf associations in the United States. One of those and most likely the largest was the Eastern Professional Golfers Association that covered eastern USA from the state of Maine to Wilmington, Delaware. On June 4, 1906 their founding meeting was held at the Astor House in New York City. Officers were elected. Samuel Y. Heebner, a founder of the Golf Association of Philadelphia, was at the meeting and appointed to a six-man advisory board. The organization’s objective was to provide competition for the professionals and assist with employment.

In October they held their first championship at the Forest Hill Field Club in New Jersey. There were 50 entries and the club put up $300, making the prize money $450. The winner was Scotland’s Alex Smith, who would go on to win the US Open twice. Smith also won a gold medal, similar to what the US Open winner was receiving. Smith won their championship three times, but the pride of those professionals was Willie Anderson, who won the United States Open four times from 1901 to 1905. Anderson, who immigrated to the USA from Scotland with his golf professional father and brother at the age of 15, always considered himself to be an American golf professional.

In 1910 the Philadelphia Cricket Club, which was hosting the US Open that year, was looking for a golf professional. Anderson, who had held nine head pro positions in 13 years, was interested. If he could learn how to play that course, maybe he could win another US Open. Anderson was hired. When the tournament was played in June, he finished 11th, while Smith took the title.

In October of that year, Anderson passed away at the age of 31. He was buried near the Philadelphia Cricket Club in Chestnut Hill’s Ivy Hill Cemetery. The Philadelphia Cricket Club members arranged a subscription to create a monetary fund for Anderson’s widow and baby. The Eastern Professional Golfers Association provided a large monument for the grave site, which mentioned his four U.S. Open victories. His father and brother, also golf professionals, are buried next to Willie. The monument nearly bankrupt The Eastern Professional Golfers Association.

It took 55 holes of golf to decide the 1915 Pennsylvania Open!

It took 55 holes of golf to decide the 1915 Pennsylvania Open!

On the second Wednesday of July, 1915, the fourth Pennsylvania Open was held at the Shawnee Inn & Country Club. The tournament was contested over 36 holes, with a strong field which included Jim Barnes, who would go on to win the first PGA Championship one year later. At that time the Pennsylvania Open was open to all comers. The weather was intensely warm.

At the end of 36 holes Tom Anderson, Jr. (Montclair Golf Club), and Eddie Loos (Pocono Manor Golf Club) were tied for the title with 149 totals. Loos had posted rounds of 79 and 70 while Anderson’s rounds were 78 and 71. On the 36th hole Anderson had a putt to win the tournament, but due to his ball being in a cuppy lie, it would be difficult to hole it. Because his ball was in the line of a fellow competitor Anderson was asked to move his marker to the side. A.W. Tillinghast, the designer of the Shawnee course and president of the club was refereeing the match. He said that he watched very closely to see that Anderson replaced his ball in its original lie. He did exactly that. (At that time in open tournaments because of the money, a referee was sent out with each professional pairing but not with the amateurs.) Anderson missed the putt as expected.

The Pennsylvania State Golf Association committee decided that an 18-hole playoff would be held that day. At the conclusion of the playoff, Anderson, who had won the first PA Open in 1912, and Loos were still tied with 76’s. It was 8 pm and the playoff went to sudden-death. On Shawnee’s first hole Anderson won the title for a second time with a par four. It was the 55th hole of golf for the two professionals that day.

Anderson and Loos split the top two prizes of $100 and $70. Tom Anderson was the brother of four-time U.S. Open champion Willie Anderson, who had died in 1910 as the professional at the Philadelphia Cricket Club, at the age of 31. One month later Tom Anderson would die learning to drive the automobile he had just purchased.

Leo Diegel played 90 holes in two days to win the 1924 Shawnee Open!

Leo Diegel played 90 holes in two days to win the 1924 Shawnee Open!

The 1924 Shawnee Open was played in mid July, just three days after the Metropolitan Open ended in New York. Hagen, having won the British Open in late June, was still in Europe playing exhibitions, but another strong field on hand, with players like Gene Sarazen, Tommy Armour and Johnny Farrell. The tournament was scheduled for 72 holes in two days. Trick shot artist Joe Kirkwood led the first day at 143 with Leo Diegel at 144. Par was 74. The next day Diegel put together rounds of 72 and 71 for 287 that left him in a tie for the top prize with Willie Macfarland who was also in at 287 with the help of a third round 69. Kirkwood fell one stroke short at 288.

The tournament committee decreed an 18-hole playoff that same day was in order. In those days most important tournament ties were settled with 18-hole playoffs and on occasion they were 36 holes. The 1931 U.S. Open took two 36-hole playoffs to determine a winner. Nowadays anything more than 18 in one day is considered quite a challenge. The players caught a break as the high temperatures in the Poconos, for the two days, was in the low 70s.

Diegel, a superb ball striker who struggled with his putting, but when he was on form he was practicably unbeatable. Diegel known to be a great twilight golfer. With the sun just above the mountain tops, the two professionals set out for another 18. Form held as Diegel equaled the low round of the tournament with a 69 against a 75 for Macfarlane. First money was $500 from a prize pool of $1,300. Six professionals picked up checks. The prize money at the U.S. Open earlier that year had been $960.

A year later Macfarlane won the U.S. Open and Shawnee. Diegel went on to win the 1928 and 1929 PGA Championships. From 1934 to 1945 Diegel was the professional at the Philmont Country Club.   

A Philadelphia PGA founder won the first Irish Pro Championship at Royal Portrush GC!

A Philadelphia PGA founder won the first Irish Professional Championship at Royal Portrush!

James Dunlop “Jim” Edmundson was born in Portrush, Ireland in 1886 and learned golf as a caddy at the Royal Portrush Golf Club. By 1905 he was the professional at the club. In 1907 the first Irish Open was contested. Royal Portrush was the host club, and it will also host this year’s British Open in July.

Edmundson won the First Irish Professional Championship, and in 1908 he was the winner again. Along with that, he finished second in 1909, 1910 and 1911.

He played in The Open four times, with his best showing being a tie for 11th in 1908.

After six years at Royal Portrush, Edmundson moved across the Irish Sea to England as the professional at the Bromborough Golf Club. At Bromborough he instructed Gladys Ravenscroft, who would win the 1912 British Ladies Championship and the 1913 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship.

With the onset of World War I, Edmundson volunteered for the British Army’s artillery division, seeing action in France for two years. When the war was over he could not find another head professional position. In early 1921, his brother John, who was the professional at the Llanerch Country Club, wrote to him saying that he should visit the states. John’s letter mentioned that there were clubs with well-to-do members near Llanerch looking for experienced golf professionals.

Jim Edmundson set sail for America, and soon after arriving he was hired as the professional at the North Hills Country Club, just north of Philadelphia. Later that year on December 2, the Philadelphia Section PGA was formed. Having been a member of the British PGA, he became a founder of the Philadelphia PGA, with much to contribute. He was an officer for two years and was elected Section president in 1930.

In 1923 at the age of 39 he won the Pennsylvania Open, and finished second in the Philadelphia Open. He also had a second place finish in the Philadelphia Section Championship in 1926.

After North Hills, Edmundson was the head professional at the Hi-Top Country in Drexel Hill, which had been Aronimink Country Club before moving to Newtown Square.

An amateur could have, maybe should have, won the 1939 US Open!

An amateur could have, maybe should have, won the 1939 US Open!

The 1939 United States Open Championship was played at the Philadelphia Country Club’s Spring Mill Course, which was near Gladwyne, a few miles west of its main clubhouse on City Line Avenue. The golf course, usually a par 71 was played at a par of 69. Two par five holes, the eighth and twelfth, were played from forward tees as par fours.

Most golfers, even 80 years later, have heard the stories of how Sam Snead appeared to be a sure winner when he teed off on the 71st hole with a two stroke lead, only to make a bogie 5 on that hole and a triple bogie 8 on the last hole. When all the scores were posted he tied for 5th at 286. Playing right in front of Snead, Reading Country Club professional Byron Nelson posted a 68 for a total of 284, which made him the leader in the clubhouse. 25 minutes later Craig Wood reached the last green with two big shots. His birdie 4 gave him a 72 and he was in at 284. In those days there were no gallery ropes, so in order to spread out the spectators the leaders were not paired together. The players had been paired in twos, at five minute intervals for Saturday’s final 36 holes. Former Llanerch Country Club professional Denny Shute, who had teed off 55 minutes after Nelson, shot a 72 for another 284 and a three-way tie for the title.

Lost in all the commotion over Snead’s triple bogie on the last hole and then the three-way tie for first, was Marvin “Bud” Ward, an amateur from the state of Washington, who had begun the day in a tie for fourth. Ward’s tee time was earlier than any of the leaders and more than an hour before Denny Shute, who he was tied with. Not an unknown Ward had been a member of the 1938 Walker Cup Team. With nine holes to go, Ward was within one stroke of the leader, Sam Snead. On the short downhill par 3 eleventh hole, Ward was bunkered twice and made a double bogey 5, but he birdied the next hole to remain in contention. On the 200-yard thirteenth hole Ward played a solid 2-iron toward the right side of the green. With most of the marshals assisting the big names, a young lady was standing almost on the thirteenth green. Ward’s tee shot struck the lady ending up in a bunker, nearly unplayable. Two stokes later he was on the green and two putted for another double bogey. Ward made a birdie on the next to last hole and finished with a 285 total. He was the leader in the clubhouse, but not for long. Ward finished alone in fourth place, behind Nelson, Wood and Shute. There was scant mention of his misfortune in the newspapers. The outcome could have, and maybe should have been, entirely different.

Byron Nelson won the playoff that took two days and Bud Ward went on to win the US Amateur Championship later that year and again in 1941.

A club professional was responsible for changing the PGA Championship to stroke play!

A club professional was responsible for changing the PGA Championship to stroke play!

In July 1957 Lyons and several Llanerch members took a trip to Ohio to check out the PGA Championship that was being played at the Miami Valley CC. They were there to learn what they could about hosting a major golf championship.

On returning home, Lyons began talking to the Llanerch members along with PGA club professionals and playing professionals about the possibility of changing the format of the PGA Championship, which had been contested at match play for 42 years, to stroke play. Finding a large majority in favor of a change, Lyons wrote a letter to the PGA of America laying out his reasons for a change to stroke play.

He wrote that he had recently witnessed the best championship the PGA had ever held, but it had lost money. The $42,000 in prize money was almost $14,000 more than that years’ U.S. Open but some of the PGA’s best players did not enter. He said there was something missing other than losing money.

With stroke play more PGA members could play in the tournament and the best players in the world would enter. Four days of stroke play would draw more spectators than match play. The tournament would show a profit and more facilities would be bidding to host the championship. Also with stroke play television companies might be interested, which would make the tournament even more profitable.

In November Lyons was in California at the PGA’s national meeting campaigning for changing the PGA Championship to stroke play. The delegates from the various PGA Sections then voted in favor of a change to stroke play. With the change in place Lyons spoke to Llanerch member John Facenda, who was the nightly news anchor at Philadelphia’s CBS affiliate WCAU, and later the voice of NFL films, about televising the tournament. Facenda spoke to his superiors at CBS. A contract with the PGA was worked out.

When the championship was played in July 1958 the last three holes on Saturday and Sunday along with the trophy presentation were televised, for a total of two and one-half hours. A young man named Frank Chirkinian who was the program director for WCAU produced the telecast and Jack Whitaker, who reported on sports, interviewed the stars like Tommy Bolt who had just won the U.S. Open.

Lyons spent many hours promoting the tournament. He made 70 talks to civic groups and the media, sold advertising for the program book and tickets to the tournament. Before it was all over Lyons had attended more than 100 planning meetings at his club.

After the tournament was over and all the counting had been done the PGA officers announced that their championship had turned a profit for the first time in recent years. Attendance for the week was 45,000 and the receipts from the ticket sales were $81,557. Revenue from advertising in the program book came to $43,919. The PGA and their tournament manager received 60% of those monies and the other 40% went to the Llanerch Country Club. The PGA paid out $37,500 in prize money and other expenses from its share. Llanerch kept all the money from concessions such as food and parking.

As a bonus the PGA and its championship received a great deal of added publicity.

Byron Nelson’s 1937 first place Master’s check was far from his largest that year!

                                                      “DID YOU KNOW”
Byron Nelson’s 1937 first place Master’s check was far from his largest that year!

In April 1937, 25-year-old Byron Nelson won the Masters Tournament, by finishing two strokes in front of Ralph Guldahl and three ahead of Ed Dudley, the host professional.

A few days later Nelson reported to Reading, Pennsylvania as the new head professional at the Reading Country Club. It was a busy summer for the new head man. In May he played in the PGA Championship and in June he was competing in the U.S. Open. Even though Nelson had won the Masters and was fifth on the PGA Winter Tour money list, he had to qualify locally for both the PGA and US Open

Next Nelson was off to Southport, England for the Ryder Cup which was held in late June. In the second week of July he was playing in the British Open in Scotland. Soon after returning from Scotland he won the one-day 36-hole Central Pennsylvania Open at his home course, RCC. Tying for first he won an 18-hole playoff five days later. First prize was $150. The country was in the middle of “The Great Depression” and money was tight.

In early September Nelson was playing in Milton Hershey’s 72-hole Hershey Open, which had a first prize of $1,200. Nelson’s first prize from the Masters win had been $1,500. He would later tell people that he used the $1,500 to stock his golf shop at the Reading Country Club. First prize at the U.S Open that year was $1,000 and $1,200 at the PGA Championship. The best was yet to come, later that month.

In the fourth week of September the golf professionals were in Massachusetts vying for the largest purse of the year, along with some amateurs. The Belmont Country Club was hosting the Belmont Open Match Play, with a purse of $12,000. That year the purses at the Masters, US Open and PGA had been $5,000, $6,000 and $9,200.

Even though the Philadelphia PGA Championship was less than seven days away, every Philadelphia golf professional who thought he could play a little was there, 16 of them. It seemed like everyone was there, 221 golf professionals and amateurs were entered. A 36-hole qualifying tournament was held for all entries with a cut to the low 150 players after round one. After 36 holes the low 64 qualified for match play.

The first two matches were 18 holes and the four after that were 36-hole matches. After seven days and 180 scheduled holes, Reading Country Club’s Byron Nelson and Hershey Country Club’s Henry Picard were in the final. At the end of 18 holes the match was even. In the afternoon there was a steady pelting rain, but it did not seem to bother Nelson who prevailed by the margin of 5&4. First prize was $3,000 which was double what Nelson had won at Augusta in April and Picard picked up a check for $2,000.

A golf Professional who left his mark on Eastern PA was the first president of the PGA!

A golf professional who left his mark on Eastern PA was the first president of the PGA!

One hundred years ago this April, the PGA of America was founded. In January 1916, seventy-five golf professionals and leading amateurs met in New York at Wanamaker’s Department Store, to explore forming a national organization of golf professionals. Philadelphia’s Rodman Wanamaker offered to put up the prize money for a championship of the organization, so the golf professionals agreed to give it a try.

On April 10, 1916 the pros met again and founded the Professional Golfers Association of America. There were 78 members spread out across the United States. The Philadelphia region was in one of the seven PGA Sections, which was called the Southeastern Section. An executive committee was formed with representatives from each PGA Section. This was based on the number of PGA members in each Section. The Philadelphia area was represented by; William Byrne (St. Davids GC), Wilfrid Reid (Wilmington CC) and James Thomson (Philadelphia CC).

In late June the PGA of America held its first annual meeting in Minneapolis, where the 1916 U.S. Open was being held at the Minikahda Club. The day after the tournament ended, the professionals met and elected officers. The president elect was Robert White.

White, Robert 5x (TGH)Robert W. White was born in St. Andrews, Scotland in 1874, and immigrated to Boston 20 years later. White held pro jobs in Boston, Cincinnati, Louisville and Chicago before landing at the Shawnee Inn & Country Club in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania in the fall of 1913.

His duties at Shawnee were Golf Professional and Head Greenkeeper (now called Golf Course Superintendent). The Worthington family, who had made their fortune in pumps, had hired A.W. Tillinghast to build the course in 1908. When White arrived at Shawnee, the course was in poor condition. The golf course property had been farm land for the Indians, who had been growing corn for many years, and did not know about crop rotation. While in Chicago, Robert White had been studying agronomy at the University of Wisconsin during the winters, so he was well prepared to solve the Shawnee problems.

At the end of 1914 White moved on to the North Shore CC on Long Island as the professional and green keeper. While at North Shore he also supervised the maintenance at 11 other golf courses.

When the PGA was founded in 1916; White with his knowledge of the golf business and being so well known among the golf professionals, was the right man to be the first president. He held the office for three years.

White was also instrumental in forming the MacGregor Golf Company in 1897. As the golf professional at the Myopia Hunt Club outside Boston, he was sweating away one day with rasps and files making a wooden head for a golf club. A man who was watching him announced that he could show him how to do that job in a few minutes. He took White to a factory in Lynn where they were shaping wooden shoe lasts (templates) with a machine. While later working in Cincinnati in 1897 White met the owners of the Crawford & Canby Company, which made wooden shoe lasts. White showed them how they could have a business making wooden heads for golf clubs. That led to the Crawford, McGregor & Canby Company. Later, to make it sound more Scottish, they added the letter “a” and called it the MacGregor Golf Company,.

White laid out numerous golf courses and was a founder of the American Society of Golf Course Architects. Some of the courses in the Delaware Valley by White are Berkleigh, Buck Hill, Skytop and Water Gap. He designed a course south of Reading in 1932 for a bootlegger, which is called Green Hills.

In the 1920s he laid out a couple of golf courses near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. That led him to start spending time there during the winters, and he began purchasing Myrtle Beach real estate. He later retired there.

Without ever winning a golf tournament or endorsing a piece of golf equipment Robert White, the first president of the PGA, became one of the wealthiest golf professionals in
the world.


A Philadelphia golf professional was the father of the PGA Merchandise Show!

A Philadelphia golf professional was the father of the PGA Merchandise Show!

Sprogell, Frank (TGH) (2)Johnny McDermott, Morrie Talman and Frank Sprogell all grew up on the same city block in West Philadelphia and were within a few years of each other in age. They were introduced to golf as caddies at the Aronimink Golf Club, which was then located near where they lived. McDermott went on to win back to back US Opens and Talman became the head professional at the Whitemarsh Valley Country Club where he held forth for 40 years.

Frank T. Sprogell was born in Philadelphia in 1895. He turned pro in 1913 to take a job as the assistant at the Pocono Pines Golf Club. The next year, he was the professional at Philmont Country Club, and from 1915 to 1916 he was the professional at Bon Air Country Club, which later changed its name to Llanerch CC. From there Sprogell moved to Tennessee, where he worked as a head professional. While in Memphis he won the Tennessee Open.

After that he was the professional at several well know golf clubs in Michigan, where he became involved in PGA affairs. For five years he was a PGA of America vice president, which is now called director. At the national meeting in late 1940 he was elected to the office of secretary, which he held for five years. At the same time, he was president of the Michigan PGA for eight years.

In 1957 Sprogell took on a new challenge when he was hired to be the golf professional and general manager at the PGA National Golf Club in Dunedin, Florida. He had noticed that for a few years the pro-golf salesmen had been displaying their wares on card tables in the parking lot during the Senior PGA Championship. That January, Sprogell rented a tent from Ringling Brothers Circus that was wintering in Sarasota. The tent was put up next to the club’s parking lot during the senior championship, and sold exhibit space to 50 golf salesmen and golf companies. The next year he rented a larger tent and then a second tent.

Under cover the show grew by leaps and bounds and came to be known as the PGA Merchandise Show. It became one of the PGA’s largest revenue producers. With the move of the PGA National Golf Club to Palm Beach Gardens, the show continued on in larger tents. From there it moved indoors to Disney World near Orlando. After that it was in Miami and then back to Orlando at its present home, the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. There is a demo day, where the golf professionals can try the newest golf equipment outdoors. For the next three days the latest golf merchandise is on display with salespeople on duty for the placing of orders at 1,100 booths. The show which is now televised by the Golf Channel will attract 40,000 people from the golf industry this January.

In 1998 the PGA of America sold the show, which still exists with the same name, for more than 100 million dollars. The golf show was the brainchild of Philadelphia’s Frank T. Sprogell, and he should he remembered as the “Father of the PGA Merchandise Show”.


A Philly man hit his first golf ball at age 23, won the US Am, and almost won the Masters!

A Philly man hit his first golf ball at age 23, won the US Am, and almost won the Masters!

Robert Henry “Skee” Riegel was born in 1914 in New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Upper Darby. He attended Harrisburg Academy, West Point, and Lafayette University before graduating from Hobart College. At Lafayette he captained both the football and baseball teams. An exceptional athlete, he could walk on his hands almost as well as he could on his feet.

At age 23 Riegel got married and honeymooned in Reno, Nevada. His wife Edith, a very good golfer, suggested that he take a golf lesson. After that first golf lesson, which was provided by the hotel chef who was substituting for the absent golf professional, Riegel attacked golf with a vengeance. When Skee began golf Edith quit. She said one golfer in the family was enough.

Skee and Edith moved to Southern California, where Skee played and practiced every day. Less than three years later, he was playing in the 1940 US Amateur, qualifying locally and on site. The next year he made the round of 16 in the tournament. A man who owned a golf course in Glendale gave Skee a membership so he could enter USGA tournaments. He never played a round of golf there.

When the United States declared war on Japan and Germany in late 1941, Skee was off to Florida to study at Emery Riddle University’s flight school in Miami. While in Miami, he won his first big tournament, the 1942 Florida State Amateur Championship. Riegel then joined the US Army Air Corp and taught flying during the war.

Riegel, Skee (TGH) (2)When the war ended, Skee rose to the top of amateur golf. In the 1946 US Amateur, which was played at Baltusrol Golf Club, he qualified for the match play with a score of 136, which set a record that stood for more than 30 years. The next year he won the US Amateur at Pebble Beach. He won the 1948 Western Amateur and the Trans-Mississippi Amateur in 1946 and 1948. As a member of the 1947 and 1949 Walker Cup teams, he never lost a match.

On the way home from the 1947 Walker Cup, which had been held at St. Andrews, Skee and Edith were having dinner with the ship’s captain. During dinner Skee shinnied up the smokestack. He said that everyone thought it was funny except Edith and the president of the USGA. After climbing back down to the floor, Skee exited the dining room and could not be found. Some feared that he might have jumped overboard, but he had just crawled into a lifeboat and gone to sleep.

In late 1949 at the age of 35, Skee turned pro. At the 1951 Masters Tournament it looked like he might be the winner when he finished with a six under par 282, but Ben Hogan who was playing well behind him put together a 68 for a 280 total. Skee finished second alone. That year he finished eighth on the PGA Tour money list.

After four years on the PGA Tour and now age 39, Skee returned to Philadelphia as the professional at the Radnor Valley Country Club. In late 1961, he left Radnor Valley for the opportunity to participate in the ownership of a new golf course in Bucks County called York Road Golf Club.

Skee played in 16 US Opens, 11 straight Masters Tournaments and 9 PGA Championships. He was not eligible for the PGA Championship until age 40. In those days only PGA members could play in that tournament and everyone had to complete a five year apprenticeship to become a PGA member. He finished second in the 1952 Insurance City Open. While at Radnor Valley, Skee won two Pennsylvania Opens and a Philadelphia Open. For fifteen years after leaving the PGA Tour, he returned to the tour in the winter months and continued to finish in the money quite often. Until late in life, Edith walked every hole of tournament golf that Skee played.

Skee was an expert on the rules of golf. He knew the rules as well or better than the people at the USGA, which makes the rules of golf. For more than 30 years he was rules chairman for the Philadelphia PGA. He was always the non-playing captain of the Section team that played matches against the Middle Atlantic PGA. He is a member of the Philadelphia PGA Hall of Fame and its Playing Legends.

Skee Riegel died in West Chester, Pennsylvania in 2009. Radnor Valley Country Club is going to unveil a plaque commemorating Skee’s golfing achievements in June.


The graphite golf shaft was created in a golf ball factory at Plymouth Meeting, PA!

The Graphite Golf Shaft Was Created in a Golf Ball Factory at Plymouth Meeting, PA!

The Plymouth Golf Ball Company was founded in 1916 in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. The company’s best known golf balls were the Stylist and Blue Goose. The company survived by manufacturing golf balls for other companies.

Shakespeare, headquartered in Kalamazoo, Michigan, purchased Plymouth Golf Ball In 1968. Shakespeare had been around since 1900 and was the leading maker of fiber glass fishing rods.

Fiber glass golf shafts had been marketed since 1954 by a California company named Golfcraft, but without much success. The Golfcraft shafts, which were composed of a steel rod and fiber glass, tended to flutter and shiver at impact, causing a loss of distance and accuracy.

Shakespeare had ventured into the golf equipment business in the 1940s, selling balls and clubs.

By 1962 Shakespeare thought they had solved the Golfcraft shaft problems and began producing clubs with their version of fiber glass shafts. These shafts, all fiber glass, were a slight improvement on the Golfcraft shaft. They were strong and didn’t flutter, but too heavy. Shakespeare produced a Black Knight model and paid Gary Player to play the clubs. Player represented Shakespeare but played with steel shafts painted black to resemble the fiber glass shafts.  By 1968 Shakespeare had given up on fiber glass for golf shafts.

In 1967 Shakespeare hired Frank W. Thomas, who had just graduated from Kalamazoo College with a BSC in mechanical engineering. Thomas was born in South Africa, where he played golf as a teenager. In 1963 he left his native country with a friend for the United States in a 25-foot sailboat. After several life threatening experiences they arrived in the States in 1964.

When Shakespeare purchased the Plymouth Golf Ball Company, Thomas was sent to its factory in Plymouth Meeting with the title of Sales Manager. Sales Manager may have been his title but it was not his job. The president of Shakespeare, who was frustrated with the fiber glass golf failures, told Thomas to spend every minute of his working day applying his golf and mechanical engineering knowledge toward making the best golf shaft possible.

About that same time True Temper, the leading manufacturer of steel golf shafts, had come out with an aluminum golf shaft, which was lighter than steel. That shaft had a brief spike of success when Arnold Palmer won the 1967 Los Angeles Open with aluminum shafts in his golf bag. The shaft was pretty good, but the better golfers did not like how it felt when they struck a golf shot. The aluminum shaft met its demise because the great golfers weren’t using them in tournament golf.

Thomas experimented with several materials until Union Carbide, a company that had been providing graphite fibers to NASA for the space industry, called on him. Graphite was expensive but it was 14 times stronger than steel at the same weight. Thomas had been working on the wrapping of various fibers into a golf shaft.  He impregnated the graphite fibers with epoxy, wrapped them around a steel rod, covered it with a cellophane sheath and then hung it in an oven to cure. After the epoxy had set the cellophane and the steel rod were removed. Now Thomas had a golf shaft that weighed half the weight of a steel shaft. When connected to a driver head it produced a club that weighed 12 ounces instead of the 13.5 ounces of a steel shafted driver. Some of that saved weight was added to the club head. The golf world now had a driver that could be longer in length with less overall weight. The end result was more club head speed.

Perla, Tony (TGH) (2)Gary Player and Don January tested the shafts. Thomas introduced the graphite shaft at the 1970 PGA Merchandise Show. Tony Perla, professional at Sunnybrook Golf Club and a two-time winner of the Pennsylvania Open, became Thomas’ local test pilot for the graphite shaft. Perla, the longest driver in the Philadelphia Section, was the perfect test for the shaft. With his power any flaws in the shaft were obvious.

Somehow due to the timing of Thomas’ introduction of the graphite shaft and application for patents Shakespeare never received a patent on the shaft. That was a blessing for the golfers. More than a dozen entities began working on graphite shafts. By 1974 several golf companies were offering clubs with graphite shafts. The only downside was the price of those golf clubs. A driver with a graphite shaft cost $100 to $120 opposed to $40 for a steel shafted driver.

Frank Thomas went on from there to spend 26 years as the Technical Director of the United States Golf Association, testing all new golf products for their compliance with the rules of golf.


Forty eight golf professionals came out of the East Falls Section of Philadelphia!

Forty eight golf professionals came out of the East Falls section of Philadelphia!

The Falls of Schuylkill, known as “East Falls”, is a little neighborhood in Philadelphia on the east bank of the Schuylkill River between Strawberry Mansion and Manayunk. In the 1890s seventy-five percent of the area’s workers were employed by Dobson’s, a weaving mill that had supplied blankets to the Union Army during the Civil War. Dobson’s had two classes of employees; English weavers and Irish laborers. In 1893 the Philadelphia Country Club constructed a golf course on its grounds a mile or so west of the Schuylkill near City Line Avenue. There was now a need for caddies, and golf was introduced to East Falls. Up until that time the Irish boys usually dropped out of school when they reached the age of 14 and went into the mill, but now there were caddy jobs and the parents were happy to get them out in the fresh air, away from the drinking in the mill.

It didn’t take long for some of the boys to become accomplished golfers. They chipped and putted in the caddy yard while awaiting employment, and they played the course on Mondays. By the early 1900s the boys from The Falls were becoming assistant pros, and within a few years they were being hired as head pros by the Philadelphia clubs.

At one point there were 48 young men holding positions as head pros or assistant pros who had lived in East Falls. Some became famous, and some were colorful characters.

Jack Burke, Sr (2)East Falls’ most famous golfer was Jack Burke, Sr. who worked at several Philadelphia clubs before moving west. Burke missed winning the 1920 U.S. Open by one stroke while working at the Town & Country Club in St. Paul, Minnesota. He went on to win the Senior PGA Championship in 1941. His son Jack Burke, Jr. won a PGA Championship and a Masters Tournament.

Another caddy graduate of East Falls was Joe Roseman, who went west to work for Burke and became a pro-green superintendent. Roseman also designed more than 50 golf courses, pioneered the use of complete underground watering systems, and in 1922 built a night-lighted par-three course. Elected in 1922, he was the Illinois PGA’s first president. Roseman invented and manufactured golf course mowers that were sold under the Roseman name. One of his inventions was a hollow mower roller to preserve the turf. Some golf courses are still using Roseman mowers and looking for parts on the Internet.

Bill Byrne, an East Falls caddy, turned pro at age 17 to work for the professional at the Philadelphia Country Club. While later serving as the head professional at Aronimink G.C., Overbrook G.C. and St. Davids G.C., he was a founder of the PGA of America and the Philadelphia PGA. He met a caddy named Johnny McDermott while working at Aronimink. Later McDermott would give Byrne credit for strengthening his game sufficiently to win the U.S. Open in 1911 and 1912.

A famous East Falls caddy who didn’t become a golf professional was John B. Kelly, Sr., the father of the actress Grace Kelly. Kelly won gold medals in rowing at the Olympics in both 1920 and 1924. Kelly became a successful business man and a power broker in Philadelphia. His brother George Kelly wrote a prize-winning play called “The Showoff” using Matt Duffy, one of those colorful caddies from East Falls, as his inspiration for the lead character.

For years the caddies from East Falls were always arguing about who was their best golfer, so in 1920 they decided to hold an East Falls Open. The tournament, 36 holes in one day, was only for golfers who lived in East Falls or had lived there. The Philadelphia Country Club hosted the tournament on a Monday and went on to host the first 17. The winner was Bill Leach who was the professional at Overbrook for 33 years. He would win three more East Falls Opens and in 1930 he finished second in the Miami Open to Gene Sarazen.

In September the East Falls Open, which is now called the East Falls Golf Championship, will be played for the 100th time.


Ben Hogan won his first PGA Tour event at the Hershey Country Club!

Ben Hogan won his first PGA Tour event at the Hershey Country Club!

Most golfers know that Ben Hogan won every major golf championship, along with many other titles. You probably have heard about how Hogan struggled for years to become a successful touring pro, but you may not know that his first win came at the Hershey Country Club.

Hogan, Ben-late 1930s (TGH) (2)In the early days of the PGA Tour Milton Hershey was making money selling chocolate, and was also a golfer who owned the Hershey CC. In 1933 he held the first Hershey Open at his course, which offered a purse of $1,500. The Hershey Open continued for the next four years, but in 1938 Mr. Hershey changed the format. He had his professional, Henry Picard, invite 16 golf professionals for a “round-robin” event composed of eight two-man teams.  It was seven 18-hole rounds, with each team playing a match against the other seven teams, one by one. All of the 16 invited professionals had wins on the PGA Tour except one, Ben Hogan. Mr. Hershey questioned Picard about inviting Hogan. Even though Hogan hadn’t won anything yet, Picard replied that he thought Hogan was going to be a great player.

All of the big name golfers were there, including Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, and Gene Sarazen. Hogan’s partner was Tommy Armour, who at the age of 42 may not have been up to 126 holes of competitive golf in four days. Hogan may have gotten lucky when Armour broke a bone in his hand and had to withdraw. Vic Ghezzi, who lived in New Jersey and had won the North & South Open earlier that year, was brought in at the last minute to team up with Hogan. Now Hogan and his partner were the youngest team in the event. The Hershey Country Club members held a Calcutta Auction the night before the tournament began, and the Hogan-Ghezzi team sold for less than all of the other teams, by a large amount.

One round was played on Thursday September 1, and two rounds were played on each of the next three days. In the first round the Hogan-Ghezzi team put together a twelve under par 61 (12 birdies and 6 pars) to defeat the team of Picard and Johnny Revolta by five holes. That put the winners at plus 5, and they never looked back. They led by nine points after the second day, and by eight after the third day. In the seventh and last round they beat Nelson and Ed Dudley five down. When it was all over Hogan and Ghezzi were plus 17 and 15 points ahead of the second place team of Sam Snead and Paul Runyan, who were plus 2. All of the other teams were at zero points or minus.

Hogan and Ghezzi played the 126 holes in 53 under par, and they each took home $550 from a total purse of $4,600. The total prize money at the U.S. Open that year was $5,800. In 1941 Hogan, on the recommendation of Henry Picard, became golf professional at the Hershey CC and Ghezzi won the PGA Championship.


Wanamaker’s was instrumental in starting the PGA of America!

Wanamaker’s was instrumental in starting the PGA of America!

The PGA came into being in 1916, but before that there were golf professional organizations in the major metropolitan regions of the United States. Many of the golf professionals who were transplants from the British Isles were interested in having a national organization like the British PGA they had belonged to.  At the same time there were concerns that the size of the United States would make a national PGA difficult to manage.

One of the early promoters of a United States PGA was Charles C. Worthington, who had made his money in water pumps. He purchased 8,000 acres in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania in 1903 where he built the Buckwood Inn. A golf course designed by A.W. Tillinghast came along later. Soon he was in the golf course mower business, as well. In 1912 Worthington held the first Shawnee Open for the professionals. Worthington tried his best to interest the golf professionals in forming a nationwide organization. He held meetings with them during his Shawnee Opens and even wrote a letter to some of them on the subject. The professionals would not make the commitment, but something happened in 1916 that brought the golf professionals together.

Wanamaker’s department store, which was founded in Philadelphia, had been a leading seller of golf equipment in the early 1900s. They imported clubs, balls and other golf items from Great Britain that they sold to the public at retail and to the golf professionals at wholesale. John Wanamaker and his son Rodman were members at Huntingdon Valley Country Club. The Wanamakers opened two stores in New York as well. Tom McNamara, an America born golf professional who had finished second in the U.S. Open three times, was Wanamaker’s golf expert and salesman.

1916-Wanamaker TrophyBy 1916 Wanamaker’s had been surpassed in golf equipment sales by A.G. Spalding & Bros., that had been created by a professional baseball pitcher named Albert Spalding. McNamara convinced his boss, Rodman Wanamaker, to help the professionals organize as it would be good for Wanamaker’s golf sales. On Monday January 17, 1916 McNamara, who knew all of the golf professionals, invited them to lunch at Wanamaker’s private restaurant in New York, the Taplow Club. Thirty-five golf professionals attended. Several of the leading professionals had misgivings as to the success of a national organization. Also some may have wished not to be beholden to Wanamaker’s, but when Rodman Wanamaker offered to put up the prize money for a championship along with a trophy, the professionals signed up.

At a meeting on April 10 in New York, the PGA of America was officially founded with 78 “Class A” members. At a later meeting of the PGA Executive Committee it was decided not to accept the Wanamaker money. Some of the professionals were complaining that when ordering from Wanamaker’s they were told that their order had been put on back-order, but at the same time Wanamaker’s had plenty of the product for sale at retail. As a later meeting they agreed once more to accept Wanamaker’s offer.

In October 1916 the first PGA Championship was played at the Siwanoy Country Club on Long Island. The winner was Whitemarsh Valley CC professional, Jim Barnes. The tournament was played with a match play format, because that is what Rodman Wanamaker wanted. The purse was $2,580 and $2,500 came from Wanamaker along with the perpetual trophy that was 28 inches tall and a gold medal for the winner. Wanamaker also paid the travel expenses for all of the 32 professionals that qualified for the tournament.

After a few years the PGA stopped accepting the Wanamaker money, but the Wanamaker Trophy still exists even though Walter Hagen lost it for a few years, but that’s another story. The winner’s name is engraved on the trophy each year.


The 1921 Philadelphia Open dates Were changed because of President Warren G. Harding!

The 1921 Philadelphia Open dates were changed because of President Warren G. Harding!

It was 1921 and the dates were all set for the country’s leading golf professionals to play four big golf tournaments from New York to Washington D.C., in just 15 days. The pros would start out at the Shawnee Open on July 14 and 15, go to Washington for the U.S. Open, travel by train to Whitemarsh Valley CC for the Philadelphia Open, which would be played the next two days, and finish up at the Metropolitan Open in New York on July 27 and 28.

The U.S. Open was being held at the Columbia CC, so the USGA decided to have President Warren G. Harding hit a drive from the first tee to kick off the tournament on the first day.  Qualifying for the tournament was to be held on site on July 18-19 with the tournament being played on Wednesday the 20th and Thursday the 21st.

In early July President Harding notified the USGA that he would not be available to open the tournament on the 18th but he could do it on the 19th. The USGA then moved the tournament dates back one day.

The U.S. Open was now going to end on Friday and the Philadelphia Open was being pushed onto a Saturday and Sunday at Whitemarsh Valley. The WVCC members came out against giving up their course for Saturday and Sunday. The Club had already hosted the Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia championship for five days in May and the Golf Association of Philadelphia men’s championship in June, which ended on a Saturday. They had now taken the Philadelphia Open on short notice when Pine Valley Golf Club, which was to have held it, had declined due to poor turf conditions.

Barnes, Jim (TGH) TTTAt the U.S. Open all of the 258 entries had to qualify. England’s Ted Ray, the defending champion, was not in the states. The field was divided with one half qualifying on Tuesday, and the other half on Wednesday. They played 18 holes and the low 40 plus ties each day were put into the starting field. 36 holes were played on Thursday and 36 again on Friday. Jim Barnes, who had been the professional at Whitemarsh Valley just four years before, put together a score of 289 that won by nine strokes over Walter Hagen and the host professional Fred McLeod. President Harding was on hand to present the trophy, along with Vice President Calvin Coolidge. That was a first, and has not happened since. First prize was $500 which was $50 less the top prize at the Shawnee Open.

The Philadelphia Open was played in August at WVCC. New York’s Willie Macfarlane, who would go on to win the 1925 U.S. Open, won by 13 strokes with a two-day total of 294. Whitemarsh Valley CC member Woody Platt finished second.


A doctor of veterinary medicine changed the golf industry!

A doctor of veterinary medicine changed the golf industry!

As a young man Joseph M. Braly lied about his age to join the Air Force, and served as a fighter pilot in World War II and the Korean War. After WWII he enrolled at Auburn University and bought a gas station in Auburn on the same day. At Auburn Braly earned degrees in aeronautical engineering and veterinary medicine.

After graduating from veterinary school in 1960 he moved to Lancaster and then Chester County, where he opened a small animal hospital. He joined the Kennett Square Golf & Country Club and as a golfer he became interested in the design of golf clubs.

In 1973 he designed the Console Sand Wedge, which had a wide concave sole and sold quite successfully. Soon after that he designed a golf club using titanium for the head, which was a first. In 1976 he created and patented a frequency-matching (FM) tool that revolutionized the steel golf shaft. The tool measured the flex in a shaft. With the shaft clamped in a vise the tip would be flipped and as it vibrated it would break a light beam which registered a reading. The stiffer the shaft the faster it vibrated and the higher the reading.

Before Joe Braly the golf shaft came in five flexes; from L for ladies to X for extra stiff. The tolerances for each flex were far from tight. The good golfers were able to sense that their irons did not all perform quite the same and had the ability to make adjustments for each club.

Braly came up with flex readings from1.0 to 9.9. A reading might be 6.1 or 7.6. Most golfers needed something from 5.0 to 8.0. Every time Dr. Braly tested a good players’ clubs, he would find several different flexes. He would ask the person which clubs he liked the best, and then he would reshaft all of the set with that flex.

Robertson, Tom 2The Ram Golf Company was the first to embrace Braly’s idea. Ram Golf salesman, Brian Doyle, recruited Tom Robertson, who was one of the best ball strikers in the Philadelphia PGA as a test pilot for the FM shaft. Braly was able to tell right away which shaft was the right one for Tom and whether his FM idea was any good. With the FM shafts in his bag Robertson qualified for the 1983 PGA Championship and the PGA of America Cup team for club professionals that traveled to Scotland to take on the British PGA club pros.

From there Dr. Braly took a tour-van out to the PGA Tour, which was also a new idea, to promote his invention. At the 1982 Western Open Braly reshafted Tom Weiskopf’s clubs and he went on to win that week. There were numerous success stories. Tom Watson was on the Ram Staff and used the FM system. Calvin Peete, the straightest driver on the PGA Tour, won all of his tournaments after switching to Ram and FM shafts. Other early disciples of frequency matching were Patty Sheehan and Jay Sigel. Today Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth use golf shafts based on Braly’s theories.

As a result of Joe Braly’s frequency matching idea the steel golf shaft is now offered by the shaft makers in many more flexes for each category, such as S100, S200, S300, S400 and S500. The Philadelphia pros and amateurs were always welcome at his lab. Some have called Braly the father of the modern steel shafted golf club. He died this past Memorial Day, 2015, at the age of 92 and was buried in Arlington Cemetery.

Ed Dougherty delivered his own Vietnam draft notice and wound up on the PGA Tour!

Ed Dougherty Delivered His Own Vietnam War Draft Notice and Wound Up on The PGA Tour!

After graduating from St. James Catholic High School Ed “Doc” Dougherty went to work at his local post office in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. One day while delivering the mail he had to deliver his own U.S. Army draft notice. Dougherty ended up in the Vietnam War launching mortars where he received a Purple Heart and earned two Bronze Stars for valor.

Dougherty was sent back to the states for duty at Fort Lewis, Washington. Having been a good high school pitcher, he volunteered for the baseball team. He was told baseball required too much time and as a Vietnam veteran he was needed for training soldiers who were headed overseas. The base also had a golf course, so Ed who had only played a couple of rounds of golf before, managed to figure out a way to play some golf.

Dougherty, Ed-75 S.C. TTTWhen Dougherty returned home as a civilian in 1969 a friend took him to Edgmont Country Club for a round of golf. Tiny Pedone, the golf professional and part owner, watched Ed hit a few golf balls and offered him a job running the practice range. A year later, through a Philadelphia connection, Ed landed a winter job at a golf course on St. Croix in the Virgin Islands working for golf professional Mike Reynolds. He was now able to work on his game 12 months a year. Under the tutelage of Reynolds, who had grown up playing golf at The Springhaven Club, Ed’s golf improved immensely.

In 1974 Dougherty became a PGA member and in March of 1975 he began playing the PGA Tour as a Monday qualifier. Most years he was able to earn enough money to stay exempt, but there were numerous interruptions due to elbow and shoulder injuries.

He played the PGA Tour until he was 50 and then joined the Senior PGA Tour. During his career he won many tournaments. Among those was a win on the PGA Tour, two on the Senior PGA Tour, the Philadelphia PGA Championship three times and a Philadelphia Open along with the 1985 PGA Club Professional Championship which is now called the PGA Professional National Championship.

Although not showing any symptoms, Dougherty was diagnosed with Agent Orange Leukemia in 2015, which is related to his time served in the Vietnam War. Dougherty was inducted into the Philadelphia PGA Hall of Fame in 2012.


Ed “Porky” Oliver tied for first at the 1940 U.S. Open and was disqualified!

Ed “Porky” Oliver Tied For First At The 1940 U.S. Open And Was Disqualified!

The 1940 United States Open was hosted by the Canterbury Golf Club near Cleveland OH. The tournament was played on June 6, 7 and 8. 1,181 professionals and amateurs paid the entry fee of $5 for a chance to be in the starting field of 165. For the first time in a U.S. Open the players were paired in threes.

In Thursday’s first round, Sam Snead, who was playing out of Shawnee-on-Delaware, posted a five under par 67. On Friday Snead got caught in a one-hour rain storm and shot a 74, but he still held a tie for the lead at 141, along with Horton Smith and Lawson Little.

On Saturday 36 holes were played to complete the 72-hole tournament. Journeyman Frank Walsh posted a 71 in the morning round to take a one-stroke lead with 18 holes to play. Snead and Little trailed by one stroke.

At that time the USGA, which runs the U.S. Open, did not pair the players by scores for the final rounds on Saturday, and of course the players were not re-paired after the morning round.

When some of the players arrived at the first tee to begin the final round after their lunch break there was no official starter at the tee. The sky was blackening from a threatening thunder storm and the scorecards were on the starter’s table. It was about 30 minutes before their designated starting times.

One of those was Wilmington, Delaware’s Ed “Porky” Oliver who had put together a 70 that morning, which put him at 216, just three strokes off a tie for the lead with Walsh. The other five were Dutch Harrison, Duke Gibson, Johnny Bulla, Ky Laffoon and Claude Harmon. Harrison stood at 218. The rest were out of contention with only the incentive to finish in the top 30, which would make them exempt for the 1941 US Open. Thirtieth place paid the last money of $30.

Oliver, Ed 2Oliver and five other players, all professionals, picked up their scorecards and teed off. Oliver was in the second group. After Oliver’s group had played their tee shots, someone mentioned that they might be pushing it by teeing off early. With that Oliver’s group waited until it was their time to begin their rounds before leaving the tee.

Soon after they began their rounds they were informed that they were facing disqualification for starting play before their tee times. They decided to continue on and play their rounds under protest.

Oliver proceeded to post a 71 for a total of 287. Snead shot an 81 and Walsh took 79 strokes. As Gene Sarazen was completing his first nine in 38, Little finished at 287. Sarazen came home in 34 to tie Little at 287. Oliver and the other five were disqualified. Sarazen and Little prevailed on the rules committee to rescind the disqualification and let Oliver take part in the playoff, but the USGA’s decision was final.

Grantland Rice, the dean of American sports writers, called the USGA’s decision to qualify the five golfers a travesty. He also penned that it was the worst run tournament in the history of the US Open.

Sarazen, who was 38 years old, told the press “I can beat both of them” but the next day Little won with a 70 against a 73 for Sarazen.

The Philadelphia Electric Co.’s golf pro was struck by lightning qualifying for the US Open!

The Philadelphia Electric Co.’s Golf Pro Was Struck By Lightning Qualifying For the US Open!

It was 1939 and the Philadelphia Country Club was hosting the United States Open in the second week of June. There were 1,201 entries for a starting field of 170. 29 players were exempt and the other 149 starters had to pass a 36-hole qualifying test at one of 32 sites in the USA. There was such a large entry in the Philadelphia region, that for the first time in U.S. Open history two courses were needed.

Qualifying in Philadelphia was held on the fourth Monday of May at St. Davids Golf Club and Overbrook Golf Club, which was then located near Philadelphia’s City Line Avenue. There were 171 players competing for 19 spots. One of those was 46-year old Walter Hagen, a two-time winner of the U.S. Open, who was trying for one more shot at his country’s championship. Half of the entries played St. Davids in the morning, and Overbrook in the afternoon, while the other half did the opposite.

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Fred Byrod wrote in the next day’s newspaper “A late afternoon storm brought torrents of rain and terrifying thunderbolts-thrusts of lightning.” Overbrook got the rain but St. Davids got the lightning. Philmont Country Club amateur Dick Allman was playing the 16th hole at SDGC when the storm hit. Allman had just played an iron shot to the green when he was struck by a lightning bolt. His hand was black and blue for several hours after that, but he finished and he qualified.

19 Turner, Ted 2 (TGH) 3At that same time Max Cross was on the 18th hole at SDGC. As he was playing his second shot to the green with an iron, he was also struck by lightning. Cross was carried into the clubhouse unconscious. He was revived and returned to the 18th green where he had an eight-foot putt for a birdie. If he made the birdie putt he would qualify, and if he two-putted he would be in a playoff for the last four spots, but he took three putts. Ironically he was the professional at the Philadelphia Electric Company’s McCall Field Golf Course.

Pine Valley Golf Club’s playing professional Ted Turner finished just before the storm arrived with rounds of 72 at SDGC and 69 at Overbrook. He was medalist by three strokes. Hagen who was paired with Lawson Little failed to qualify. Little missed qualifying also, but one year later he won the U.S. Open.

Because of what happened at St. Davids with the lightning, the USGA had a fire truck stationed at the Philadelphia Country Club for the U.S. Open. The truck’s siren was used to warn the golfers of approaching thunder storms.

Big money purses in 1915 could be a dilemma for the golf professionals!

Big Money Purses Could Be A Dilemma For The Golf Professionals!

In 1915 (one year before the PGA of America was founded), the summer was filled with tournaments for the golf professionals. For a stretch of eight weeks there were tournaments offering decent to exceptional money. To make matters worse, the USGA in an attempt to lure the great foreign professionals, had moved the U.S. Open from late August to June right after the Shawnee Open.

Along with that the Metropolitan, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and the Western Opens were also played one right after another. At that time the state Opens were open to any professional who wished to enter. In order to attract some of the better players who were in the East competing in the U.S. Open, Shawnee Open and Met Open the Massachusetts Open tripled its purse and the Connecticut Open made its tournament the best ever.

This created problems for the golf professionals, maybe good ones, as they all were working at golf facilities. None of them could be away for eight summer weeks. Decisions had to be made as to where to play and when to be at their clubs.

Nicholls, Gil TTTThe Philadelphia professionals had a busy summer. Wilmington Country Club’s Gil Nicholls won the Met Open for a second time along with the Shawnee Open, where Walter Hagen was second, and he finished sixth at the Western Open in Chicago. Pocono Manor’s Eddie Loos lost the Pennsylvania Open in an 18-hole playoff to North Jersey’s Tom Anderson. Boston’s Tom McNamara won the Philadelphia Open, as Whitemarsh Valley’s Jim Barnes and Philmont’s Charlie Hoffner tied for second. Barnes finished seventh at the Western Open, where he was the defending champion and won the Connecticut Open later in the summer.

By 1922 the amateur golf leaders had become concerned about the purses being offered for professional golf tournaments and exhibitions. On November 12 the USGA issued a statement which the New York Times reported. “While the USGA has no desire to hinder or hamper any professional from competing in prize money tournaments or from earning money to the limit of his ability, nevertheless the present officials feel that if the practice now in vogue is not checked, great harm will be done in creating a class of professional players who will devote their time and attention in attending tournaments.”

In spite of the fears of some people the PGA Tour was taking form and who could have imagined the PGA Tour of today.

There was a black member of the PGA of America before Charlie Sifford!

There Was a Black Member of the PGA of America Before Charlie Sifford!

Before Charlie Sifford, before Pete Brown and before Lee Elder there was a PGA member of African descent named Dewey Brown.

Brown, Dewey (TGH) (2)Dewey Brown was born in North Carolina in 1898 and grew up in New Jersey. He was introduced to golf as a caddy at the Madison Golf Club. Before long he was working on the golf course mowing fairways behind a horse drawn mower for $1 a day.

By the age of 18 he was an accomplished golfer and had become interested in club making. He began working under the golf professional at the Morris County Country Club as a club maker. He must have learned quickly as he made a set of clubs for Chick Evans that Evans used to win the 1916 U.S. Amateur at Merion Golf Club.  Brown later made a set of clubs for United States President Warren G. Harding.

In 1918 Shawnee Inn & Country Club professional Willie Norton hired Brown as his assistant. At Shawnee Brown gave many golf lessons. During the winter months he would return to New Jersey and work for Baltusrol Golf Club professional George Low teaching indoors and making golf clubs.

At one point Brown left Shawnee to buy a farm but he returned in 1925 and stayed on for another 12 years. In 1928 he became a member of the PGA of America but in 1934 the PGA inserted a clause in its by-laws stating that the members had to be Caucasians. His membership in the PGA was terminated.

He left Shawnee in 1937 to manage clubs in New Jersey and New York, but in 1946 he returned to Shawnee one more time. Fred Waring, the famous bandleader, had bought Shawnee and hired Brown to be his hotel manager. He did not stay long as a new opportunity beckoned. He bought the Cedar River House & Golf Club in Indian Lake, New York. By then he was certainly qualified to own an inn and golf club. Brown managed the hotel and was the golf professional as well. Eleven years after buying the Cedar River House he joined the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

When the PGA eliminated the “Caucasian Only” clause from its by-laws in 1962 Brown applied for reinstatement. A couple of years later he was a “Class A” PGA member again.

When Dewey Brown retired in 1972 one of his son’s took over the business. Brown died in 1973 and is buried in Indian Lake Cemetery which is across the road from his Cedar River Golf Club. Some golf historians have referred to him as one of America’s golf pioneers.

A Philadelphia PGA club pro may have been the victim of an Augusta National ruling!

A Philadelphia PGA Club Pro May Have Been the Victim of an Augusta National Ruling!

The fifth Masters Tournament kicked off on Friday April 1, 1938. The schedule called for one round on Friday, one round on Saturday and 36 holes on Sunday. There were five professionals from the Philadelphia Section in the starting field.

Serafin, Felix 2 TTTOne of those was Felix Serafin, the head professional at the Country Club of Scranton. Serafin was in the fourth pairing of the day at 12:45. With a field of only 44 players the first starting time was 12:30.

Within a couple holes of Serafin’s start it began to rain. Serafin finished the first nine with a four under par 32 and with rain continuing to fall Serafin made it to five under par at some point on the back nine. When Bobby Jones, the president of Augusta National, had to hole a putt from the back of the first green for a bogey 5 play was stopped and the golfers were called in off the course. The first round was then called a “Rain Out”. In those days when the full field could not complete a round due to weather all scores for that day were just “Washed Out”.

In 1938 communications and scoreboards for golf tournaments were not what they were later. On Saturday the New York Times reported Serafin being four under par on the front nine but losing strokes on the second nine. The next day the newspaper corrected its article and gave Serafin credit for his fine play. One thing that everyone knew was that Serafin was well ahead of the rest of the field when play was stopped.

Serafin wasn’t an unknown or he would not have been invited to the Masters. Along with other victories he had already finished second in the 1935 North & South Open and won the Pennsylvania Open twice. During his career he played in 11 U.S. Opens, 8 Masters Tournaments and 6 PGA Championships.

With a Monday finish, Hershey Country Club head professional, Henry Picard won by two strokes with a three under par 285. Serafin put together a 291 total and tied for sixth with the host professional Ed Dudley, who was also the professional at the Philadelphia Country Club at the same time. First prize was $1,500. Serafin and Dudley each won $275.

The PGA Tour pros played with 16 clubs during World War II!

The PGA Tour pros played with 16 clubs during World War II!

When the USGA declared that the long putter could no longer be anchored to the body as of January 1, 2016 there was an outcry from PGA Tour professionals who use that style to make a living.  A significant topic of discussion was the separation of rules, the Tour’s having their own set, with some difference from the USGA/R&A rules of golf.

This has happened before. In 1938 the USGA, for the first time, had imposed a limit of 14 clubs a golfer could use in a stipulated round. When World War II broke out the PGA Tour was faced with a depletion of competent playing pros. To keep the public interested in its tournaments, the PGA’s touring professionals voted to allow the players to carry 16 clubs. It was felt that with 16 clubs they would be able to show the spectators a wider variety of golf shots. (They also played “Preferred Lies” due to poor turf condition.)

Over the years the PGA Tour differed and deviated from the USGA over several other rules like; the stymie, cleaning the ball on the green, how to play preferred lies, embedded ball rule, method for marking balls on the greens and grooves on irons.

Dudley, Ed TTTIn January 1946 Ed Dudley, the president of the PGA of America and the pro at the Augusta National Golf Club, received a letter from the United States Golf Association informing the PGA that is was time to begin playing by the “Rules of Golf” again. Dudley fired a letter back stating that his organization had no apology to make. He stated that the PGA ran over 40 tournaments a year on the PGA Tour in all kinds of weather and course conditions. He also pointed out that the USGA only sponsored one tournament a year in which professionals compete and that was in the summer under favorable conditions.

In May 1946 at the Western Open Sam Snead disqualified himself after shooting a first round 69 with 16 clubs when he discovered that the tournament was being played under USGA rules and a 14 club limit.

It was not until the 1947 Masters Tournament that the PGA Tour returned to playing with a maximum of 14 clubs and most other USGA Rules.

A Philadelphia golf pro motivated the USGA to keep the stymie rule for another 30 years!

“Did You Know”
A Philadelphia Golf Pro Motivated the USGA to Keep the Stymie Rule for Another 30 Years!

When golf came to the United States in the late 1800s the neophyte golfers did their best to adhere to the rules of St. Andrews. One of those rules was the stymie which had been a rule in Scotland for almost 300 years. At some point in the 1800s the rule was redefined to state that the stymie was only for match play when there was just one ball in play to each side.

The stymie rule was: That on the green the two golf balls had to remain in place unless they lay within six inches of each other. The golfer who was away, had to either play around or over the intervening ball. If the stymied player moved the other ball while playing his stroke the opponent could either replace the ball or play the ball from its new position. If the ball had ended up in the hole the player was deemed to have holed out with his previous stroke. To assist in measuring stymies the scorecards were six inches in length.

Most golfers were of the opinion that the rule was unfair and a matter of luck. In 1920 the USGA softened the rule a bit. With the new version the golfer who was stymied could concede the next stroke to an opponent who had laid the stymie. Thus, if an opponent’s ball was close to the hole it might be best to concede the next stroke rather than be stymied.

Kirkwood, Joe Sr. TTTThe next year (1921) the Western Golf Association abandoned the stymie rule completely. Sometime during that year the president of the USGA, Howard Whitney, met up with Joe Kirkwood, Sr., who was the greatest golf trick shot artist of all time. (Kirkwood was a longtime resident of Glenside, Pennsylvania and the professional at the Huntingdon Valley Country Club from 1938 to 1949.) Whitney watched Kirkwood demonstrate the art of negotiating a stymie. Upon witnessing that exhibition, Whitney decided that the stymie was an important part of golf.

At a meeting of the USGA at Pine Valley Golf Club in April 1922 the stymie was returned to the rules of golf as it was before 1920. The USGA and the R&A were once again in complete agreement on the stymie rule.

In 1938 the USGA modified the stymie rule again. If the obstructing ball lay within six inches of the hole the stymied golfer could ask to have the ball marked. During all of these changes by the USGA the R&A never altered its interpretation of the rule in any way.

In 1944 the PGA of America stopped using the stymie in its championship and many other golf organizations were simply ignoring the rule. In 1952, 30 years after Kirkwood had influenced its continued life in the USA, the stymie was removed from the rules of golf.

A Philadelphia golfer’s connection to the movie “Caddy Shack”!

A Philadelphia Golfer’s Connection to the movie “Caddyshack”!

Harold “Reds” Ridgely was born in Philadelphia in 1913. He grew up next to the Brookline Square Club in Havertown where he learned to play golf as a caddy. When the Brookline Square Club closed in 1927, he caddied at Merion GC, Paxon Hollow CC and the Main Line GC. Ridgely was runner-up in the 1957 British Amateur; and later played an important role in what may be your favorite golf movie.

When the U.S. Open was played at Merion in 1934, Ridgely caddied for Harry Cooper.  At the same time he was playing golf anywhere he could.  By the late 1930s he was in money matches against the best golfers in Philadelphia, like Billy Hyndman and George Fazio. In 1942 he was drafted into military service, and ended up in the Army Air Force as the tail-gunner on a B-17. He was stationed in England and on his 23rd mission his plane was shot down over Germany. He parachuted from the plane and was captured, spending the rest of World War II in a POW camp.

Back home in 1945, he was sent to a hospital in Atlantic City for rehabilitation. That summer he won the Bright Memorial Tournament at Wildwood and reenlisted in the Army.  His golf continued to improve. In 1951 Ridgely entered the U.S. Open and made it through qualifying at Llanerch. For some reason, he gave up his spot in the tournament to the first alternate, Henry Williams, Jr.

Ridgely was sent back to England where he set course records at various clubs, along with winning military and local tournaments.  In 1953 he entered the British Amateur, winning three matches, and the following year he lost in the fifth round to the great Joe Carr.  In 1957 Ridgely made it to the finals of the British Amateur, losing to Reid Jack, 2 & 1. He made one more run at the Amateur title in 1959, where he lost to his old friend Billy Hyndman in the fifth round. Ridgely had caddied for Hyndman at Merion 26 years before in the 1933 Pennsylvania Amateur, and now they were playing each other 3,500 miles from home. A year later he was back in the states and stationed at Andrews Air Force Base. That year he won the 1960 Maryland State Amateur Championship.

After retiring from the military, Ridgely worked one year as an assistant to Ken Gibson at Indian Spring Golf Club in New Jersey before moving to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where he joined the Rolling Hills Country Club. The movie “Caddyshack” was filmed at Rolling Hills in 1980. Rodney Dangerfield starred in the movie. He was a good actor, but he was not a golfer. Any golf shots by Dangerfield seen in “Caddyshack” were played by Harold “Reds” Ridgely.

Once upon a time the USGA let the air out of the golf ball!

Once Upon a Time the USGA Let the Air Out of the Golf Ball! 

Ever since 1902 when Laurie Aucterlonie became the first to win a U.S. Open with four rounds in the 70s the USGA has been concerned with the distance a well struck golf ball can travel. Aucterlonie had won the tournament playing the new Haskel wound rubber golf ball which was much longer than the gutta percha ball. Until 1920 a golf ball could be any size and weight, but that year the USGA announced that the golf ball could be no less than 1.62 inches in diameter and not more than 1.62 ounces in weight.

In spite of the standardization of the ball the manufacturers continued to find ways to make a golf ball go farther. In 1924 the USGA invited some good players like the U.S. Amateur champion Max Marston to test various golf ball designs at Jekyll Island, Georgia. (Jekyll Island was also where secret meetings were held in 1910 that created the Federal Reserve System.)

It took seven years but the USGA was ready with mandatory changes in the golf ball for 1931. The new regulations called for a larger and lighter ball. The golf ball now had to be at least 1.68 inches in diameter and no more than 1.55 ounces.

3-Dudley, Ed 4 TTTEd Dudley, who was in his third year as the professional at the Concord Country Club must have liked the new ball. He had a great year, winning the Los Angeles Open and the Western Open along with having the lowest scoring average on the PGA Tour. The ladies liked it because of being lighter it sat up better on the turf which made it easier to play with fairway woods but most golfers didn’t like the ball. The lighter ball was difficult to control in the wind. Also at times the ball would not stay in place on the greens when it was windy. Some frustrated golfers referred to it as the “Balloon Ball”.

On September 15 of that same year the USGA pulled the plug on those ball specifications. New standards were put in place. The 1.68 inch size stayed but the ball could now weigh up to 1.62 ounces. The golf ball manufacturers are still required to go by those regulations today.

The origin of the trophy for the first Philadelphia PGA Championship!

The Origin of the Trophy for the First Philadelphia PGA Championship!

In June of 1922 the Evening Public Ledger newspaper donated a perpetual trophy for the newly formed Philadelphia PGA’s first Section Championship. Percy Sanderson who wrote golf for the newspaper under the byline of “Sandy McNiblick” and his boss Robert Maxwell, who was the newspaper’s sports editor were responsible for the gift of the trophy to the Section.

SandersonFourteen days after that first Philadelphia PGA Championship was played Sanderson and Maxwell were critically injured in an automobile accident west of Norristown near Betzwood. Early on a Sunday morning they had come upon a car stalled in the road. Maxwell was driving. Fearing a holdup he swerved around the car and ran head-on into a truck loaded with boy scouts heading back to Valley Forge Park from a dance. Three other passengers in the car were also injured. Maxwell had seven fractured ribs and a dislocated hip. Sanderson who was in the back seat with his wife and another lady was injured the worst with a fractured skull and concussion. Everyone suffered injuries of some sort. Sanderson’s wife was a duchess who he had married while in Europe during World War I. All five occupants of the car were taken to the Montgomery County Hospital in Norristown.

Within a few days Maxwell had contracted pneumonia and lost consciousness. He died on Friday June 30. He was 38 years old. Sanderson survived and eventually returned to work. Jim Barnes and three other golf professionals played an exhibition in October, 1922 to help Sanderson, an honorary member of the Philadelphia PGA, pay his hospital bills.

This is the same Robert “Tiny” Maxwell that the Maxwell Club was created for in 1937. Maxwell had been an All-American football player at the University of Chicago and Swarthmore College. As well as being a sports editor he was a leading college football official at the time of his death. Each year trophies are awarded by the Maxwell Club to the best football players and coaches from all levels of football. In 1974 Maxwell was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

Johnny McDermott gambled to double his prize!

Johnny McDermott gambled to double his prize money at the 1911 U.S. Open!

Most people know that Philadelphia’s Johnny McDermott won the 1911 U.S. Open in a three-way playoff at the Chicago Golf Club. On Saturday, June 24, McDermott finished the 72 holes in a tie with Mike Brady and George Simpson for the title, with a total of 307.  Because of the “Blue Laws” the playoff was not held until Monday. It is well known that McDermott won the playoff, becoming the first American born golfer to win the U.S. Open, and also the youngest, but here is the rest of the story.

1911 Colonel golf ball-Aug (AmG)Before the playoff began, a representative from the St. Mungo Mfg. Co. told the three players that the company would match the $300 first place prize if the winner was playing one of their Colonel golf balls.  McDermott agreed to change from the Rawlings Black Circle ball to a Colonel ball.  On the first hole McDermott’s first two tee shots were out-of-bounds. With his third tee shot he made a birdie four for a score of six. The out-of-bounds penalty at that time was loss of distance only.  McDermott also made a bogey on the third hole, but when he holed a short putt for a birdie four on the last hole, he was the United States Open champion and $600 to the better.

The state of PA erected a historical marker for 2-time US Open winner Johnny McDermott!

The state of PA erected a historical marker for Johnny McDermott, a two time US Open winner!

On Thursday October 9, 2014 the state of Pennsylvania erected a historical marker in memory of John J. “Johnny” McDermott. The marker was placed at 1201 South 51st Street, in front of the Kingsessing Library, the neighborhood where McDermott grew up. McDermott is the first golfer in Pennsylvania to be remembered with a historical marker.

2014 Oct 9-McDermott Marker TTTWhen Johnny McDermott won the U.S. Open at the Chicago Golf Club in 1911 he was the first American born golfer to win our Open and also at age 19 the youngest; a distinction he still holds today.  In 1912 he defended his title at the Country Club of Buffalo by winning the tournament again. Having lost the 1910 U.S. Open in a playoff, McDermott had come within one stroke of winning the tournament three straight years. Only five others have won two consecutive U.S. Opens.

McDermott was born on August 12, 1889 and grew up on Florence Avenue in West Philadelphia. He learned to play golf as a caddy at the Aronimink Golf Club, which was then located at 52nd Street and Chester Avenue. Along with winning two U.S. Opens, McDermott also won the Western Open, Shawnee Open and three Philadelphia Opens. He accomplished all of that in four years.

In October of 1914 McDermott suffered a mental breakdown blacking out and collapsing in the golf shop at the Atlantic City Country Club where he was the head professional.  He was taken to Philadelphia and put in the care of his parents. At the age of 25 his golf career was over. He spent the rest of his life in the Norristown State Hospital for the Mentally Insane. He died on August 1, 1971, just a few weeks after watching Lee Trevino and Jack Nicklaus play off for the U.S. Open title at Merion Golf Club.

It may not be possible to be over golfed!

It May Not Be Possible To Be Over Golfed!

On May 25, 1921 an American team of 12 golf professionals left New York on the Aquitania and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to oppose a team of golf professionals from Great Britain. The match was played at the Gleneagles Hotel. There were other tournaments and exhibitions for the professionals to play in but the main purpose of the trip was to bring the British Open’s Claret Jug back to the United States.

On the 7th of June the American team was soundly defeated as they played foursome matches in the morning and singles in the afternoon.

The next day the 2,000 Guineas Tournament kicked off, which was also being played at Gleneagles. The contestants played 27 holes on June 8th and 27 holes on the 9th to qualify for sixteen places in a match play format.  Jock Hutchison qualified but lost to Abe Mitchell in the first round in spite of being four up after the first four holes.

Mehlhorn-1967 Aug TTTBill Mehlhorn, who was later the professional at Brandywine Country Club, was also a member of the team and rooming with Hutchison. After losing, Hutchison said to Mehlhorn who had failed to qualify “Let’s go over to St. Andrews and play a practice round for the British Open”. Off they went by cab to The Old Course. Even though Hutchison had grown up at St. Andrews and had played 18 holes of tournament golf that day they went 36 holes.

On June 14 and 15 Hutchison won a 36-hole tournament in London at the Kinghorn Fife Links. He put together a 74 and a 64 to win by three strokes.

On June 18 Hutchison and James Braid defeated J.H. Taylor and Joe Kirkwood in a featured match at St. Andrews.

1921 Some of Pre Ryder Cup Team TTTQualifying for the British Open was on June 21 and 22 with 18 holes each day. Even the defending champion (known as the holder in Great Britain) had to qualify. The British Open was played on June 23, 24 and 25 with 18 holes each of the first two days and 36 holes on the third day. Hutchison posted a score of 296 and was tied for the title with Roger Wethered, an amateur. The next day Hutchison won a 36-hole playoff by nine strokes with a 150 total. First prize was 75 British Pounds. Mehlhorn tied for 16th.

Hutchison and Mehlhorn did quite well considering that the two of them were sleeping in one bed. They were on a tight budget having been allotted $1,000 apiece by Golf Illustrated magazine, which sponsored the team’s round trip to Scotland.

From what this writer can find Hutchison played 17 competitive rounds plus at least 8 practice rounds in 20 days and won two important tournaments.

A match between American and British golf professionals was played in 1921!

A Match Between American and British Golf Professionals Was Played in 1921!

A forerunner to the Ryder Cup was played in June of 1921. A golf magazine called Golf Illustrated sponsored the match, which was played in Scotland. The magazine solicited money from its readers and the PGA professionals at the various clubs around the country assisted with the funding by collecting donations from their members. The golfers were asked to each donate $1. Enough money had to be raised to pay the expenses for the team members to make the overseas trip for the match and the British Open.

Twelve American golf professionals, which were chosen by the PGA of America, were selected to oppose twelve golf professionals from Great Britain.  The members of the American team had to be native born or naturalized citizens. The match was played in Scotland and hosted by the Gleneagles Golf Club. Six members of the American team had been born in either Scotland or England.

1921 Pre Ryder Cup Team (3)Five members of the American team had connections to clubs that would make up the Philadelphia PGA later that year. They were Charlie Hoffner, Wilfrid Reid, Clarence Hackney, Jim Barnes and Emmett French.

Hoffner was the professional at Philmont Country Club and would win the first Philadelphia PGA Championship one year later. Because Hoffner was born and spent his whole career here the old Philadelphia golfers used to refer to him as the “Ryder Cupper”, which was not exactly true but nice.

Reid was the professional at Wilmington Country Club and Hackney was the Atlantic City Country Club professional. Barnes had been the professional at Whitemarsh Valley Country Club from 1914 to 1917 and had won the first two PGA Championships. French had learned to play golf while working in the locker room at Merion Cricket Club (later Merion Golf Club) as a boy and then had been the professional at the Country Club of York form 1914 to 1920. French was the captain of the team. Another member of the team, Bill Mehlhorn, would later be the professional at the Brandywine Country Club in 1947 and 1948.

The other members of the U.S. team were Walter Hagen, Jock Hutchison, Fred McLeod, George McLean, Tom Kerrigan and J. Douglas Edgar.

As it turned out two American team members were not able to play. Barnes had a case of neuritis and J. Douglas Edgar was not allowed to play because he had not yet become a United States citizen. (Edgar was only selected at the last minute when one of the team could not make the trip. Maybe he was selected because he was in New York and on the way to the British Open. He was a worthy pick as he had won the 1919 Canadian Open by 16 strokes. ) Due to that it was ten against ten. They played five foresome (alternate strokes) matches in the morning and ten singles in the afternoon. The British team won 10-1/2 of the 15 points. The Philadelphia players won two and one-half of the points.

Jock Hutchison, a transplanted Scot from St. Andrews, won the British Open at St. Andrews’ Old Course two weeks later.

The Ryder Cup, which was first played in 1927, is back in Scotland and at Gleneagles this month. One difference is that the 1921 match took place on the Kings Course and this year’s match will be played on the relative new PGA Centenary Course.

What happened to Byron Nelson’s tee shot on the 70th hole at the Hershey Open?

What Happened to Byron Nelson’s Tee Shot on the 70th Hole at the Hershey Open?

1940 PGA Hershey & Nelson xIt was September 1939 and Reading Country Club professional Byron Nelson was playing in the 72-hole Hershey Open. Late in the final round Nelson was in contention needing to play the last three holes in one under par to tie Scranton Country Club’s professional Felix Serafin for the top prize. On the 70th hole Nelson’s tee shot was just off the fairway but could not be found. He returned to the tee and with a two stroke penalty for the lost ball made a double bogey. Serafin won with a total of 284. Ben Hogan and Jimmie Hines tied for second at 286 and Nelson finished fourth at 287. Serafin’s victory was worth $1,250. Hogan and Hines each won $650.

Here is the rest of the story. A man who had attended the tournament with a lady friend was on a train returning to New York. Sometime during the return trip the lady reached into her handbag and produced a golf ball. The man knew right away that it was Nelson’s golf ball. He sent a letter to Nelson explaining what had happened and enclosed a check for the difference between what he won and the amount that he would have won if he had finished alone in second place at 285.

The PGA built a practice green for President Eisenhower!

The PGA Built a Practice Green for President Eisenhower!

 In the late summer of 1955 Reading Country Club professional Henry Poe, who was president of the Philadelphia Section PGA, received a telephone call from Harry Moffitt, the president of the PGA of America. Harry Moffitt asked Poe if Reading was anywhere near Gettysburg. He told Poe that the PGA wanted to build a putting green for President Eisenhower at his Gettysburg farm. Poe then called on the green superintendents from the Country Club of York and the Lancaster Country Club to ask for their help. They assisted Poe in designing and building a 9,000 square foot green with an approach for chipping.

1955 Ike's green x (TGH)By the time the green was completed it was getting late in the year. Poe didn’t want the President to wait nine months for a seeded green to grow in but he didn’t have the proper sod. Poe then received a telephone call from Eugene Grace, the president of Bethlehem Steel. He said I understand that you are building a putting green for President Eisenhower. Grace said that Bethlehem Steel, which owned the Saucon Valley Country Club, would like to donate the sod. Their men would install it at no charge but they couldn’t get there until the next day. The only stipulation was that the PGA couldn’t tell anyone who had provided the sod. One of the major golf course equipment companies donated the mowers. The construction of the putting green turned out to be timely. President Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in September and spent seven weeks in the hospital. After leaving the hospital on November 11 he went to his Gettysburg farm to recuperate. His heart specialist reported that it was quite likely that the President would eventually get back to regular rounds of golf and hopefully he would be able to get in some practice on his new putting green before the end of the year. Three months later he announced that he was running for reelection and in November he was elected for a second term.

If you visit Gettysburg and the Eisenhower Farm, and it is a very worthwhile trip, you won’t see the green that the PGA built. When President Eisenhower died in 1969 Mrs. Eisenhower had the green removed because it reminded her of how bored she always was, watching Ike practice his chipping and putting for hour after hour on that green.

A small grassed over mound with a flagstick, which is a poor excuse for a golf green, was put there after Mrs. Eisenhower died in an attempt to show the farm as it was when the President of the United States lived there. Much to the PGA of America’s regret each tour guide tells the visitors to the farm that the green was a gift to President Eisenhower from the PGA of America.

Babe Didrikson played in the 1937 True Temper Open at Whitemarsh!

Babe Didrikson Played in the 1937 True Temper Open at Whitemarsh!

The American Fork & Hoe Company, manufacturer of the True Temper golf shaft, and the Philadelphia PGA co-sponsored the True Temper Open in June of 1937. Along with the professionals from the Philadelphia Section there was a strong contingent of male professionals from other regions entered.

Didrikson, BabeFor what was a first in American men’s professional golf two women were entered as well. The two women professionals were Mildred “Babe” Didrikson (later Zaharias) and Betty Hicks. Didrikson, the star of the 1932 Olympics, was not a polished golfer yet as she had only begun playing golf in 1935. The ladies were not a factor other than being in the starting field. Seven months later Didrikson played in the Los Angeles Open on the PGA Tour. Most records cite the 1938 L.A. Open as the first time a female competed against males in a PGA tournament, but it actually took place during 1937 in Philadelphia.

At that time there were very few tournaments for female golf professionals but with the help of Wilson Sporting Goods the LPGA was formed in 1947 with Didrikson, now Zaharias, a founding member.

Harry Cooper, a Texan playing out of Chicago and one of the greatest golfers to never win a major championship, shot a 30 on the last nine for an eight under par 280 and a two shot victory. First prize from the $4,000 purse was $900. The low professionals from the Philadelphia PGA were Jack Patroni and Jimmy Thomson. Patroni, the head professional at the Shawnee Country Club, tied for seventh at 288 and Thomson, the playing professional from Shawnee, finished eleventh with a total of 290.

Dick Sleichter might have defeated Dow Finsterwald except for his honesty!

Dick Sleichter Might Have Defeated Dow Finsterwald Except For His Honesty!

In 1957 the last PGA Championship contested at match play was held in Dayton, Ohio at the Miami Valley Country Club. Nine of the 128 professionals in the starting field were from the Philadelphia PGA.

Sleichter, Dick 3 (TGH)One of those was Gettysburg Country Club professional Dick Sleichter who met Dow Finsterwald in the first round. After 16 holes the match was all square. On the par three 17th hole both players were on the green with their shots from the tee. When they arrived at the green they realized that Sleichter’s ball had spun back into its pitch mark. At that time the golfers were not allowed to repair pitch marks before putting. Sleichter thought that when he struck the ball with his putter it would jump up from the indentation and then roll toward the hole. What happened was that the ball popped straight up and Sleichter’s putter struck the ball a second time. Only Sleichter knew that he had hit the ball twice and he promptly reported it to Finsterwald. Finsterwald two putted for a par to win the hole and when they halved the 18th hole Finsterwald moved on to the second round eventually losing to Lionel Hebert in the final.

Later that year Sleichter won the Philadelphia Section Championship and the next year when the PGA Championship was changed to stroke play Finsterwald won the tournament at Llanerch Country Club.


Philadelphia Section professionals dominated the Canadian Open!

Philadelphia Section Professionals Dominated the Canadian Open!

PPGA Crest 1920sThe Canadian Open has been played more than 100 times and twenty-one of the winners have had ties to the Philadelphia Section PGA. Most of those victories came before 1963 but there have been a few recent ones.

The following were the Canadian Open winners with Philadelphia PGA ties:
Clarence Hackney–1923
Hackney was the professional at the Atlantic City Country Club from 1915 to 1941. He was a member of a pre-Ryder Cup Team in 1921 and won the New Jersey Open three straight years.
Leo Diegel—1924, 1925, 1928, 1929
Diegel was the professional at Philmont Country Club from 1934 to 1935 and a member of four Ryder Cup Teams. He won the PGA Championship in 1928 and 1929.
Joe Kirkwood, Sr.—1933
Kirkwood was the professional at the Huntingdon Valley Country Club from 1938 to 1949. He was the greatest trick shot artist of all time and when he put his mind to it, a winner of important golf tournaments.
Gen Kunes—1935
In 1935 Kunes was the professional at the Jeffersonville Golf Club and the defending champion of the Philadelphia PGA Championship. Instead of defending that title Kunes chose to play in the Canadian Open, which he then won.
Lawson Little—1936
Little was a great amateur golfer winning both the U.S. Amateur and the British Amateur twice each in 1934 and 1935. He also won the U.S. Open as a professional. In the mid 1940s he was Section member while working out of Philadelphia for A.G. Spalding & Bros.
Sam Snead—1938, 1940, 1941
Snead was the Shawnee Inn & Country Club’s playing professional from 1940 to 1942. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1942 two days after winning the PGA Championship at Seaview Golf Club.
Jug McSpaden—1939
McSpaden was the professional at the Philadelphia Country Club from 1942 to 1944. He won 17 times on the PGA Tour.
Byron Nelson—1945
Nelson was the professional at Reading Country Club from 1937 to 1939. The victory at the Canadian Open was one of his famous eleven straight wins in 1945.
George Fazio—1946
Fazio was born in Philadelphia and worked a golf professional at several clubs in the Philadelphia area. He was a very good tournament player but became more renowned as a golf course architect.
Dutch Harrison—1949
Harrison was the professional at the West Shore Country Club and the Country Club of York in the 1940s. The Canadian Open was one of his 18 wins on the PGA Tour.
Dave Douglas—1953
Douglas, the son of a golf professional, was born in Philadelphia. He was the professional at the Newark Country Club from 1940 to 1943. After serving in World War II he played on the PGA Tour for ten years.
Art Wall—1960
Wall was born in Honesdale. He represented the Pocono Manor Golf Club on the PGA Tour for more than 25 years winning 14 times which included the 1959 Masters Tournament.
Ted Kroll—1962
Kroll was an assistant pro at the Philmont Country Club from 1947 to 1949. He won eight times on the PGA Tour and played on three Ryder Cup Teams.
Jim Furyk—2006, 2007
Furyk was born in West Chester to a father who was a golf professional and grew up in Lancaster County. After college he joined the PGA Tour where he won many tournaments including the 2003 U.S. Open.
Sean O’Hair—2011
O’Hair married a girl from the Philadelphia area and moved to West Chester in 2004. After early success on the PGA Tour with three wins he fell into a deep slump in 2011, but after missing the cut at the British Open he won the Canadian Open the next week.





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