Stumbling Upon a Lost
USGA staffer finds video from 1949 U.S. Open
February 11, 2009
By David Normoyle, USGA
Many American families have old reels of home movies that
nobody ever looks at.
|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)|
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
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
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
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
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
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
. Contact him with questions or comments at