Ever since well-known golf course architect William Flynn put his hands on the property that would become Cherry Hills Country Club, the Denver-area club has carved out a distinction for being one of the country’s top championship venues. The club was born in 1922 from wealthy businessmen in the city and for a sum of $4,500, members procured the services of Flynn, who had redesigned Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, N.Y., one of the five founding clubs of the USGA and now a four-time U.S. Open site.
Cherry Hills first earned its place in the pantheon of championship golf when the 1938 U.S. Open was contested. That championship was won by Ralph Guldahl, but is often remembered for the 19 taken by Ray Ainsley on the par-4 16th hole.
Since then, Cherry Hills has had a tradition of hosting major golf championships. The 2012 U.S. Amateur will be the ninth USGA national championship to be conducted on the layout. It is one of three courses – Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y., and Hazeltine National G.C. in Chaska, Minn., are the others – to have hosted the U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Amateur.
Besides the USGA competitions, Cherry Hills has also hosted two PGA Championships and will be the host site for the 2014 BMW Championship on the PGA Tour.
This will be the second U.S. Amateur contested at Cherry Hills, following the 1990 championship won by Phil Mickelson. Mickelson, then an All-American at Arizona State University, became the second left-handed USGA champion following Ralph Howe III, who won the U.S. Amateur Public Links two years earlier. He defeated his former high school teammate Manny Zerman in the 36-hole final.
The last USGA event held at Cherry Hills was the 2005 U.S. Women’s Open, where Korean Birdie Kim holed out an improbable bunker shot for a 3 at the 72nd hole to edge amateurs Morgan Pressel and Brittany Lang by two shots.
Cherry Hills was also the site of a memorable final-round comeback by Arnold Palmer at the 1960 U.S. Open. Palmer trailed by seven strokes entering the final 18 holes – back then competitors played 36 holes on the last day – and few gave him a chance. But Palmer drove the par-4 first hole en route to a 65 and a two-stroke victory over amateur Jack Nicklaus. That event brought together the past, present and future of golf, with four-time Open champion Ben Hogan bidding to win a record fifth title before a disastrous double-bogey 7 at the par-5 17th hole in the final round ended his hopes. Two years later, Nicklaus would beat Palmer in an 18-hole playoff at Oakmont (Pa.) C.C. for the first of his four Open titles. Nicklaus would also return to Cherry Hills to win the U.S. Senior Open in 1993.
Back in the 1960s, President Dwight D. Eisenhower used Cherry Hills as his western White House home. More recently, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway calls Cherry Hills home.
The golf course has also undergone renovations over the last quarter-century to lengthen it to as much as 7,500 yards for the modern game. Enhancements have also been made to the clubhouse, practice facilities and bunkers.