Stumbling Upon a Lost Treasure

USGA staffer finds video from 1949 U.S. Open


February 11, 2009

By David Normoyle, USGA

Cary Middlecoff revels in the moment after winning the 1949 U.S. Open by accepting a kiss from wife, Edith, while USGA President Feilding Wallace takes in the scene. (USGA Museum)
Many American families have old reels of home movies that nobody ever looks at.

And, chances are, those reels of film at some point in the family history may have been transferred with noble intentions to a newer format, like VHS, only to gather dust once again.

Those families are no different than mine.

But not long ago, when looking for the first time at those old highlights from my father's childhood, spent in the post-war Midwest, something unexpected appeared. In a sudden break from sledding in snowsuits and blowing out candles on birthday cakes there was footage of a golf tournament.

The golf tournament that my grandfather filmed, and which was spliced randomly into the middle of all the other family footage, seemed to be a very big deal, given the large crowds seen everywhere.

And then there was a player whose swing I recognized immediately. It was Sam Snead, casually hitting balls in the midst of a dozen onlookers.

There were cars driving in front of a familiar clubhouse with Moorish architecture. It was unmistakably Medinah Country Club.

There was a trophy sitting on a table, about to be presented. It was the U.S. Open trophy.

And there was a golfer sitting by the side of a pool, soaking his feet, then lacing up his golf shoes before being presented the trophy by a man in a blue blazer. The golfer was Cary Middlecoff, the winner.

It's one thing when you find something like this and think to yourself, "That's pretty cool." It's another when you work in the USGA Museum and realize the significance of such a lost piece of golf history.

The USGA Museum has perhaps the finest collection of historic golf footage in the world. Yet nowhere in the collection is footage of the 1949 U.S. Open . Not in the form of a black-and-white newsreel from the day. Not as a television broadcast. Nothing.

And to find the film in color makes it even rarer. In fact, it's the second-earliest known color footage in the USGA Film & Video Archives. The only color footage that is older is from the 1939 U.S. Open at Philadelphia Country Club, won by Byron Nelson.

My grandfather, Joseph P. Normoyle, grew up in Chicago and caddied at a local golf club. He was selected as one of the earliest Chick Evans Scholars and attended Northwestern University on a full scholarship. He began to raise his family in Wisconsin before moving to California, where I was raised.

I never knew him, as he died 14 years before I was born, but the longer I've worked in golf the more I've learned about the Evans Scholars program and the life-long influence it had on my grandfather, my father and eventually me.

It's very satisfying to think that an interest my grandfather had in golf, and nurtured through college, led him to be in a place to record footage at a long-ago U.S. Open. Satisfying to think that footage has remained alive in our (almost) never-looked-at family films. And satisfying to think that this footage now has a permanent place in the USGA Museum, where it can be viewed by anyone with an interest in golf.

David Normoyle is the assistant director of the USGA Museum . Contact him with questions or comments at dnormoyle@usga.org.
  





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