U.S. JUNIOR AMATEUR
3 Things to Know About Inverness
July 17, 2019 | Toledo, Ohio
By Ron Driscoll, USGA
Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, is steeped in history, having hosted eight USGA championships, a pair of PGA Championships, and a PGA Tour event (the Inverness Invitational Four-Ball) from 1935 to 1953, among dozens of local and regional events. Here are a few highlights from Inverness lore, which will grow with this week’s 72nd U.S. Junior Amateur:
1920 U.S. Open
The first of the four U.S. Opens at Inverness was won by Ted Ray of Great Britain, who bogeyed four of his final nine holes but still prevailed by one stroke over 1900 champion Harry Vardon, Jack Burke Sr., Leo Diegel and Jock Hutchison. Ray, 43, became the oldest U.S. Open champion, a record that stood for 66 years, until Raymond Floyd won at age 46 in 1986. The championship also marked the debut of four-time champion Bob Jones and the swansong for the legendary Vardon. The two played together in the first two rounds, during which the 18-year-old Jones recalled nervously skulling a pitch shot across the green. Seeking to lighten the mood a bit, the flustered Jones asked, “Mr. Vardon, did you ever see a worse shot than that?” To which Vardon replied, “No.”
The affable Nelson hailed from the same hometown as fellow legend Ben Hogan, and the two had a cordial rivalry that began with a match for the caddie title at Glen Garden Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. Nelson was the head professional at Inverness from 1940-44, and he earned the position over Hogan, who was the other finalist for the job. Nelson later credited the opportunity to play Inverness during his tenure there as an important factor in his record-breaking 1945 season, when he won a phenomenal 11 consecutive PGA Tour events and 18 of the season’s 35 tournaments. “You had to play shots uphill, downhill, over ravines, and to small, target greens with tremendous speeds,” Nelson said of Inverness in a 2001 interview. “I would go out and play a threesome or foursome of very fine Inverness players and I’d play against their best ball. Then I’d go to the PGA [Championship] and play a match against one man and it would seem pretty simple.”
In 1931, Inverness was the scene of the longest U.S. Open in history, as Billy Burke outlasted George Von Elm in a playoff that went 72 holes – yes, 72 holes, equaling the total for the championship proper. Von Elm, the 1926 U.S. Amateur champion, birdied the 72nd hole to tie Burke at 8-over-par 292, and the format of the day called for a 36-hole playoff to decide the champion. Von Elm came through with another birdie on the 36th hole the following day to forge a tie at 7-over 149. That deadlock forced yet another 36 holes, and Burke finally prevailed by one stroke after 144 holes for his only major title. After the championship, the USGA reduced the length of future U.S. Open playoffs to 18 holes, which remained the format until 2018. A second 18-hole round was required twice, in 1939 and 1946, and the format was tweaked again to a hole-by-hole playoff after 18 holes in the 1950s. That format was employed in 1990, 1994 and 2008 before the current two-hole playoff was adopted last year.
Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.