Thursday, February 28, 2008

Stan Dudas RIP

Stan Dudas RIP – Golf Pro

Played on Pro Tour as Teen - Was there when Arnie Met Winnie

Local golf pro Stan Dudas, of Egg Harbor Township, passed away last week, leaving a legacy of memories of the game of golf and the players he knew.

When he was 15 years old Stan Dudas ran away from his Simpson, Pennsylvania home, not knowing what he wanted to do other than he didn’t want to be a coal miner.

Fortunately for him, he was picked up hitch hiking by big band leader Fred Waring, who gave him a job at his Shawnee on the Delaware resort. Although he started out as a bus boy in the dining room, young Dudas quickly drifted to the pro shop where he cleaned clubs and was taught how to play by then pro Harry Obitz and his assistant Spec Hannon, a former caddie for Walter Hagen.

Within a few years Waring sponsored Dudas on the winter pro tour, and while he was still a teenager, Dudas was playing and learning a lot from the early pros like Sam Sneed Ben Hogan and especially Jimmy Demereat, who took the young Dudas under his wing. "Demereat taught me a lot," said Dudas. "He taught me about traveling with people, playing the game, who to stay with on the road, and who to stay away from, which is important, because I was a young boy, seventeen, and just didn’t know. You can go out there and get mixed up with the wrong guys."

After a stint in the army, Dudas said, "I started having trouble with my legs, and I just decided I better get out of playing. I wasn’t going to make it as a tour player because I just wasn’t that good of a player. I thought I was good, but I wasn’t good enough. I played good enough to qualify and play on the tour, but I never finished high enough to make a living at it."

But Dudas was good enough to win local events, qualify for major tournaments, run the golf shop and give lessons, all of which he did very well.

It was working at Shawnee, early in his career, when Dudas met Arnold Palmer, fresh off his US Amateur championship. The late, great amateur golfer Howard Everett, who lived on the Atlantic City course in Northfield, also worked at Shawnee at the time and knew Palmer from having been paired with him in the Pennsylvania Amateur.

As Howard Everett recalls, "At the time I was working publicity for Fred Waring at Shawnee-on-the Delaware, as they called it, and I had invited Arnie, to participate in this tournament that Waring called ‘the Young Masters.’ I had invited Palmer before he won the U.S. Amateur, and Fred Waring kidded me and said that since he won the championship he probably wouldn’t come to our tournament. I said not only would he come, but he was bringing his boss and his boss’ wife, and I told him who they were."

Stan Dudas recalls, "When Palmer came to Shawnee Dixie Waring and Winnie Waltzer were there entertaining the young guys who came in for the tournament, and Arnold Palmer was one of them." Dixie was the daughter of the club owner Fred Waring and Winnie was the daughter of a club member.

At a strange club where he didn’t know many people, Palmer drifted towards the other young players, including Stan Dudas and Ronnie Ward, but he had caught the eye of young Winnie Waltzer.

"When Arnie met Winnie it was love at first sight," said Everett, but there still had to be formal introductions.

Stan Dudas says that at some point Palmer just blurted out, "Who is That?," obviously speaking about Winnie Waltzer, who he then met more formally.

While they were together for much of the tournament, Palmer left to play in the Miami Open in Florida, but he couldn’t take his mind off that girl.

After talking to his father, Howard Everett said, "And I got this from the Deacon himself, Palmer said, ‘Dad, I will never feel right until I go back to Shawnee and see whether I want to marry that girl.’"

"I was there when Arnie came back," recalled Everett. "Stan Dudas was there, and Ronnie Ward, both later became Atlantic City pros. They played a round with Fred Warring and Palmer. And of course Winnie was there and walked the whole 18 holes with us. After that Arnie proposed and they were married shortly thereafter."

While Palmer and Winnie took to the pro tour, and with the advent of TV, took golf to another level, Stan Dudas returned to the pro shop, working at Shawnee, North Hills Country Club, Ramblewood and Princeton, where he helped build the course.

It was at Princeton where he met Leo Fraser, then the head of the PGA, who hired Dudas to work at the Atlantic City Country Club and Leo Fraser, Dudas and Palmer played in the 1960 British Open. "I like playing in Europe," Dudas said. "It’s different golf, it’s target golf. The courses are fair and you have to be a player, you have to be an engineer, you have to play the shots."

"They say St. Andrews is where golf began," Dudas said, "and I guess it did, but St.Andrews is not a course where the public can play because it’s unplayable. It’s great for great players because of the hazards and situations, but a three handicapper back home is 15 or 20 over there."

After five years at Atlantic City, Dudas moved over to the Mays Landing Country Club, built by Fraser as a public course for those who couldn’t afford the country clubs. "We always had the working man, the retired man in mind," Dudas said, reflecting Leo Fraser’s philosophy, "and we tried to make it reasonable and affordable to play golf."

Dudas operated the Mays Landing Country Club until 1998, when the Frasers sold the Atlantic City Country Club to Bally casino and decided to renovate and redevelop Mays Landing.

While his legs and his health often prevented Stan Dudas from playing the game he loved, he was always ready to comment on the game and the players.

"My memories," Dudas said, "are of the people I’ve met and the way we’ve operated. I was lucky when I started out to be around good players, shot makers," Dudas said. "Today, they’re not shot makers. They’re good players, they can make the shots they have to, but they bully the ball, they hit it, power golf. So it’s a different game today than when we played it. The equipment has come a long way. More than anything I think the scores they’re shooting reflects the turf technology, the ball, the shaft, metal head, everything’s longer, and there’s better conditions, better turf. We never played on turf like they’re playing on today. We never spun the ball. Players wanted the ball to run, today they want it to stop."

"And it’s more of a business today. We didn’t play for a lot of money. Today they play for millions of dollars. When we played $20,000 was the purse, and there were only 20 places, so if you got a check you were a good player. We just played golf and had fun."

President Ford at Pine Valley

PRESIDENTIAL GOLF – Gerald Ford at Pine Valley

Better known for playing football at Michigan and passing up an opportunity to play in the NFL to become a lawyer, politician and president, Gerald Ford also had a passion for golf and played the game well and often.

Much maligned for hitting spectators, Ford actually played a serious game and those who played with him had respect for his abilities.

When he retired as ex-president in 1976, Ford and his wife moved to Rancho Mirage, famous for its resident celebrities – Frank Sinatra, Walter Annenberg, the Marx Brothers and Bob Hope and world class golf course. And Ford played until he was physically unable to do so.

While President however, Gerald Ford’s golf game changed the way the government deals with golf and the way the golf clubs do business.

It was during the Watergate scandal, after the resignation of Richard Nixon when Ford became president and his golf game came under closer scrutiny. Eventually it became entwined in his politics and led to changes in the rules, of both the government and the golf clubs, especially at Pine Valley, one of the most exclusive golf clubs in the world.

When the current Congress passed the latest lobby laws that prevent corporations from paying for green fees and travel junkets for lawmakers, the origins of the law can be traced back to Ford’s golfing days at Pine Valley, when he played golf with the corporate vice presidents of Ford and US Steel.

Ford played often at Pine Valley, one of the most exclusive golf clubs in the world, sometimes as a guest of US Steel, one of the corporations that maintained a cabin on the course, used by company’s executives and their guests.

Ford’s Pine Valley foursome became a matter of public record at a press conference when reporters persistently kept asking Ford about playing golf with the corporate officers and whether they discussed government policy while doing so.

One such press conference went like this:

Q. Mr. President, in your golf outings or social occasions or other vacations with Rod Markley of Ford Motor Company or U.S. Steel, did you discuss Government business with them either when you were a Member of the House or Vice President or President?

THE PRESIDENT. Not to my best recollection.

Q. You never discussed business?


Q. Mr. President, your staff says they are having some trouble getting records of all these various golfing trips and what-not. Have you ever asked Mr. Whyte (William G. Whyte, vice president of public affairs, US. Steel Corportation) if he has records?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it's my understanding that Mr. Whyte issued a two or three-page statement a week or 10 days ago which outlined the circumstances of the three trips up to Pine Valley and the two down to Disneyland. I understand he issued that.

Q. I mean records of what it cost and who paid and all that sort of thing.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have no access to their records, so they will have to answer that.

Q. Mr. President, a number of Pentagon military officers have received disciplinary reprimands for accepting freebies--free weekends, hunting expeditions. If you think there is nothing improper about a Congressman accepting free golfing weekends, what distinction is there?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the House passed a resolution sometime in 1968, as I understand it, which says nothing of significance or substance should be received. I do not feel that there was any impropriety on my part or any violation of that regulation.

I am an avid golfer. Most of you know it. I enjoy the company of people while I am playing golf. Every person that's been involved in these allegations I have reciprocated with as far as they coming either to my golf club or coming to our home.

There has been, I would say, substantial reciprocity. And whatever the circumstances of our getting together, has been in a proper way and in no way a violation, in my judgment, of any rule or ethical standard. These are close personal friends and have been for many years. And I have never accepted - or I don't believe they have tendered - any such things on the basis of seeking any special privilege or anything that was improper.

Q. Mr. President, on June 15, before the Southern Baptist Convention, you condemned very strongly what you call "situation ethics," and I was wondering why this golfing vacation wasn't really "situation ethics." When at that time, you said the American people, particularly our young people, cannot be expected to take pride or even to participate in a system of government that is defiled and dishonored, whether in the White House or the halls of Congress. My question is, do you feel that in view of what the White House has admitted, you have lived up to your own standards here?

THE PRESIDENT. I have said that I don't consider these infrequent weekends a violation of either the rules of the House or any ethical standards. I explained that these were long-standing personal relationships, where there has been virtual reciprocity, and I wouldn't have accepted if there had been any thought in my mind that it was improper or the violation of any code of ethics.

Q. Isn't that "situation ethics" though?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think so.

Q. Mr. President, is this long-standing personal relationship, personal and friendship though it may be - is nevertheless valuable to United States Steel and to the Ford Motor Company, much as the employers of other people who are friends of yours - for example, John Byrnes (U.S. Representative from Wisconsin 1945-73), who represents a great many interests in this town on tax reform, and - perhaps coincidentally, perhaps you believe this - your position is about like his on tax reform?

I asked you earlier whether you had discussed business with them during these social outings. Rod Markley said you and he discussed the Clean Air Act. I wonder, do you not see that it is to their benefit for you to have this personal relationship?

THE PRESIDENT. Let me modify what I said a moment ago. In a casual way, of course we might informally talk about certain matters, but I happen to feel that they were not asking me and I was not asking them. The times I've played with Rod have been at Burning Tree, where we are both members and both pay our own way. John Byrnes, I played golf with him because he is a friend of 28 plus years. I don't see anything improper at all.

Q. Do you think that you can separate……

THE PRESIDENT. Absolutely.

Q - ….their business as lobbyists and their representation of their corporations from your personal friendship?

THE PRESIDENT. As a matter of fact, some of their comments could be helpful in what the status is.

Q. Mr. President, yet that seems to be the issue that Carter is raising, though. He seems to be raising the old buddy system issue and saying, in fact, that you can't. Now what can you say to counter that? How can you?

THE PRESIDENT. Maybe he can't, but I can.

Q. Mr. President, may I ask you, you now are aware that some of these expenses were actually paid by the companies and not by your friends. But you were paying, when you had them to your home, you were paying yourself, the taxpayers were not taking care of this. So these companies in effect were financing some of this. What is your thinking about why they wanted to do this, why they were willing to entertain you on these weekends?

THE PRESIDENT. I think you would have to ask the people who offered the invitation. These are personal friends, and I don't ask in advance why you want to pay my green fees. I think that's a matter for them on the basis of their own integrity. ……

The final result was not only an end to corporations paying the President’s green fees, but a major change at the golf club as well, with Pine Valley making some major policy changes that effectively ended corporate memberships and corporate ownership of course cabins.

The policy changes at the club were not only the result of the mention of Pine Valley and its private membership at a Presidential news conference, but also because of the legal ramifications that prevented women from being members of the club. The unwanted publicity brought on by the President’s playing at the club, called further attention to the male-only policies that prevent women from playing there.

It was President Ford’s corporate green fees, persistent questioning by reporters and women’s complaints that they were being discriminated against that brought about changes in Pine Valley’s long established policies.

Not only were corporate memberships denied, but Pine Valley is now a golf club where business is not discussed, mainly to avoid a sexual rights civil suit. As the attorneys reasoned it, if business is discussed on the golf course or club house, and women are not admitted to play or join the club, then it could be discriminatory.

So between President Ford and the women at the gate, rather than let the girls in, they did away with the corporations and business, and now all bills must be paid by individual accounts or cash, and business cannot be discussed, thus changing the way not only the government does business, but how the golf clubs are run.


Atlantic City Country Club Open to the Public


In a lifetime, every serious golfer would like to play a round at a few historic courses – St. Andrews, Pine Valley and Pebble Beach, and for the very serious golfer, Atlantic City Country Club is one of those courses.

But until now, unless you were a high roller, or in the old days a guest of a member, you couldn’t get on the course at any price. Since Harrah’s added Atlantic City to its portfolio of golf clubs in the acquisition of Bally/Caesars, they opened the club to the public, much like it was when it originally opened for the convenience of Boardwalk hotel guests in 1897.

Opening the course to the public is even an historic occasion for such a venerable club. Having seen little play by the casino high rollers after its makeover by Tom Doak, the true links course is in tremendous condition, and can be challenging when the wind comes in off the bay, where the Atlantic City skyline outlines the horizon off the back nine.

This six time USGA championship course has been played by every major golfer of the past century, and was home to Johnny McDermott, who at 19 became the youngest and first American to win the U.S. Open (1911-1912). The Northfield Links was also the scene of many other firsts – the first use of a gutta ball in tournament play, the first Japanese player, the first PGA Senior Tournament and the first “birdie” and “eagle,” as that’s where the terms were coined.

It’s also first in the ratings, as Golf Week Magazine recently named the Atlantic City Country Club the Number One public/daily fee course in the state.

Other than the upgrading of the course and opening to the public, little has changed over the years. Following such prestigious golf pros like McDermott, Wilfred Reid, Ed Dudley, Leo Fraser, Don Siok and Billy Ziobro, golf pro Steve Sullivan knows the routine and teats everyone like a member of the exclusive club it is.

“This is a world class club, a real escape for players looking to play the top public course in the state,” said Sullivan. “The people who have played the course since we went public obviously loved it. Everything here is the same as when the course was private. A player still gets the same premium service as in past years.”

If you go, you shouldn’t just play the course, but walk through the clubhouse, which reeks of golf history. There’s the classic locker room, where the first PGA Senior players argued over whether a Seniors Tour could be successful, the Tap Room, where the Babe (Zarahias) played piano and Sam Snead played trumpet, the ballroom where Billy Hyndman III gave five Frazer Cup victory speeches, the Sony Fraser and John McDermott rooms, and Leo Fraser library, where the walls and even the halls talk with their many photos, memorabilia and historic artifacts.

If you’re lucky, you might find Kenny Robinson, the club’s resident historian and witness to many of the events of the past few decades. Kenny can answer your questions with authority, and tell you a few stories about all the great players in the game, who he knows firsthand. But the stories aren’t enough; you really have to experience the place where golf history is made.

It costs between $100 and $200 to play, depending on time and day. Arrangements can be made by calling (609) 236-4400.

[William Kelly is the author of Birth of the Birdie – The First 100 Years of Golf at Atlantic City Country Club. He can be reached at

Palmer's First Course in Cape May


In his recently published memoirs “Arnold Palmer : Memories, Stories, and Memorabilia : from a Life On and Off the Course” (New York : Stewart Tabori & Chang, 2004), Arnold Palmer not only writes about his life and career in golf, but includes replica memorabilia, copies of letters, scorecards and photos that are pasted together like a scrapbook.

Most golfers know the Palmer story, of how he went to college at Wake Forest in North Carolina on scholarship with his best friend Bud Worsham, who was from a famous family of golfers, the younger brother of Lew Worsham, the golf pro at Pittsburgh’s Oakmont who won the U.S. Open.

When young Bud died suddenly in a car accident, Palmer quit school and joined the Coast Guard, which brought him to the training base in Cape May, where he stayed after training and became known locally, though playing golf infrequently.

In his book Palmer recalls, “Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, I shoveled a lot of snow and endured a lot of long, cold winters as a youngster. But the coldest I’ve ever been in my life was the winter of 1951 in Cape May, New Jersey, where I attended basic training for the Coast Guard. The wind whipping off the Delaware Bay that winter cut through me like a sword…”

One bad winter wasn’t enough to send Palmer away however. Palmer writes that during the Korean War, “…I didn’t see any combat. In fact, I didn’t get any further east than Cape May. After basic training the fine officers at our base decided I should stick around New Jersey and train other recruits. I accepted the job because I figured Cape May was a lot better than Guadalcanal and that training recruits, given what I’d just been through, would be fairly straightforward. What I didn’t expect were the ‘added duties’ that came with this assignment.”

Among the “added duties,” Palmer recalls, was the laying out and construction of his first golf course, a none-hole affair on the base. “Golf was a big-time officer sport in the Coast Guard, as was in the other branches of the service after World War II,” write Palmer, “So when the base commander found out I had been the number-one golfer at Wake Forest, I was given a new charge: design and build a nine-hole course on a flat, brick-hard, overgrown vacant field between two airstrips at the base.”

Like his first love, Palmer says he was profoundly influenced by the construction of this nine-holer. “That was the first course I ever designed, and it gave me a profound appreciation for the art of golf course architecture. There’s a heck of a lot more to it than routing holes on a topographical map. My Cape May design was even more demanding because I had to build the darn thing single-handedly. That is a lesson I think a lot of other course architects could learn: It’s one thing to have a vision. It’s quite another to move the dirt and make it happen.”

“To date, I’ve designed over three hundred golf course around the world, but I’ve never forgotten the lessons I learned from that little nine-holer in Cape May….”

“By the time I received my discharge papers from the Coast Guard, my golf game was pretty rusty. In college I had played every day. In the service I was a yeoman first class, trained recruits, built and maintained a golf course, and spent several hours a week as a life-guard at a nearby beach. Golf fell to fourth or fifth on my priority list. Even though I still loved the game and played as often as I could, the demands of my job took precedence.”

While Palmer may have been profoundly influenced by his first course, others failed to notice or even remember the course that Arnie built. William Carson, the public information officer at the Cape May Coast Guard base, who has been there since the 1970s, doesn’t recall a golf course on the base. “I checked with the facilities engineer and while we’re still looking, and will ask the base historian, we can’t come up with anything that proves or even indicates there was a golf course here. We just can’t see it.”

Although Palmer’s description is pretty precise, “…a flat, brick-hard, overgrown vacant field between two airstrips at the base,…” Carson said that they checked old maps, and “while there was a runway there in the late 1940s, there’s no indication of a golf course here, though it’s possible it’s been built on and developed. We can’t come up with anything, but we’re still searching.”

Nor do the local golfers who knew Palmer and played with him here recall him building a nine-hole golf course, though it could have been restricted to officers and men at the Coast Guard base. Ron Ward, longtime Wildwood Country Club golf pro, now at Mays Landing, was with Palmer at the Shawnee Country Club when he first me this late wife Winnie. “I’ve known Arnie since right after he got out of the Coast Guard and won the U.S. Amateur, and that’s a long time, but I don’t recall any course he designed on the Cape May base.”

Jim and Jack Byrne, who played with Palmer back in the 50s, don’t recall him building a golf course, or inviting them to play there either. “I talked to my brother,” Jim Byrne said, trying to refresh their memories back a half-century, “and we can’t recall anything like a golf course on the base.” They speculate that maybe Palmer did design and layout a course at a Coast Guard base where he was stationed, but it was somewhere else.

If not on the Cape May base, where the runways were later replaced by helicopter landing pads, perhaps Palmer laid out his course at the Cape May County Airport, where the old Navy Air Station was located, and where there is two runways and a lot of hard, flat land between them. But local historian Joe Salvatore, at the Naval Air Station Museum there, said there’s no indication there was ever a golf course there either.

While Arnold Palmer still has fond memories of designing his first golf course at the Cape May Coast Guard base, locating it today is as illusive as finding a first and lost love fifty years later. If still there, would be like finding a lost civilization in an overgrown jungle, and if located and revived would make a unique tourist and golf history attraction, but alas, the “nine-hole course built on a flat, brick-hard, overgrown vacant field, between two runways,” is lost history, and now only a fleeting vision etched in Arnie’s memory.

Bill Kelly can be reached at (609) 425-6297 or

Samuri Golf - Ryosuke Aria 1st Oriental Golfer

SAMURAI GOLF – Ryosuke Aria - First Oriental Golfer In USA – By William E. Kelly

The Atlantic City Country Club, in Northfield, New Jersey has a history of golf firsts - the first use of the term "birdie" to signify one under par, the first use of the Haskall ball in official tournament competition (1901), the first American to win the U.S. Open (John McDermott, 1911-12) and the first PGA Senior’s tournament, among others. Now a new one can be added to the list – the first Japanese to play the game.

As Japanese and oriental players begin to have an impact on the professional golf tours, and an ever increasing number of oriental fans, there is a new interest in the history of golf in Japan. While the early British colonial golf courses catered to the foreigners abroad, rather than the natives, the origin and popularity of the game in Japan can be traced to one Ryoichiro Arai.

As historical research into the introduction of the game of golf in Japan is still progressing, one interesting development is that Ryoichiro Arai, the first oriental golfer in America, was introduced to the game at the Jersey Shore, at the Atlantic City Country Club.

New research by a Japanese golf historian Kazunori Ohtsuka indicates that Ryoichiro Arai, a Japanese silk merchant played his first game at the "Northfield Links," today known as the venerable Atlantic City Country Club, adding another first to it’s prominent list of firsts.

Kenny Robinson, who has been a manager of the club for nearly thirty years, learned of the oriental connection when Kazunori Ohtsuka visited the club and mentioned Ryoichiro Arai to Robinson. More oriental golfers began playing the Atlantic City Country Club when Bally-Hilton purchased the club a few years ago, and restricted play to company executives and guests, primarily high-rollers who have an affinity for the game, including many Japanese. Even more oriental players now have the opportunity to play since the new owners, Showboat Hotel and Casino, who merged with Bally, opened the course to the public.

After visiting the club when Bally owned it, Ohtsuka maintained a correspondence with Robinson, detailing how he has been attempting to document this historic feat. At first Ohtsuka wrote, "The first Japanese who played golf in the USA is said that he played in 1899 at Westfied Country Club in Atlantic City, New Jersey."

But when Ohtsuka researched further however, he found that the only golf club in a Westfield is the Shackamaxon Golf and Country Club, near New York City, and founded decades after 1899. This led to back to Atlantic City. "My assumption is that ‘Northfield’ was mistakenly informed as ‘Westfield.’ So he actually played in 1899 at a course in Northfield of Atlantic City. This means that the course in question must be yours as yours is the only one there in that specific year," Ohtsuka wrote.

Indeed, the Atlantic City Country Club was founded by Atlantic City hotel owners in 1897, and was known as "the Northfield Links" in its early years, because of its location in the mainland town of Northfield, the small town between Pleasantville and Somers Point on Shore Road, just across the bay from Atlantic City.

"Past Japanese golf historians must have (been) confused!" Ohtsuka concluded.

And the first oriental golfer in the United States was not know for his golf, but his business savy as one of the first and premier silk merchants from Japan. According to Brian Niiya’s (Japanese-American history, 1993), Ryosuke Arai was born in 1855 under the name Ryosuke Hoshnio in Gumma prefucture, the fifth son of the house of Hoshino, a silk producing family. Later adopted by the Arai family, Ryoichiro studied in Tokyo, where he learned English and accounting, and was encouraged to promote the direct silk trade between Japan and America, not only for his family, but for his country.

Before he left Japan however, he was presented with the gift of the sword of Yoshida Shoin, a Samurai warrior who became a great martyr-hero of modern Japanese nationalism. According to Arai’s biography, "Samurai and Silk – A Japanese and American History (Belknap Press, Harvard, 1986), written by his grand daughter Haru Matsukata Reischauer, Arai "took great interest in American politics and followed them closely. But he was happiest when he had time to get on the golf course."

According to Reischauer however, "He had been introduced to the game around 1902 when he was at Pinehurst, North Carolina, recouperating from an illness. Golf was just beginning to become popular in the United States. Andrew Carnegie, at a dinner party for my other grandfather in 1902, presented him with a set of clubs and toasted the development of golf in Japan, with (statesman) Matsukata (Masayoshi) as its patron. Actually Matsukata never used the clubs since he was already sixty-five and there were no golf courses in Japan, and it remained for Arai to stimulate interest there in the game." And that’s as far as the written, published record went. Ohtsuka went a step further however, and contacted Arai’s son.

According to Ohtsuka, Arai’s son more recently told him that his father first took up the game of golf, not at Pinehurst in 1902, but two years earlier, in 1900 at the "Westfield Links" which his father said was near Atlantic City.

Arriving in New York in March of 1876 Arai formed the Sato Arai company, before representing the Doshin firm, completing the first direct transaction between a Japanese producer and an American importer. The Japanese silk trade eventually became the largest source of raw silk for American industry. In 1893 Ryosuke Arai formed two new companies, and in 1901 was elected to the board of governors of the Silk Association of America. In 1905 he helped establish the Nippon Club and in 1907 the Japanese Society of New York.

The Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield, founded in 1897, was also known popularly as "the Northfield Links," since it was in Northfield, the mainland community across the bay from Atlantic City. It was owned by Atlantic City Hotel operators, who catered mainly to the Philadelphia and New York clientele who came down to Atlantic City in the summer, and often in the winter to play golf because the bayside course seldom saw snow. It was at the Northfield Links where Arai was introduced to the game, which would become a big part of his life, and eventually impact Japan as much as the silk trade.

"After taking up golf himself," Reischauer reports, "Arai presented all his Japanese friends in New York to join him in the sport. But Murai was hard to win over. ‘Why,’ he asked, ‘should I get up early in the morning on my vacations and spend the day chasing a silly little ball around the golf course?’ He finally agreed to take one swing at a ball if Arai would get down on his knees in front of the ball and bow three times, touching the ground with his forehead. Arai did this and Murai took a swing at the ball, which shot high into the air and landed at some distance. Murai was delighted and thenceforth became Arai’s inseparable golf companion."

"Another Japanese whom Arai converted into a golf enthusiast was Inoue Junnosuke (1869-1932), later a leading financier and politician in Japan and at the time manager of the Yokomhma Specie Bank in New York. When Inoue was transferred to Tokyo he took back with him such a love for the game that he got together in 1913 a small group of fellow members of the prestigious Tokyo Club and founded a golf club, with its links at Komazawa in the countryside west of Tokyo. The farmers, whose land was needed for the golf course, were dubious about the whole project, having no idea what golf was, but they were so impressed by the mansion of a former daimyo in which Inoue lived that they agreed to the deal. The golf club at Komazawa was the first in Japan for Japanese, although the English residents of Kiobe had earlier built one for their own use on Mt. Rokko behind the city."

"Although Arai was not a participant in the organization of the Tokyo Golf Club at Komazawa, he had stimulated the interest that lay behind its founding and he became a charter member. Each time he returned to Japan, one of the first things he did was to play at Komazawa with Inoue and other friends. Because of the growth of the city, the golf course was later moved to Asaka in Saitama prefecture. Inoue never got to play on the new course (he was assassinated by a member of a right-wing organization in 1932), but Arai did play there on his last trip to Japan in 1935. He was then eighty, and to the amazement of his younger partners he played eighteen holes with no sign of fatigue."

In America Arai was a member of two golf clubs near New York, one in Stamford and the other in Greenwich, after which he would eat dinner, ending it with a bowl of rice and some Japanese pickles and tea, before playing two games of go with Murai.

Golf however, may have been his downfall. According to granddaughter Reischauer, "In the winter of 1939, Arai had patiently waited for the snow to melt so that he could get out on the golf course. One day in early April, though it was still cold, he played eighteen holes and returned home elated with his good score, though somewhat tired. It turned out that he had caught pneumonia and he never recovered, dying on April 9 at the age of eighty-four."

Arai died in America in 1939, and is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, a service conducted by the First Reader of the Christian Science Church of Stamford, since he had converted to Christianity in 1919. "He was mourned by Japanese and Americans alike," notes Reischauer, "and the American Commodity Exchange paid him the unusual tribute of silence while the funeral was in progress."

There is more to this story than just silk and golf however. Ryoichiro Arai’s granddaughter Haru Matsukata (1915-1998), and biographer, was a journalist who married Edwin Reischauer, President John F. Kennedy’s Ambassador to Japan. Living near the Belmont Country Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her husband later taught Japanese history at Harvard, Mrs. Haru Reischauer wrote the book "Samurai and Silk : A Japanese Heritage" (Belknap Press, Harvard, 1986), a duel biography of her grandfathers, Matsukata Masayoshi, a statesman of the Meiji Era, and Arai Ryoichiro, the pioneer in the Japan-US silk trade. Besides documenting Arai’s love for the game of golf, it is a classic history of early Japanese – American trade relations and the story of the founding of the Tokyo Club and other Japanese – American interests.

So new research indicates the first oriental golfer to play in America, Japanese amateur Ryosuke Arai, was introduced to the game at the Northfield Links, the venerable Atlantic City Country Club, home of many firsts in golf.

The Greatest Game Ever Played


The Greatest Game Ever Played didn’t become the greatest movie ever made, as it bombed at the box office without the support of even the most fervent golfer. But it may get more play as a recently released DVD, and the 1913 U.S. Open is one of the greatest games and stories ever lived.

As the Seabiscuit of golf, the story of the 1913 U.S. Open is one for the ages. And like Seabiscuit, Mark Frost’s book The Greatest Game Ever Played (Hyperion, NY, 2002) is better than the movie, if only for the details about some of the most interesting characters you’d ever want to play golf with – Willie Anderson, Willie Parks, Jr., Walter Travis, Johnny McDermott, Walter Hagen, Wilfred Reid, Harry Vardon, Ted Ray - Walter Mitty characters all.

Frost, who worked on television’s Hill Street Blues and Twin Peaks, and wrote Grand Slam, a bio of Bobby Jones, correctly recognizes the 1913 U.S. Open at the Country Club at Brookline as the most significant game of golf ever played. But in focusing his story around British champion Harry Vardon and American amateur Francis Ouimet, as the David and Goliath of golf, he misses the real story of the game – John McDermott.

And he mis-characterizes McDermott as an anti-hero, when in fact he is the real protagonist and pivotal character in the larger, international drama of the game.

Francis Ouimet is the home course caddy and Massachusetts Amateur Champion, who comes in at the end and saves the day for the Americans, but it was Johnny McDermott, the two-time defending champion, who issued the challenge and instigated the cross-the-pond Walker and Ryder Cup rivalries that continues today.

It was McDermott, in the Shawnee-on-the-Delaware locker room a week before the Open, who promised the upstart European champions they weren’t going to take the national championship trophy home with them. It was McDermott who publicly announced that their domination of the game was over, who made the threat, led the charge and took the game of golf from the sports page to the front page. McDermott made golf more than a game, more than a sport – he made golf an issue of national pride on both sides of the Atlantic.

Golf was not a largely popular sport in the early years of the last century, though many of the best players were amateurs, the number of golf professionals were limited.

On the one side you have Vardon, Ray and Wifried Reid, with dozens of championships between them, who routinely took the US Championship whenever they played, and hadn’t bothered to come over to play the previous two years (1911-1912). Both Opens were won by McDermott, the first time when he was nineteen, the youngest ever still to win the national championship. McDermott was also the first native born American, since all the previous U.S. Open championships had been won by expatriate Scotsmen or Englishmen.

With McDermott, among the Americans, were some New England pros, especially Walter Hagen from upstate New York, and amateur champions Jerry Travers and Ouimet.

The first half of Frost’s book is about the buildup to the great game, and all of the main characters have local connections and did time on the local courses, particularly Atlantic City, Seaview and Great Bay.

Vardon gave an exhibition at Atlantic City in 1900, while his greatest rival was Willie Park, Jr., who laid out Great Bay. Their mutual nemesis, Wilfried Reid was a pro at both Seaview and Atlantic City. Walter Travis won the U.S. Amateur at Atlantic City, and Walter Hagen was a barnstorming partner of Atlantic City owner Leo Fraser. McDermott was the pro at Merchantville and Atlantic City when he became the first American and the youngest champion ever.

As described by Frost, "By 1913, this much was clear: Before professional golf would ever be able to capture the imagination of the public at large and win mainstream acceptance as a frontline sport, American golf needed a standard-bearer,….when the moment finally arrived, a nineteen-year-old pro named John J. McDermott from Philadelphia grabbed the ring."

"The blue-collar son of mailman and former caddie, just like Old Tom, Johnny McDermott weighed 125 pounds soaking wet and attacked everything he tried in life like an overmatched, half-blind club fighter trying to slug out the last round of a title fight. Johnny never met a risky, low percentage shot he didn’t immediately take a swing at; his game was a high-wire act relying on white-knuckle nerves, an approach not just to golf, but to life, one for which he would not so many years afterward pay a horrific price."

"John McDermott’s back-to-back Open victories accelerated America’s interest in the sport from a trot to a gallop; for the first time major metropolitan newspapers hired beat writers whose sole responsibility was covering the game. The increased detail of their reportage fueled public awareness, more people came out to watch big tournaments, more ink was spilled reporting the results; each advance in the cycle raked more players into the sport. For Johnny McDermott…. he quickly cleaned up on the business opportunities that came his way, lending his name to the manufacturing of clubs and balls, playing paid exhibitions around the country. Within the year he made two well-publicized trips to England, mixed with the high and mighty of both societies, and invested his newly gotten gains in the stock market. At last it appeared American golf had found the leader it needed."

"Except for one small hiccup: Almost nobody could stand him. A bachelor who still lived at home with his parents, away from the course Johnny by all accounts conducted himself in a sober, gentlemanly manner; too pad they didn’t play golf in a church. Never an accomplished technical player, too small to overpower courses, Johnny McDermott depended entirely on winding himself up into an irrational frenzy against everything around him and then venting his rage like a blast furnace – at the golf course, the officials, the USGA, and his opponent, most particularly if his opponent was foreign-born."

"When he lost that first Open play-off to Scotsman Alex Smith in 1910, McDermott tracked Smith down afterward in the middle of his locker-room celebration, jammed a finger in his face, and stunned everyone within earshot by warning the champ that he intended to beat him senseless next year…."

While all this is true, Frost’s negative characterization of McDermott’s temper, and nerves, vomiting before teeing off and locker room speeches must be considered with the fact that he was only 18 years old when he lost to Alex Smith in the play-off, and he made good on his threat and whooped him like he promised.

And like most 18 year olds, McDermott lived with his family, and dutifully turned his wages over to his mother, but left the home of his alcoholic abusive father as soon as possible and leased a room in a home on Shore Road across the street from the Northfield Links. He didn’t drink and took the trolley to attend mass every morning before starting work in the pro shop and wasn’t like the boozing, broad chasing early Scottish pros – Anderson, Smiths, Vardon, et al., an apparent negative attribute in Frost’s view.

The treatment Travis, McDermott and all the early Americans received when they traveled to England and Scotland set the tone for their attitudes against them, and it took Walter Hagen to break down the barriers the gentlemen of the game set up against the early pros and visiting Yanks. But the rivalry goes on.

The world-wide media and public interest in the game of golf can be traced to the locker room at Shawnee, two weeks before the 1913 US Open when McDermott beat Vardon and Ray by double digits and won the tournament by eight stokes, and then announced, "There’s been a lot of loose talk about the ‘great English champions’ coming over here and competing in our Open. And I just want to say to you boys Welcome, glad you could make it, we’re happy to have you with us. We hope our foreign visitors had a good time here, but I don’t think they did. Mr. Vardon, I understand you won this baby once before. But let me tell you this; you are not going to take our cup back!"

Then, after a USGA official had McDermott apologize personally to Vardon, and shake his hand, as Frost describes the scene, "like a drunk on a bender, unable to pass up that last bar on the corner, McDermott turned back to them and shouted, ‘But you are still not going to take our cup back!"

And they didn’t. At Brookline, after all the other Americans fell behind Vardon and Ray, Ouimet came on. Walking to the tee, tied with two of the greatest golfers who ever lived, Ouimet stopped next to McDermott who told him simply "Pay no attention to Vardon and Ray and play your own game."

On the wall of the Atlantic City Country Club, next to the locker room door, there hung an old photo of the 18 th green at Brookline, crowds in the rain watching Ouimet line up his final putt, Vardon and Ray leaning helplessly on their clubs, the defining moment of golf in this century.

While Ouimet made the putt, Johnny McDermott is the forgotten American hero who gave his all to the game, including his life.