USGA Championships at The Country Club

A capsule look at the 15 championships hosted by the club prior to the 2013 U.S. Amateur


The last time the U.S. Amateur was held at The Country Club, in 1982, Jay Sigel came away with the first of his back-to-back victories in the championship. (USGA Museum)
By Ron Driscoll, USGA
August 16, 2013

1902 U.S. Women’s Amateur

The eighth U.S. Women’s Amateur attracted a record 96 entries, including future champions Margaret and Harriot Curtis, who would donate the Curtis Cup. The Curtis sisters were nieces of Laurence Curtis, who helped found golf at The Country Club and would become president of the USGA. The match-play field was expanded to 32 players for the first time. Nearly half the entrants were from Massachusetts, including Louisa Wells, the 1899 champion of the host club. She clouted a 210-yard drive in her semifinal victory, but went on to lose in the final, 4 and 3, to defending champion Genevieve Hecker, 18, of Essex County Country Club in West Orange, N.J.

1910 U.S. Amateur

The advent of the Haskell ball necessitated lengthening of the golf course at Brookline, and two tracts of land were acquired in 1901 and 1905 that allowed the club to host the 1910 U.S. Amateur. The field of 206 players included 17-year-old Francis Ouimet, who shot 83-86 and failed to reach match play by one stroke. William C. Fownes Jr., nephew of Oakmont Country Club founder Henry Clay Fownes, rallied from 2 down with three to play to defeat Charles “Chick” Evans in the semifinal, and captured the final, 4 and 3, over Warren K. Wood. Fownes went on to become the USGA president in 1926-27, while Evans would win the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur in 1916.

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1913 U.S. Open

The 1913 Open was originally scheduled to be played at The Country Club in June. When the tour of British champions Harry Vardon and Ted Ray was announced, the club offered alternate dates in late September, which conflicted with the British players’ plans to compete in the French Open. The U.S. Open was very nearly moved to the National Golf Links of America on Long Island in August before Vardon and Ray cabled the USGA that they would be available in September after all. Francis Ouimet, the Massachusetts Amateur champion and a semifinalist in the recent U.S. Amateur, was coaxed to enter by Robert Watson, the USGA president, who had played with Ouimet in a qualifying round for the 1910 Amateur at TCC. Ouimet, 20, prevailed in the 18-hole playoff after tying Vardon and Ray at 304, with 72 to Vardon’s 77 and Ray’s 78. Bernard Darwin, grandson of Charles Darwin and writer for the Times of London, witnessed every shot of the playoff (he was Ouimet’s scorer), and wrote: “It was by far the most enthralling game of golf that I have ever seen, nor is it, I think, any exaggeration to say that Mr. Ouimet gave an exhibition of skill, nerve and courage that, considering the circumstances, has never been equaled. … Slowly but surely, he wore his men down, and finally he battered and trampled on them. … If I could find stronger language, I could certainly use it.” Ouimet was the first of five amateurs to win the Open; the last was Johnny Goodman in 1933.

1922 U.S. Amateur

Jess Sweetser, a native of St. Louis who was schooled at Phillips Exeter Academy and Yale, had won the NCAA championship two years earlier. He went on to victory in the second U.S. Amateur to be played at TCC, topping a field of 149 players and capping his road to the victory with an 8-and-7 semifinal win over Bob Jones and a 3-and-2 victory over 1920 champion Chick Evans in the final. At the time, both semifinal- and final-round matches were contested at 36 holes. Sweetser later became the first American player to win the British Amateur, in 1926 at Muirfield.

1932 Walker Cup

The Country Club hosted the Walker Cup on the 50th anniversary of its founding, and Francis Ouimet assumed the captaincy of the USA side from Bob Jones, who had retired after completing the Grand Slam in 1930. Ouimet had captured his second U.S. Amateur a year earlier and was a playing captain, marking his seventh time in the Match. Two incidents marked the 8-1 trouncing by the USA: a total eclipse of the sun, and an errant 5-iron shot by Leonard Crawley of the Great Britain & Ireland side that left a dent in the side of the trophy.

1934 U.S. Amateur

The USGA introduced regional qualifying rounds to the U.S. Amateur, which attracted 741 entries, 185 of whom reached The Country Club. W. Lawson Little, nicknamed “Cannonball,” defeated David Goldman, 8 and 7, to capture the championship, after having won the British Amateur earlier in the summer. Little would repeat the same pair of victories the following year, a feat never equaled before or since that has been dubbed the “Little Slam.” He turned professional shortly thereafter and went on to win the 1940 U.S. Open, defeating Gene Sarazen in a playoff.

1941 U.S. Women’s Amateur

Elizabeth “Betty” Hicks, 20, of Long Beach, Calif., a newlywed, topped a field of 124 entries in the club’s second Women’s Amateur, on a course that played some 1,000 yards longer than it had in 1902. Hicks, who defeated Helen Sigel of Philadelphia, 5 and 3, in a final match that attracted some 2,000 spectators, would go to become a founding member of the Women’s Professional Golf Association (later the LPGA) and also had a successful career as a pilot, later writing an autobiography, “My Life: From Fairway to Airway.”

1953 U.S. Girls’ Junior

The Girls’ Junior had been established five years earlier, and 46 players competed in the 1953 championship, including players from Hawaii and Mexico. Three players tied for the low qualifying score at 77, and Mildred Meyerson, 16, of California, rallied to win her semifinal match after being 2 down with three to play. She holed a long putt on No. 18 to square the match with Judith Mintz, then prevailed in 20 holes. She won the championship match, 4 and 2, over Holly Jean Roth of Milwaukee.

1957 U.S. Amateur

In hosting its second USGA championship in four years, The Country Club employed holes from the Primrose Course for the first time, in an effort to ensure that the course would test contemporary players. Chick Evans, two-time champion, played in his 45th consecutive Amateur at age 67, and Francis Ouimet served as an honorary chairman. Among the players from the USA and GB&I Walker Cup Teams who competed were William C. Campbell, Billy Joe Patton, Michael Bonallack and Joe Carr. All four semifinalists were USA Walker Cup competitors, and Hillman Robbins Jr., 25, an Air Force lieutenant, defeated his teammate, Dr. Frank M. Taylor, 5 and 4, in the final.

1963 U.S. Open

On the 50th anniversary of his landmark victory, Francis Ouimet graced the cover of the 1963 Open program, wearing the coat emblematic of being named the first American captain of The R&A at St. Andrews. Jack Fleck, the 1955 U.S. Open champion, toured the course beforehand and chided USGA president Joe Dey for the apparent ease of the course, predicting a record-low score. Instead, buffeted by winds as high as 35 miles an hour, the 1963 Open produced a three-way tie at 293 between Julius Boros, Jacky Cupit and Arnold Palmer, which to this day is the highest winning score of the last 78 years by three strokes. Boros captured his second Open title with a 70 in the 18-hole playoff to Cupit’s 73 and Palmer’s 76. Defending champion Jack Nicklaus missed the cut by one stroke.

1968 U.S. Junior Amateur

Among the players to compete in the 1968 Junior Amateur at The Country Club were Ben Crenshaw, Bruce Lietzke, Gary Koch, Bill Kratzert, David Eger, Bobby Wadkins and Mac O’Grady. Koch, 15, was the stroke-play medalist, but lost in the first round of match play. He would win the title two years later. Eddie Pearce, who had played in the U.S. Open at Oak Hill two months earlier, dominated the par-5 holes en route to winning the championship. On the 17 par 5s he played in match play that week, he was a combined 15 under par, winning 15 of them, losing one, and halving one. He defeated stroke-play runner-up Bill Harman Jr., 6 and 5, in the final. Crenshaw, who would go to captain the stirring U.S. Ryder Cup victory here in 1999, described his first visit as “one wondrous week in which golf history, architecture and big-time competition hit me over the head. My love affair with golf course architecture began there.”

1973 Walker Cup

The Country Club hosted its second Walker Cup in 1973, on the heels of Great Britain & Ireland’s second victory ever in the event in 1971. Jess Sweetser, who had won the 1922 Amateur and played on the 1932 USA Team at TCC, was the USA’s captain, and he guided his side to a competitive 14-10 victory. The USA Team included 1972 U.S. Amateur champion Marvin (Vinny) Giles, Gary Koch and Dick Siderowf, the reigning British Amateur champion. The British side, which had lost its top player, Michael Bonallack, to a back injury, actually led in all eight singles matches on the final afternoon to stir thoughts of a huge upset, but the USA managed one victory and two halves to quell the rally and regain the Cup.

1982 U.S. Amateur

The fifth U.S. Amateur at TCC drew 3,685 entries, and the 282 on-site entrants played qualifying rounds at both The Country Club and Charles River Country Club. Defending champion Nathaniel Crosby lost in the opening round to Tom Pernice Jr., and the semifinalists were Rick Fehr, Jay Sigel, David Tolley and local favorite Jim Hallet of Cape Cod. Sigel edged Fehr by parring No. 18, 1 up, and Tolley holed a 35-foot birdie on the final green to defeat Hallet, 1 up. Sigel, 38, was 5 up in the championship match by the lunch break, and went on to an 8-and-7 victory over Tolley. Sigel would repeat as champion in 1983 and go on to win three U.S. Mid-Amateurs, while playing a USA-record nine times on the Walker Cup Team. He is the nephew of Helen Sigel, who lost in the championship match of the 1941 Women’s Amateur at The Country Club.

1988 U.S. Open

On the 75th anniversary of the Ouimet victory, the U.S. Open returned. Rees Jones was commissioned to tweak the course, and he later wrote that 13 of the holes remained substantially the same, although he rebuilt three greens that had been altered in the 1950s and 1960s.”We took it back in style,” he said of the $5 million restoration, “not in design.” A record 5,700 entries were received, and 13 major champions – as well as several future major champions – convened at Brookline. For the third time in three Opens there, an 18-hole playoff was required, and Curtis Strange captured his first major by denying Nick Faldo his second, taking control with a birdie on No. 13 that gave him a three-stroke lead. He would go on to win with 71 to Faldo’s 75. Peter Jacobsen, who was out of contention, began his final round with seven consecutive 3s en route to a course-record 64. Strange repeated as champion at Oak Hill in 1989 – just the sixth player ever and the only one since Ben Hogan in 1951 to win back-to-back Opens.

1995 U.S. Women’s Amateur

On the 100th anniversary of its first playing, The Country Club hosted its third U.S. Women’s Amateur, which was guided by Barbara McIntire, the chairman of the USGA Women’s Committee and the winner of the 1959 Women’s Amateur. The championship was noteworthy in that it did not employ any Primrose Course holes, only the main Clyde and Squirrel nines at the club. Carol Semple Thompson, 46, playing in her 30th Women’s Amateur, broke the course record with a qualifying round of 67, bettering the 69 of Marion Maney-McInerney, of nearby Dedham, who had defeated Thompson in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur final three years earlier. For the first time since 1927, a pair of foreign players reached the semifinal round: future U.S. Women’s Open champion Se Ri Pak of Korea, and Anne-Marie Knight of Australia. Kelli Kuehne, who had won the Girls’ Junior the previous year, prevailed over Knight in the final, 4 and 3. Kuehne would repeat as champion in 1996.

Material from “The Story of Golf at The Country Club,” by John de St. Jorre, the winner of the 2009 USGA Herbert Warren Wind Book Award, was used in this story. Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.

 

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