NEWTON, Mass. – One would think, with its 16 USGA
championships and status as a founding member club of the USGA, that The
Country Club has pretty much cornered the market on golf lore at this week’s
U.S. Amateur Championship. But that would be wrong.
Companion stroke-play qualifying course Charles River
Country Club may be a relative stripling, having been founded in 1922 – some 40
years after The Country Club – but it boasts a distinguished history, both in
the playing of the game and in its administration.
A pair of USGA champions has called Charles River home: Marion
Maney McInerney won the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur in 1992, defeating seven-time
USGA champion Carol Semple Thompson in 19 holes, and Stanley “Ted” Bishop
captured the 1946 U.S. Amateur, defeating Smiley Quick in 37 holes at Baltusrol
Golf Club. A fellow member, James Driscoll, lost the U.S. Amateur final at
Baltusrol, to Jeff Quinney in 39 holes in 2000. Driscoll, now a member of the
PGA Tour, also lost in a U.S. Junior Amateur final in 1995.
At age 15, Driscoll captured his club championship, which
might seem a routine accomplishment for someone who would go on to win two Massachusetts
State Amateur titles on the way to the PGA Tour. But Charles River is not your
typical golf club.
“What really sets us apart, I think, is the number of our
players who compete in USGA events,” said Paul Murphy, a longtime member and
keeper of club history. “When Pam Kuong recently made the Senior Women’s
Amateur and the Women’s State Team, it meant that since 1978, we have had a
total of 18 members participate in a total of 112 USGA championships.”
Charles River routinely has several players contend on the
state and regional levels as well. Kuong, for example, has won two Women’s
State Amateurs and two New England senior titles. In the same year that Bishop
won his U.S. Amateur, he also captured the state and New England crowns.
Charles River was designed by Donald Ross, and its layout
along the famous waterway that empties into Boston Harbor had a rousing
exhibition in its opening year of 1922. Local hero Francis Ouimet was joined by
professionals Walter Hagen, Joe Kirkwood and Gene Sarazen, who at age 20 had
recently won his first U.S. Open and PGA championships. Sarazen, a former
caddie who cited Ouimet’s 1913 U.S. Open victory as an inspiration for his Hall
of Fame career, shot a course-record 72, beating the combined best ball of
Hagen and Kirkwood all by himself and he and Ouimet took a 3-and-2 win.
The course record was lowered in order by Bob Jones, Byron
Nelson and Bobby Locke as the club hosted professional events such as the
Goodall Invitational Round Robin (won by Locke in 1947, in a field that
included Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret) and the Carlings Golf Classic
(won by Doug Ford over Art Wall Jr. in 1955). Young professionals Arnold Palmer
and Billy Casper finished well back in that 1955 event. On Tuesday, the course
mark was lowered again, to 63, by Bo Andrews, a Georgia Tech player from Raleigh,
N.C., during U.S. Amateur stroke-play qualifying. That bettered a 64 in the
2003 USGA Men’s State Team Championship by Ricky Jones of Maine.
Club history is well documented thanks to the efforts of
Murphy, who was asked to join a committee to oversee a course renovation in
1995 as the club neared its 75th year.
“I began researching to find out what the course looked like
in the 1920s and 1930s,” said Murphy. “I talked to older members, visited
libraries and historical societies, and I really enjoyed finding the photos and
some of the history involved.”
Other luminaries at Charles River include Harry McCracken, a
longtime New England golf administrator who won the USGA’s Joe Dey Award in
2007; Mildred Prunaret, a chairman of the USGA’s Women’s Committee who captained
the Curtis Cup (1960) and Women’s World Amateur (1970) teams and for whom the Women’s Mid-Amateur trophy is named; and Ed Stimpson, who won the club’s first
Presidents Cup title, shortly before earning golf notoriety by inventing the
Stimpmeter to measure relative green speeds.
Ouimet joined Charles River in 1921, and was awarded an
honorary membership in 1929. Although he retained a lifelong club affiliation
with Woodland Golf Club across town, Ouimet joined friends, among them Baseball
Hall of Famer Joe Cronin, for a regular weekly game at Charles River throughout
His 1913 U.S. Open caddie, Eddie Lowery, was also a member
at Charles River before moving to California. He won the Mass. Amateur in 1927
and captured a pair of club championships, in 1933 and 1936. Lowery’s
older brother, Jack – a footnote to “the greatest game ever played” – was also
a longtime member at Charles River. Jack Lowery was supposed to caddie for
Ouimet at Brookline in 1913 before he ran into school truancy issues, thus losing
out on “the bag of the century,” as Murphy called it, to his 10-year-old
Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.