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

“DID YOU KNOW”
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!

“DID YOU KNOW”

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!

“DID YOU KNOW”
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!

“DID YOU KNOW’
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!

“DID YOU KNOW”
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!

“DID YOU KNOW”
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

dangelo-jimmy-ttt

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!

DID YOU KNOW”
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!

“DID YOU KNOW”
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!

“DID YOU KNOW”
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!

“DID YOU KNOW”
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.

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