NEWTON, Mass. – One would think, with its 16 USGA championships and status as a founding member club of the USGA, that The Country Club has pretty much cornered the market on golf lore at this week’s U.S. Amateur Championship. But that would be wrong.
Companion stroke-play qualifying course Charles River Country Club may be a relative stripling, having been founded in 1922 – some 40 years after The Country Club – but it boasts a distinguished history, both in the playing of the game and in its administration.
A pair of USGA champions has called Charles River home: Marion Maney McInerney won the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur in 1992, defeating seven-time USGA champion Carol Semple Thompson in 19 holes, and Stanley Ted Bishop captured the 1946 U.S. Amateur, defeating Smiley Quick in 37 holes at Baltusrol Golf Club. A fellow member, James Driscoll, lost the U.S. Amateur final at Baltusrol, to Jeff Quinney in 39 holes in 2000. Driscoll, now a member of the PGA Tour, also lost in a U.S. Junior Amateur final in 1995.
At age 15, Driscoll captured his club championship, which might seem a routine accomplishment for someone who would go on to win two Massachusetts State Amateur titles on the way to the PGA Tour. But Charles River is not your typical golf club.
What really sets us apart, I think, is the number of our players who compete in USGA events, said Paul Murphy, a longtime member and keeper of club history. When Pam Kuong recently made the Senior Women’s Amateur and the Women’s State Team, it meant that since 1978, we have had a total of 18 members participate in a total of 112 USGA championships.
Charles River routinely has several players contend on the state and regional levels as well. Kuong, for example, has won two Women’s State Amateurs and two New England senior titles. In the same year that Bishop won his U.S. Amateur, he also captured the state and New England crowns.
Charles River was designed by Donald Ross, and its layout along the famous waterway that empties into Boston Harbor had a rousing exhibition in its opening year of 1922. Local hero Francis Ouimet was joined by professionals Walter Hagen, Joe Kirkwood and Gene Sarazen, who at age 20 had recently won his first U.S. Open and PGA championships. Sarazen, a former caddie who cited Ouimet’s 1913 U.S. Open victory as an inspiration for his Hall of Fame career, shot a course-record 72, beating the combined best ball of Hagen and Kirkwood all by himself and he and Ouimet took a 3-and-2 win.
The course record was lowered in order by Bob Jones, Byron Nelson and Bobby Locke as the club hosted professional events such as the Goodall Invitational Round Robin (won by Locke in 1947, in a field that included Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret) and the Carlings Golf Classic (won by Doug Ford over Art Wall Jr. in 1955). Young professionals Arnold Palmer and Billy Casper finished well back in that 1955 event. On Tuesday, the course mark was lowered again, to 63, by Bo Andrews, a Georgia Tech player from Raleigh, N.C., during U.S. Amateur stroke-play qualifying. That bettered a 64 in the 2003 USGA Men’s State Team Championship by Ricky Jones of Maine.
Club history is well documented thanks to the efforts of Murphy, who was asked to join a committee to oversee a course renovation in 1995 as the club neared its 75th year.
I began researching to find out what the course looked like in the 1920s and 1930s, said Murphy. I talked to older members, visited libraries and historical societies, and I really enjoyed finding the photos and some of the history involved.
Other luminaries at Charles River include Harry McCracken, a longtime New England golf administrator who won the USGA’s Joe Dey Award in 2007; Mildred Prunaret, a chairman of the USGA’s Women’s Committee who captained the Curtis Cup (1960) and Women’s World Amateur (1970) teams and for whom the Women’s Mid-Amateur trophy is named; and Ed Stimpson, who won the club’s first Presidents Cup title, shortly before earning golf notoriety by inventing the Stimpmeter to measure relative green speeds.
Ouimet joined Charles River in 1921, and was awarded an honorary membership in 1929. Although he retained a lifelong club affiliation with Woodland Golf Club across town, Ouimet joined friends, among them Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Cronin, for a regular weekly game at Charles River throughout his life.
His 1913 U.S. Open caddie, Eddie Lowery, was also a member at Charles River before moving to California. He won the Mass. Amateur in 1927 and captured a pair of club championships, in 1933 and 1936. Lowery’s older brother, Jack – a footnote to the greatest game ever played – was also a longtime member at Charles River. Jack Lowery was supposed to caddie for Ouimet at Brookline in 1913 before he ran into school truancy issues, thus losing out on the bag of the century, as Murphy called it, to his 10-year-old brother.
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.