GLEN COVE, N.Y. – Nassau Country Club exudes golf history.
From classic black-and-white photos displayed throughout the stately clubhouse, to a halfway house named for the putter that Bob Jones made famous in winning nine USGA championships, to one of the nation’s oldest golf events, the Nassau Invitational, the club’s lineage is hard to top.
A small cemetery near the halfway house and 10th tee predates the club by a couple of centuries, and one of the tombstones within coincidentally bears the name Robert F. Cox. Those familiar with the U.S. Women’s Amateur, which will be contested at Nassau Country Club from Aug. 4-11, might recognize the name. Robert Cox of Scotland – no relation – donated the beautiful ceramic trophy that the champion receives for winning America’s oldest women’s amateur competition.
The U.S. Women’s Amateur has played an integral role in Nassau Country Club’s championship pedigree. Ruth Underhill, the 1899 champion, was a Nassau member, and this year’s event will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Katherine Harley’s 1-up victory over Elaine Rosenthal at Nassau. It also marks the centennial of the current 18-hole layout at Nassau, which was designed by noted golf architect Seth Raynor, a protégé of Charles Blair Macdonald.
While the club incorporated in 1896 – and was originally called the Queens County Golf Club before changing its name two years later when Nassau County was formed – it wasn’t until 1914 that Raynor was hired to design an entirely new course. Prior to that, members played a course that was designed in 1899 by a committee of members.
Nassau quickly established itself as one of the premier golf venues in the New York metropolitan area. Walter Travis claimed his third and final U.S. Amateur title at the club in 1910. Travis also won five Nassau Invitational titles dating to the inaugural event in 1898.
Club member Jerry Travers came along and supplanted Travis, winning two Nassau Invitational titles, as well as four U.S. Amateurs (1907-08, 1912-13). Travers also became the second amateur – Francis Ouimet was the first, in 1913 – to win the U.S. Open in 1915.
Alex Smith, one of the club’s early head professionals, won the 1910 U.S. Open after being a three-time runner-up.
In 1923, Bob Jones paid a visit to Nassau prior to the U.S. Open at Inwood (N.Y.) Country Club, about 20 miles away. The pro at the time was Jim Maiden, the brother of Stewart Maiden, Jones’ golf pro at East Lake in Atlanta. Jim Maiden gave Jones, who was frustrated with the state of his putting, the flatstick that would become known as Calamity Jane on Nassau’s 18th green. The next week, Jones won the first of his four U.S. Open titles in a playoff over Bobby Cruickshank. The putter, one of the most famous clubs in golf, is displayed in the USGA Museum.
Little wonder that Nassau Country Club’s motto is Where Champions Play.
We’re honored to have the U.S. Women’s Amateur back, said Peter Quick, the co-general chairman for the 2014 championship, at media day on May 12. Hosting this event gives us a chance to show how committed we are to amateur athletics.
Although the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1895 was contested at the nearby Meadow Brook Club in Jericho, Long Island has only played host to the championship four times, with the last in 1927 at Cherry Valley Club in Garden City.
Nassau Country Club is also the first of the nine venues in New York state that have hosted the Women’s Amateur to host for a second time.
One player who is surely happy to see the championship on Long Island is Annie Park, the No. 11 golfer in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking and a member of the 2014 USA Curtis Cup Team. Park grew up in Levittown, just 20 minutes from Nassau. Park, a University of Southern California All-American, qualified for the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., and failed to make the 36-hole cut. The 2013 NCAA champion is hoping for better results this time.
Emma Talley, of Princeton, Ky., will try to defend her title. The University of Alabama sophomore is also a member of the 2014 USA Curtis Cup Team.
Talley will see a course that closely resembles the one on which she won the championship last year. Raynor also designed the Country Club of Charleston (S.C.) and many holes have similar design features. The biggest difference comes in the movement as Nassau’s topography is much more rolling and players will face many more uphill approaches on the 6,383-yard, par-70 layout.
While Nassau has undergone a few renovations over the years – first by Devereux Emmet (1920) and Herbert Strong (1922) and recently by Cynthia Dye McGarey – the course generally has the look of a Raynor design. Seven years ago, McGarey transformed the third and fourth holes from consecutive par 4s to a downhill par 3 with water on the right and a slight dogleg-right par 5.
Shannon Rouillard, the director of the U.S. Women’s Amateur for the USGA, plans to use varying teeing grounds at the third, with the hole playing 181, 147 or 118 yards depending on the hole location. The fourth will measure 540 yards.
The fourth could be reachable in two, depending on the location of the tee markers, said Nassau head professional Drew Pohalski.
Another distinctive feature of Nassau is the availability of parallel teeing grounds on some holes, which provide a different hole routing. Rouillard plans to utilize multiple tees on holes 13, 15 and 17.
The four finishing holes could provide drama in that three play into the prevailing west wind, including the uphill par-5 15th, which will measure 527 yards and could be reached in two by the longer hitters.
The last four holes are very strong, said Rouillard. This course not only makes you think, but makes you use every club in your bag.
Starting Aug. 4, another chapter in Nassau’s remarkable history will be written.
It’s an incredible opportunity to not only showcase our great golf course, said Pohalski, but also our rich heritage in the game of golf.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.