A.W. Tillinghast’s Letters to the PGA

In my fifth year as a member of North Hills Country Club in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, I am always on the lookout for additional information on the club’s history and heritage.

Everyone knows there’s a lot of it, but very little has been kept around and what’s left of old newspapers is waiting patiently in microfiche for history enthusiasts to convert it to a form that’s findable.

A friend of mine, Andy Staples of Staples Golf Design, recently turned me on to the letters written by legendary golf course architect A.W. Tillinghast to the then president of the PGA, George Jacobus.

Tillinghast designed some of the greatest golf courses in the history of golf – 265 total –  including:

  • Winged Foot, West (Golf Digest’s #10 course in the US, #14 in the world)
  • San Francisco (#37 US, #81 world)
  • Bethpage State Park, Black Course (#38 US)
  • Baltusrol, Lower (#39 US)
  • Baltusrol, Upper (#61 US)
  • Winged Foot, East (#62 US)
  • Somerset Hills (#64 US)
  • Quaker Ridge (#76 US)

In 1935, Tilly was called to my home course of North Hills by PGA member John Bird to take a look at the then-“troublesome” par three then-sixteenth (shown in the header photo).

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Tillinghast’s letter to the President of the PGA concerning North Hills Country Club from November 16, 1935

Tilly’s difficult-to-read follow-up letter from 1936

The sixteenth, now the seventh since the front and back nine were flipped, was at that time a 127-yard uphill shot to a putting surface 20 yards short of where it is now above the Menomonee River. Redesigning this par three to have a ribbon green on top of the hill both stretched out the yardage and made the green more susceptible to holding tee shots.

Many competitive matches swing on the seventh hole at North Hills, which is my favorite par three on my home course.

I have my only ever hole-out from the tee on the seventh, and it’s literally a couple thousand feet from our backyard.

Other great “new” material about North Hills Country Club

As luck would have it, when I tried searching Google for the same Tillinghast letters on my laptop I found some great material that always evaded me: Proof that Ben Hogan and Sam Snead competed at North Hills.

The 1940 Milwaukee Open

I’ve heard this story before, and have told it to several guests. If I had to guess, this article points at the same occasion: On the 16th hole of the final round of a PGA tournament, Ben Hogan was tied for the lead on the uphill [now seventh, since the nines have since been reversed] par three. Hogan was on in two and three-putted. At the clubhouse following the event, Ben guaranteed everyone that the first putt he hit would never break that way again. They all walked in the dark (a walk I am awfully familiar with) from the clubhouse with their drinks and lanterns to the now seventh green; Hogan hit putt after putt, and the crowd watched them all fall the same way they did that led to his double-bogey that took him out of contention.

The seventh is my favorite par three on my home course, and is the site of my only ever sort-of-hole-in-one a few months ago. It’s a fantastic par three that, as Hogan proved, can make or break a match with ease.

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Chicago Tribune – August 5, 1940

Ralph Guldahl of Chicago won the 1940 Milwaukee Open at -16, followed by Ed Oliver (-14) and the great Sam Snead just three strokes back at -13. Hogan would finish fourth with a final score of 272 (-12).

References of the 1940 Milwaukee Open, as found on revolvy.com:

  1. Bartlett, Charles (August 4, 1940). “Bulla cards 131 to take lead in Milwaukee Open”. Chicago Sunday Tribune. p. 6, sec. 2.
  2. “Ralph Guldahl wins Milwaukee Open golf”. Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). United Press. August 5, 1940. p. 2.
  3. Bartlett, Charles (August 5, 1940). “Guldahl wins in Milwaukee Open with 268”. Chicago Daily Tribune. p. 19.
  4. “Guldahl makes blazing finish”. Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. August 5, 1940. p. 9.
  5. “Johnny Bulla leads Milwaukee Open”. Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. August 4, 1940. p. 10.

The 1951 Pabst Blue Ribbon Open

Joe Kirkwood, Jr., more commonly known as Hollywood movie star Joe Palooka in those days, won the 1951 Pabst Blue Ribbon Open at North Hills. Joe “beat out Sam Snead by two strokes in a fighting duel for the third biggest prize of the year” ($2,750 for first place).

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Eugene Register Guard – July 23, 1951

Probably my favorite part of this article is Kirkwood’s celebratory remarks: “‘I’m glad to win for all my friends,’ and left for northern Wisconsin to go fishing.”

There is a photo taken on the 3rd hole (now 12th) at this event situated on the desk in Captain Frederick Pabst’s office at what is now “The Best Place” – a top spot for downtown weddings in Milwaukee.

References to the 1951 Pabst Blue Ribbon Open, as found on revolvy.com:

  1. “Joe Kirkwood cards final round 64 to win Blue Ribbon golf tourney”. St. Petersburg Times. (Florida). Associated Press. July 23, 1951. p. 11.
  2. “Ferrier leads in Milwaukee Open”. Chicago Sunday Tribune. Associated Press. July 22, 1951. p. 6, sec. 2.
  3. “Kirkwood’s 271 wins golf meet at Milwaukee”. Chicago Daily Tribune. Associated Press. July 23, 1951. p. 2, sec. 3.
  4. “Kirkwood edges Snead for first”. Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). United Press. July 23, 1961. p. 10.

The 1961 Milwaukee Open

Australian Bruce Crampton won the 1961 Milwaukee Open, winning his $4,300 share of the $30,000 purse.

Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus tied for sixth place, which was great for Player but forfeited by Nicklaus as this would prove to be his final golf event as an amateur before turning pro the following week in the Quad Cities.

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Daytona Beach Morning Journal – July 24, 1961

References to the 1961 Milwaukee Open, as found on revolvy.com:

  1. “Massengale, Hawkins knotted”. Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. July 21, 1961. p. 2B.
  2. “Aussie wins Milwaukee with 272”. Daytona Beach Morning Journal. (Florida). Associated Press. July 24, 1961. p. 9.
  3. “Palmer bypasses Milwaukee event”. Daytona Beach Morning Journal. (Florida). Associated Press. July 19, 1961. p. 7.

 

Prior research on North Hills Country Club

North Hills Country Club, Feherty Interview with Golf Legend Ken Venturi (2015)

Hole-by-Hole Review of North Hills Country Club (2013)

My First Ever [Kind of] Hole-in-One!

In the thousands and thousands of rounds of golf and at least four times as many par threes I’ve played, I’ve never had a hole-in-one.

While I still don’t officially have one, I at least finally have my own hole-in-one story!

Several times a week, I get home from work and play a little 4-hole track in the back corner of North Hills Country Club that goes down the hill on six, across the river on the par three seventh, back across the river on the par three twelfth and then up the hill toward home on the par four thirteenth.

My 4-hole track v2

When my wife texted me she was leaving work at 5:15, I figured I had a little time on my own to head out and tool around the course. I spent some time practicing shaping iron shots right-to-left and left-to-right yesterday, and I was excited all day because I felt like I found something.

I started out on six pulling a couple of tee shots in to the woods, but hit some really nicely drawn iron shots around trees to get out of trouble. That felt good.

My range finder’s battery died this weekend so I took a guess that the blue tees on seven were set up somewhere in my 5- or 6-iron range. With a back-left pin on the other side of the greenside bunker to the left, I took my five and set up for a fade.

The swing felt perfect and the ball went right at the pin with a little left-to-right. It hit and I saw it kick a little to the right then disappear. Might be in?

It felt so good I had to hit another. Another perfect feeling swing and an even better, more lofted ball flight. This one was with a Bridgestone B330S #1 ball. It came down a little softer and again veered a little toward the right before disappearing.

The seventh plays way uphill, so it would be impossible to actually see the ball go in, but I had a feeling at least the second one was in. Sure enough, just one ball on the green and it was about ten feet past the pin.

The ball mark for the first shot was about five feet left of the hole, and there was another one five to ten feet short and just left… And then, of course, my B330S #1 ball in the cup.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t count as a hole-in-one for two key reasons: First because it was my second tee shot, and second because there were no witnesses.

I stuck around for about 5 minutes to see if anyone else came around – John and Ryan did, so I was able to find out how long of a shot it was that went in: 174 yards. Even though it doesn’t count, I took a little video to commemorate the occasion and at least now I know it’s possible!

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Video: Pulling the ball out on my first ever [kind of] hole-in-one

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The ball marks of my two tee shots from 174 yards on the par three 7th

Making the turn back toward home, the next hole I played is the par three twelfth back over the Menomonee River. I thought to myself it would be pretty crazy to get back-to-back holes in one, and when I hit my cut 6-iron over the river I started thinking it might happen. Landing 5″ from the hole, it rolled out to about fifteen feet and was an easy two-putt par.

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That close to back-to-back holes in one (ball mark just to the side of the hole)

2016 Lombardi Classic Follow-Up

As I wrote in a previous post, the Vince Lombardi Golf Classic at North Hills Country Club is a huge ordeal, and we had an unbelievable amount of fun at this year’s event.

My fiance, Kelly, and I had a wedding downtown on Friday night, and I had a golf outing on Sunday morning at New Berlin Hills (Terry Fritz Memorial Golf Outing), so Saturday was our opportunity to experience the action.

Our new house is off the sixth hole at North Hills in Menomonee Falls, which is quite convenient for the event. I was given a media pass to wander and take pictures, tweet to #LombardiClassic and do media-y things, in general.

One of the cool aspects about the Lombardi is that when you go year after year you start to develop little friendships with the participants. Some are more friendly than others, but guys like Micah Hyde, Mason Crosby, Jarred Abbrederis, Lynn Dickey, Greg Matzek, Jerry Kramer, Tim Masthay and Gorman Thomas are really nice, genuine people. It makes cheering for the ones still playing professional sports really easy.

Just a few photos from Saturday at this year’s event:

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Ex-Brewer Greg Vaughn, Norm and Dan on the 6th tee

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Packers TE Casey Pierce with Sam, Keith, Ken, Doug and Tom

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620 WTMJ sports anchor and talk show host, Greg Matzek, tees off on 6

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Green Bay Packer Micah Hyde with my friends’ Jim and Mandy’s kids

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Mandy and Hailey with baseball legend Bob Uecker

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Lombardi Golf Classic chairman Mason Crosby speaking to the crowd on the patio

There are few $10 sports experiences I can think of that rival spectating at the Lombardi. Put the first Saturday of June, 2017 on your calendar early, and make sure to stop by North Hills Country Club for next year’s 47th annual Vince Lombardi Golf Classic.