Thursday, August 25, 2011
Arnie Plays Pine Valley for the first time and earns Winnie's wing with 67-69-68
In 1954 Arnold Palmer took all bets going in and cleaned up. "I was about to be married. So I collected all the bets I could find. I don’t know what I would have done if I had lost – it was far more money than I could afford.”
“Winnie assured me all would be well in time.”
“What was really missing, I quickly realized, was some material sign of my intentions – namely, an engagement ring.”
“Back in Cleveland, my old golf gang from Pine Ridge helped solve that problem. Art Brooks, Bill Wehnes, and Ed Preisler all chipped in a couple grand each to help me purchase a decent ring, and Bill even managed to get a good deal from a local jeweler. My salary didn’t pay me enough to afford even the payments on the ring, and I now had an $8,000 debt on top of everything else.”
“It was about this time that one of them proposed a weekend golf trip to Pine Valley. It would be a way, I realized, to maybe pay off my borrowings – or go even deeper into debt. Pine Valley, the famous George Crump layout that meandered through the scrub and sandy hills in the New Jersey pine barrens, was a place I’d always heard about and dearly wanted to play but had never had an opportunity to. Before I knew it, two foursomes were headed that way. On the drive down, the guys started telling me how ruthless Pine Valley was and how even I probably wouldn’t break 90 on it.”
“‘Ninety?’ I looked at Bill Wehnes incredulously.”
“Well, one thing led to another and I soon had half dozen wagers going, $20 nassaus with automatic presses and an intriguing side bet with Bill: for every stroke I was 70 or under, he’d pay me $100, and for every stroke I was 80 or over I’d pay him the same.”
“In retrospect it was pretty foolish. I could have really lost my shirt and been so indebted to the gang that I would never get out of Cleveland. But you’re only young and cocky and in love once, I suppose, and I had no doubt I could bring celebrated Pine Valley to heel.”
“Foolish thought number two, or so it appeared from the outset.”
“Day one, hole number one: I pull-hooked a 5-iron approach over the green into the bush, chipped over the green, and was forced to make a thirty-footer for bogey five.”
“Pine Valley certainly had my respect and full attention. I think Bill and the guys must have been mentally spending all of my money, and for a while I thought I was in big trouble.”
“Frankly, I’d never seen anything like the place, the way holes were integrated so beautifully into the rolling scrubby sand landscape. It looked wild and manicured. The greens were immaculate, with slopes so subtle or murderous I could see why so many famous pros had come there only to be reduced to screaming fits of despair. At nine, I made a bogey and shot 36 out, thanks to a flurry of much-needed birdies. Not bad – but still a long way to go.”
“The back nine treated me a little better. I holed a fifteen-footer for birdie on the tough finishing hole to card 67. That was four hundred Ben Franklins in my pocket. I cleaned up on all the nassaus and that night even cleaned up at gin rummy. The next two rounds I went 69 and 68, and by the time the weekend was through I had pocked nearly five grand, almost enough to pay off the ring.”
“It was while we were there in that ultimate golf terrarium that I had time to think about what Winnie and I were really up against. My salesman salary scarcely covered my own expenses, much less those of a married couple in need of a first house and possibly children in the near future…..- and as much as I liked the proposed scenario of a big church wedding in the spring and steaming of to England for the Walker Cup, in my heart I saw only one way for us to make it as man and wife.”
“I would need to turn pro.”
Re: Leo Fraser.
“In a nutshell, when Jack and Gardner’s coup d’etat happened…., at a time when I really did have some clout with PGA members, I saw an opportunity to serve as a bridge of sorts to a better world for everybody. But I chose a role that was far more in keeping with my values and personality.”
“Loe Fraser, a lifelong club professional who had many close friends, including me, on the Tour, had just taken office as President of the PGA. Leo was far more open-minded to the idea of a compromise and accommodation, and as much as anything else, his more flexible attitude stalled the alternative APG tour before it really got rolling. I remember going to see Leo at Atlantic City in late 1968 for a lengthy meeting, during which we discussed an idea that had been steadily growing in popularity. I was a leading proponent of a proposal to create a new players organization, a separate entity formally called the PGA Tour that would operate autonomously with a board composed of four players elected by the Tour, three businessmen, and the top three PGA of America officials.”
“Months of sometimes lively debate ensued, but Leo’s essential fairness, good humor, patience, and determination to serve the best interests of the professional game eventually won the day. The rebels abandoned their cause, and the crowing touch came when Joe Dey, the longtime executive director of the United States Golf Association and a man of impeccable credentials, was named first commissioner of the new Tournament Players Division of the PGA – which would soon evolve into the PGA Tour.”
“Joe’s presence gave the fledgling tour organization the instant credibility it needed. But more important, the birth of the new organization devoted expressly to fulfilling the needs and desires of professional tournament golf brought years of bitter feelings and acrimony to an end. We could finally get back to playing the game we all loved to play – instead of bickering about it. And, despite all the bickering, no one could ever do anything to completely diminish my sheer enjoyment at playing this marvelous game. I’d do it even if there was no money involved, and a lot of players share that view, as participation in the Ryder Cup, the President’s Cup, and, to a lesser extent, the World Cup suggests.”
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Carroll Rosenbloom was a rich Margate guy who owned the Baltimore Colts football team. A friend of Leo Fraser, Rosenbloom lent Fraser some of the money he needed to buy the Atlantic City Country Club in 1944 when he returned from the war in Europe. Rosenbloom was also the then anonymous club member who placed a heavy side bet on Babe Zarahus during the 1948 U.S. Women's Open.
In 1960 Rosenbloom was partners with gambling golfer Mike McLaney in the purchase of the Hotel Nacional casino in Havana from Meyer Lansky, another Jersey guy. Lansky cashed in his chips and sold his interests to McLaney and Rosenbloom a few months before Castro came to power and closed the casinos, as well as the golf courses.
In 1964, when Atlantic City was the host for the Democratic National Convention, President Johnson was officially lodged at one of the Atlantic City Boardwalk hotels, but unofficially he stayed at Rosenbloom's house downbeach on the Margate-Ventnor border.
While Rosenbloom was responsible for moving the Colts to Indiana, and died a mysterious death in Florida, he is best remembered for his gambling, especially the bets he made on the Colts in the Superbowl - or was it just called the World Championship at the time?
In any case, according to legend, Rosenbloom had the Colts and four points, so when they were driving towards the goal line near the end of the game, instead of going for the sure three point chip shot field goal, Rosenbloom himself called the plays in to make sure they scored a touchdown so he could win his bets. Or so the story goes. He're one version of the story, as said to be related by Al Besselink.
Besselink is himself an interesting character, originally from Merchantville in South Jersey, near where I too grew up in nearby East Camden. Merchantville is a small town with tree lined streets and an old and historic 9 hold golf club where Johnny McDermott was the pro for a little while in 1910 before being hired away by the more prestigious Atlantic City Country Club and then winning the 1911 and 1912 US Opens. Besselink however, is probably Merchanville's most famous golfer, and here he relates the story of the bet Rossenbloom and McLaney put down on the football game.
The $3-million bet on the 1958 NFL Championship ...
Posted by T.S.
I've gotta tell you, I've had more fun working on a two-part story about the 1962-64 Auravision Records (in the April 17 and May 15 issues of SCD) than I've had in quite some time, all because of the principal character in the drama, Mike McLaney.
It's a massive understatement to say that McLaney was a colorful gambler and casino operator with a résumé that could have been crafted by Damon Runyon, including a link to mobster Meyer Lansky and a history of trying to overthrow or even assassinate a certain pesky communist dictator in Cuba, and you have some of the ingredients of the story. In doing research for the piece, McLaney's name pops up alongside that of President Kennedy, his brother Bobby and his father, Joseph P., Mickey Mantle, Marty Glickman, Avery Brundage, Jim Thorpe and a cast of congressional investigators and subcommittees, just to name a few.
The larger-than-life quality of McLaney’s persona extended to yet another legendary sports figure, former PGA Tour player Al Besselink, who befriended a Who’s Who list of the famous and infamous through the rough-and-tumble early days of the postwar PGA Tour.
“He was my best friend,” the 86-year-old Besselink said in a phone interview. Like his friend, Besselink was inextricably linked to gambling at a time when the glossy veneer of modern times hadn’t been completely applied to the professional golf arena as yet.
“Mike was a flamboyant gentleman and a fabulous human being,” recalled Besselink. He even remembered the Auravision Records that his friend produced, though in keeping with the murky history of the odd collectibles, the details even for Besselink are a bit sketchy.
“Somebody came to Mike with the idea and he put up the money for (printing the Auravision Records),” said Besselink. He didn’t know much more about McLaney’s forway into our zany world of sports collectibles, but he did have a good deal to add about the gambler’s most infamous deed: the $3 million plunked down on the Baltimore Colts to win the 1958 NFL Championship Game.
“I know all about it,” Besselink said when asked about McLaney’s shadowy role in “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” Besselink was in Los Angeles to watch the game on television with another golfing buddy, then 49ers quarterback John Brodie, who not coincidentally was a world-class golfer himself.
“Mike bet $3 million on the game, divided between himself, his friend and partner Louis Chesler (from the resort in the Bahamas) and Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom.” The trio had given between 31/2 and 51/2 points for the privilege of betting on the favored Colts, and Besselink noted that his friend had given him a piece of the bet for free, amount undisclosed.
Bessie, as he was known, told Brodie that he had a bet on the game, and they watched it head into overtime. Brodie told him he was out of luck, since a tie score would likely mean that the winning team would probably ending up securing the NFL crown via a field goal, which was not enough to cover the spread.
“I told him Baltimore was not going to kick a field goal,” Besselink recalled with a laugh. After the Giants were stopped in the first drive of the overtime, Unitas began the march down the field that helped install the young quarterback into the pantheon of lower-case giants of NFL lore and legend, and seemingly helped propel the National Football League down the road to a prominence that might have been previously unimaginable.
But once the Colts reached the 8-yard line, a field goal seemed to be looming. At second and goal, Unitas elected to pass, completing the heart-stopping toss to end Jim Mutscheller, who was brought down on the 1-yard line.
“Brodie couldn’t believe that pass,” laughed Besselink, who simply recited his line once again that the Colts would not kick a field goal. On third down, Unitas handed it to Ameche, who plunged in for the score, and the rest, as they say, is history.
But not necessarily the history that winds up in traditional NFL tomes. “We won every bet,” is the way Besselink finished the story. Colts coach Weeb Ewbank always claimed that Unitas had called the daring pass play, and further insisted there had been no interference in the play calling from on high.
And it’s not widely part of the historical record, but the following weekend Besselink’s next touring stop was in New Orleans, where he acted as a bagman for McLaney, picking up cash throughout the city for his friend. He met McLaney that weekend on the golf course, handing him a bag containing between $300,000-$400,000.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Money Golf: 600 Years of Bettin' on Birdies
by Michael K. Bohn
You can't play Major League Baseball and bet on a game; just ask Pete Rose. Don't try running a betting ring in the NHL, either. Want the surest ticket out of NCAA sports?
Betting's the way to do it. In stark contrast, however, the United States Golf Association officially sanctions betting among players during their games. And it's not just the pros who bet. Every man, out with his buddies, asks at the first tee, "Shall we make this interesting?" Yet there has never been a betting scandal in organized golf.
Money Golf is the first book that tells the complete story of golf's unique association with wagering and how that relationship evolved. It features anecdotes from fifteenth-century Scots to Tiger Woods and all the smooth-swinging flatbellies, movie stars, athletes, politicians, women golfers, Joe Six-Packs, hustlers, and sharks in between. It also serves as a primer for novice golf bettors, providing explanations of Calcuttas (betting auctions), odds-making, on-course games, and the art and history of golf hustling. It even highlights movies and books that include golf wagers, showing that even writers understand the marriage of the two.
Wagering on golf has been part of the game since it migrated to the United States in 1888. All of the early icons of American golf bet when they played-Francis Ouimet, Walter Hagen, and Gene Sarazen. Even Bobby Jones, the simon-pure amateur, wagered on his game. Sam Snead and Ben Hogan always had a little something on the side; so did Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Gary Player. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson learned how to bet on golf when they were little kids. All the personalities, stories, and history of betting on birdies are included in Money Golf.
Michael K. Bohn is the author of "Money Golf," a history of the gentlemanly wager on the golf course, and more recently, "Heroes & Ballyhoo: How the Golden Age of the 1920s Transformed American Sports."
Bohn also has written "The Achille Lauro Hijacking: Lessons in the Politics and Prejudice of Terrorism" (2004), and "Nerve Center: Inside the White House Situation Room" (2003). He served as director of the White House Situation Room, the president's alert center and crisis management facility, during Ronald Reagan's second term. Bohn was a U.S. naval intelligence officer from 1968 to 1988.
A Conversation with Michael K. Bohn
Isn’t betting in sports illegal?
Not in golf. The United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, the two organizations that govern the game worldwide, officially sanction wagering between players.
Why has golf accepted betting, but major league baseball ostracized Pete Rose?
The game developed in Great Britain away from the antigambling influences of puritanical America. U.S.-born sports—basketball, American football, and baseball, for instance—carry the social mores of the society that created the games.
More important, principle and etiquette govern the game’s core. Golfers rely on an ancient and tested honor code to regulate matches by themselves, without the separate referees and umpires who are central to other games. This code, along with lessons about manners and standards of conduct that accompany instruction on the golf swing, steer the sport away from scandal and betting’s frequent disreputable handmaiden, cheating. Organized golf has never suffered a betting scandal.
How did betting start in golf?
Golf grew out of stick and ball games in continental Europe but began developing its distinct characteristics on the east coast of Scotland in the 1400s. From the beginning, the game pitted two players, or a pair of two-man teams, against each other with something at stake, most often coin, food, or drink.
How widespread is betting on golf?
Among the twenty-six million male and female American golfers, the vast majority bet when they play. More specifically, a 2006 Golf Digest online poll revealed 93 percent of the respondents bet at least some of the time when they played. Additionally, more than half of seventy-two teenage players (thirty-six boys and thirty-six girls) surveyed at a 2006 national junior tournament said they bet on their games.
Do women bet on the golf course?
Yes, especially at the professional level, but overall women generally bet smaller amounts than men and usually talk about it less. A 2006 survey of women amateur players indicated only a third of the women had never bet on their golf game.
Do the PGA Tour players bet on their games?
Today most enjoy a friendly wager during practice rounds before the tournament starts. Some even have a discreet side bet during a tournament. As recently as the 1960s, players freely bet among themselves during tournaments, even with bookies who accompanied the players on tour.
While playing in the British Open, some of the pros enjoy betting on themselves, a common and legal practice in Britain. No one in golf views the custom as scandalous. It’s just golf.
Among the pros, who has bet the most?
Walter Hagen, the first successful tour player, always played for money. Sam Snead was the high priest of money golf, but upon his death in 2002, that title shifted to Arnold Palmer. Palmer is as courteous and friendly while betting as he is during every part of his life, but he plays hard for his own money. Lanny Wadkins bets as aggressively as he plays, and Phil “The Thrill” Mickelson has said that he needs a sizable bet to keep his focus during practice rounds.
Does Tiger bet?
Woods bets on most everything that moves on a golf course. He doesn’t bet much, considering his earning power, but enough to satisfy his keen competitive nature. He started putting for quarters as a three-year-old, and has always enjoyed a friendly bet during informal rounds.
What is a golf hustler?
Stories abound throughout golf’s history about players who win wagers by concealing a special skill or knowledge—the “edge.” At one end of the hustling spectrum is the handicap cheat, a golfer that lies about his skills to gain the edge in a game. All golfers revile these people. On the other end are hustlers whose colorful personalities and creative imaginations obscure much of the larcenous facet of the edge. Titanic Thompson was the most storied golf hustler and his cleverness earned him folk hero status in golf.
How do golfers bet?
Players use dozens of betting games to add interest to their games. The most common is skins, made famous through an off-season TV show called the Skins Game. Played by two or more golfers, whoever has the lowest score on each hole wins a skin, the value of which the players determined at the round’s start--$1, $10, and so forth.
Another common game is a Nassau, which as a minimum involves three bets—one on the first nine holes, another on the back nine, and a third on the entire round. The value of each bet varies with the players, from $1 and up.
The simplest bet is on who shoots the lowest score for the round.
Side bets, often called garbage or trash, enliven the round, and involve payouts for birdies, sandies (getting out of a bunker and into the hole in two shots) or other pre-determined successes or mistakes. Chapter 9 of the book describes betting games and summarizes betting advice from the experts.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Gerald Catena - the golfing gangster.
Gerardo Catena of South Orange was the reputed head of the Genovese crime family from 1957 to 1972. He died in Florida in 2000 at age 98.One of the classic stories of the New Jersey Legislature in 1968 were allegations that a Newark Assemblyman wanted to cancel a hearing on organized crime under pressure from a "lobbyist" representingGeraldo (Jerry) Catena, one of the state's most powerful mob bosses.
Senate Law and Public Safety Committee Chairman Joseph Woodcock held a news conference in December 1968 to say that his aide was told by Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee Chairman Richard Fiore that he was being pressured by Catena to stop legislative proposals to create the State Commission of Investigation, and to legalize wiretapping, and to permit certain witnesses to receive immunity from prosecution.Claire Curran Johnson, a former New York Mirror crime reporter who worked for Woodcock, told investigators for the state Attorney General's office that Fiore, a 36-year-old substitute teacher and Recreation Director for the Newark Board of Education, claimed he wanted to head the Assembly panel "to stop these kind of things."
"There is a lot of pressure. You just don't know how much pressure. Jerry is unhappy about it," Curran quoted Fiore as telling her.
Saturday, August 6, 2011
Charlie Rose interviews Arnold Palmer
Fortunately I was channel surfing when I came upon Charlie Rose’s interview with Arnold Palmer on his PBS TV show August 3, an excellent program that should be rebroadcast and archived on the internet.
An hour with Arnold Palmer from Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
Here's an excerpt:
Charlie Rose: 18 majors makes him (Jack Nicklaus) the greatest golfer of all time?
Arnold Palmer: Until somebody shows me a better game, it makes him the best.
CR: Do you believe Tiger will break his record?
AP: No. But I shouldn’t say that. I think Tiger is as close to it as anyone has ever been.
CR: Jack has 18, Tiger has 14 you have 7. In between there’s three or four others.
AP Yea, and Tiger still has a shot at it, but…
CR: You’ve got to believe that if somebody has a game as good as he has, you can recapture it?
CR: Why not? 41:28
AP: I’m not sure about that. You know, once you, once you vary, then you lose that – thing that you were talking about earlier. What is it? Sometimes it’s hard to put in place. What is it? I’m not sure I know. I’m not sure Jack knows. I know what he did, and I know how good he was. But to have him describe to you or to anyone, what it was, what was that thing that you grab? I know that his concentration was so good, that he could play, and play the way it was, but I seen it wander, even with Nicklaus, as good as he was. And now when you have a disturbance in your life that’s major, can you get it back? Can you get that thing that you can’t put your finger on, and get a hold of it and choke it. I seen it in every sport – baseball players, football players. I seen them so good, and then all of a sudden something happens. It could be a psychological thing. You say, well, “I’ve done it,” and then that’s it. Then you say, “I want to do it again,” but it isn’t there, you can’t find it, you can’t grasp it. You can’t hold it.
CR: Some call that an X factor.
CR: You don’t know what it is. You can’t define it, but you know when it’s there. You had it. Jack had it.
AP: A lot of people. Hogan. Nelson.
CR: Byron Nelson had it. Sam Snead?
AP: Sam Snead was probably a little further from what we are talking about, and had an ability that was more natural than anybody that I knew in golf. Snead was as close to a natural player as anything that ever happened. But you know, here’s a guy who says I never won the PGA, well Snead never won the Open. My goodness, if aybody, you think about it, if anybody should have won the Open it was Snead, but didn’t. Why? That X factor...
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Atlantic City Country Club member George Crump owned a Philadelphia Hotel and often took the train and trolley to Alantic City to play golf. He was among the players in December 1903 when the term "birdie" was coined, and he later built Pine Valley Golf Club.
Crump first saw the land he wanted to build the club on from the train he took to Atlantic City. For five years Crump lived in a tent in the South Jersey Pines while he supervised the construction of the course, but he died before it was finished.
When a reporter tracked him down in the woods one day, and asked him what he was doing, Crump's vision of Pine Valley was described as a place where families, including women and children would play golf. Instead, Pine Valley became a private club for men only, and the course Crump built is generally recognized as the best in the world.
Willie Anderson with his arm around Alex Smith
Willie and Alex
Both Scottish professionals who came to America to work in the game of golf, Willie Anderson won four of the first dozen U.S. Open Golf Championships, but died young of hardening of the arteries. Alex Smith also won two early U.S. Opens. From a family of great golfers from Carnoustie, Scotland, four of his brothers were also golf professionals, including Willie, who also won the U.S. Open, and MacDonald Smith, who tied brother Alex and John McDermott in the 1910 U.S. Open in Philadelphia. In the playoff Alex defeated McDonald and McDermott. When Alex tried to console the 18 year old McDermott for losing, McDermott replied, "I'll get you next time you big lout!" And he did, winning the 1911 U.S. Open in Chicago.
Both Alex and McDonald Smith visited Jolly Jim Fraser when he was the golf pro at Seaview.
At the 1913 U.S. Open at the Country Club at Brookline, Alex Smith was at the bar in the clubhouse arguing with Ted Ray about socialism when they were interrupted by Wilfrid Reid, who told Ray he shouldn't be a socialist because of all the money he made. In response Ray punched Reid in the face and knocked him over a table.
Alex Smith's brother Willie "moved to Mexico City to become the golf pro at the Mexico City Country Club. He was injured during the Mexican Revolution. He had refused to leave his post at the country club and was found trapped under a fallen beam after Emiliano Zapata's troops ransacked the club which they saw as a symbol of the corrupt ruling class."
Willie Park, Jr., the son of the winner of the first British Open (1865), also won the British Open himself.
Willie Park, Jr. came to America where he became a prolific golf course designer, laying out dozens of golf courses throughout the country. In 1922 he came to Atlantic City and revamped the original course and laid out another 18 holes, which were later developed into housing.
While at the Jersey Shore, Willie Park also laid out the Ocean City-Somers Point Golf course, now Greate Bay.
Monday, August 1, 2011
Wilfrid Reid ACCC Pro 1946-1948 – [From Birth of the Birdie Chapter 5]
It was a tip of the hat to his old mentor when Leo Fraser appointed Wilfrid Reid head pro of the Atlantic City Country Club in 1946. Born in Nottingham, Enland in 1884, Wilfrid Reid won a number of major European tournaments that included British champions Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. After working as a golf professional in France, Reid came to America to work as a golf pro with Walter Travis at Garden City in New York. He frequently placed among the top ranks of the professionals in major tournaments.
Reid played in the 1913 U.S. Open at Brookline, Massachusetts with Vardon and Ray and others who were all trying to wrestle the U.S. Open title from two-time defending champion John J. McDermott, the Atlantic City professional. At the halfway mark of that famous Open Reid was tied with Vardon for the lead with 147, two strokes ahead of Ray but later faded to fourth, with McDermott and Hagen. A colorful character “Wilfrey” got into a fist fight with Ted Ray in the Country Club at Brookline locker room. He was also known for having “beaned” Winston Churchill on the head with a golf ball. Golf historian Ross Goodner said, “Wilfred Reid loved a good story and he loved to drink.”
Ried worked as the pro at a number of other clubs and helped design many courses. In 1914 Clarence Geist named him the first pro at Seaview Country Club, where he worked until he was replaced by James “Jolly Jim” Fraser in 1916. It was Wilfrid Reid who personally vouched for Leo Fraser’s required apprenticeship when Leo was first installed as an official member of the P.G.A.
Reid was the club professional at the time of the 1948 U.S. Women’s Open and his advice on how to play the course was published in the program.
“Wilfrid Reid was a great guy,” Elsie Rogers recalled. “He was a wonderful teacher. He just told me to hit the ball harder. He was fun, old Wil Reid.”
“To King, President or Pauper, golf is a leveler of all mankind. It cultivates the finer innermost senses of men, and places those in lowly places on a plain not excelled by the highest. It creates sooner or later, the one great definer, control of one’s actions, words and balanced deeds. Surely a great teacher.” – Wilfrid Reid
Wilfrid Reid (First Seaview Pro 1915 - ACCC Professional 1946-1948)
"Watch for wind hills lad, you can hear'em but you can't see'em." - Wilfrid Reid to Don Siok
Wilfrid Reid, the first golf pro at Seaview later came back to the Jersey Shore in 1946 to work at Atlantic City Country Club.
An Englishman and protege of Harry Vardon, "Wilfrey" as they called him, learned to make the old style golf balls as an apprentice to the father of Scottish pro Tommy Armour. He later accompanied Vardon and Ray on their 1913 tour of the USA and played in both the Shawnee and US Open tournaments that year.
At Shawnee, won handily by two-time Open Champ John McDermott, the tournament made headlines because of McDermott's promise that the Open trophy would not be taken by the British. But Wilfrid Reid got the attention in the locker room when he got into a fistfight with Ted Ray. At the Open the following week Wilfrie tied for first after two rounds, but fell behind. Then he went back to England for awhile.
After winning the French, Dutch, German and Swiss Opens and laying out a number of popular courses in Europe, Reid was recruited and hired by Atlantic City industrialist Clarence Geist to be the first golf professional at Geist's new and exclusive Seaview Country Club. Geist would also build the Bocca Raton golf course in Florida where his pro Tommy Armour, was the son of Wilfrie's old Scottish instructor.
After only one year at Seaview, Reid moved to the Wilmington Country Club in Delaware, while the Wilmington's pro Gil Nichols went to Cortland Park in Long Island, and the Courtland Park pro James Fraser took Reid's place at Seaview. Sports writers called it "the Triple Switch."
Reid must have taken time off from Wilmington as he is credited with designing a number of golf courses in 1917, including the Lakeside course in San Francisco that would become the Lakeside course at the Olympic Club, the site of the 2012 U.S. Open Golf Championship.
Reid also designed a number of important golf courses in Michigan, but became better known as a golf instructor, and gave lessons to famous people - presidents and Kings, but also gave lessons in life to all those who knew him.
While Reid was small in stature, one of those who looked up to him was Leo Fraser, who Wilfrie took under his wing much like Vardon had done to him in England.
Wilfrid Reid was one of those present at the first meeting of the PGA in 1916, when one of the first orders of business was to take up a collection to help pay for John McDermott's medical care. McDermott was living at Norrestown Hospital at nearly $2 a day, more than his sisters could afford.
At first they wanted Wilfrid Reid to the president of the organization but he didn't have the time, after all, he was still a club pro who primarily made golf balls and gave lessons.
Although he played in the first inter-national team matches on the English side against Scotland, he later became proud to be a naturalized American citizen and played on the American team, going undefeated in all of his pre-Ryder cup matches against the UK teams.
Wilfrid Reid came back to the area after Leo Fraser purchased the Atlantic City Country Club in 1946 and was the pro there during the 1948 U.S. Women's Open (won by Babe Zaharius).
It was probably during that time when Reid wrote this:
My Life in Golf – By Wilfrid Reid
It’s hard to believe it now, but I almost became a minister instead of a professional golfer. At least my family had that in mind for me until I was about 14. My family all played golf – my grandfather, my father, my brother – all of them – so it was only natural for me to start. I was about five years old when I began and by the time I was 14 I was a pretty good player.
I was born in Sherwood Forest – an outlaw, you know – and golf was popular in Nottingham like every place else. The Notts, the gentlemen of Nottingham, allowed us to play on the golf course. We were artisans, you know, the working men. Anyway, in 1898 Harry Vardon played an exhibition match there and after seeing him I don’t think I ever considered any other career besides golf.
Instead of studying for the ministry I went to Edinburgh as an apprentice to a golf professional. Well, this was a few years before the rubber-core ball came out and people were still using the guttie. I learned to make golf balls using molds, two halves and put them together. I used to make several dozen balls a day.
Harry Vardon was very quiet on the course. The thing I remember most is that there was a great crowd of people gathered there, and when I stepped up on the first tee I was so scared I couldn’t talk. Then Vardon came up and said, “What’s the matter, lad?” I pointed to all the people and he said, “Don’t worry about them, they’re only trees.” I never forgot how kind he was.
It was during these years that we had what we were called international matches, between teams from England and Scotland. I was on the English team seven years – from 1906 through 1913 and my record was 10 victories, one loss and one match halved. There were some great matches, as you might imagine, since England has players like Vardon, Taylor and Ray, while Braid, Herd and Willie Park were on the other side.
It’s funny how some things remain in your mind, while more important ones are sometimes forgotten. I recall looking for Ray at the 1913 Open and found him in the bar of the hotel with Alex Smith. They were having a big argument about socialism. Then I had to open my big mouth. I said, “Ted, how the hell can you argue in favor of socialism when you make as much money as you do?”
Well, Ted really got angry at that, really upset, and he punched me right in the face and knocked me clear over the table. My face was swollen clear out to the ear, and the next day I had a devil of a headache. Vardon was very upset and said he was going to withdraw, but I talked him out of it.
While I was here, I talked to a lot of fellows I had known in Britain and saw how well they were doing and how much golf was growing here, and I began to wonder if it might not be a good thing for me to make the move. As it turned out, I went back home and stayed there a couple of years, then came here permanently in 1915 and took the job at Seaview in Atlantic City.
I don’t know what I would have done in other circumstances, but the war was on and golf in Britain was almost at a standstill.
I wasn’t too happy there and was soon looking for another club. Then Gil Nichols came to me and said he was accepting an offer from Great Neck, on Long Island, and he told me to come down to his present club at Wilmington and play a match with him. He wanted to introduce me to the people at the club because he thought he might be able to get the job. It was a sort of a game of musical chairs because I took Gil’s place at Wilmington, he took Jimmy Fraser’s place at Great Neck, and Jimmy took my place at Seaview.
I stayed at Wilmington seven years and during that time I became an American citizen. I had studied the material from top to bottom so I answered all of them correctly, and when the judge congratulated me he admitted he hadn’t known all the answers himself.
Well, I’ve been here and there since then. I spent several years in Detroit and I used to spend every winter in St. Augustine. I was around when the PGA was founded in 1916, and after I went to Detroit I got Leo Fraser and Warren Orlick into the PGA. Both of them later became president of the association, you know?
I played quite a lot of tournament golf the first few years I was over here and in fact, I’ve never completely stopped, because I played in the PGA Seniors.
It’s been a good life and I wouldn’t have had it any other way, although once in awhile I wonder what my life would have been like if I had gone ahead and studied for the ministry.
THEN THERE'S THE OFFICIAL STORY
Wilfrid Ewart "Wilfie" Reid (3 November 1884 – 24 November 1973) was an English professional golfer and golf course designer.
Reid was born in Bulwell, Nottingham, England and died in West Palm Beach, Florida, United States.
Reid studied club and ball making under Tommy Armour's father, Willie, in Edinburgh, Scotland. A scratch golfer at 15, Reid turned professional at 17 and was a protégé of Harry Vardon who helped him land a club professional job at La Boulie Golf Club, Versailles, France, in 1901 for roughly five years. He later was the professional atBanstead Downs Golf Club in Sutton, London, England for roughly nine years and a successful tournament player. Reid was a fine competitive golfer despite being small of stature, and he beat his mentor, Vardon, on several occasions, was never short of confidence.
In 1913 Reid visited America with Vardon and Ted Ray where they played in a number of tournaments including the famous 1913 U.S. Open in which he tied for 16th. Reid tied Vardon for the 2nd round lead and played with Francis Ouimet in the 3rd round. In 1915 he tied 10th. His best finish in the U.S. Open was a T-4 in 1916.
In 1915 Reid immigrated to America at the invitation of Clarence H. Geist to be golf professional at Seaview Golf Club in Galloway, New Jersey after the outbreak of World War I. He later, at the suggestion of the DuPont family, became the golf professional at the Wilmington Country Club,Wilmington, Delaware. He became a member of the PGA of America in 1917 and was appointed to the national PGA Executive Committee as a vice president at large, a position he held for two years. In August 1920 he was elected vice-president of the PGA of America and he was reelected in 1921. In 1920 and 1921 he also held the office of secretary of the Southeastern Section PGA. That year in December of 1921 he attended the founding meeting of the Philadelphia Section PGA and was a member of the organizing committee. Later in 1929 he was the president of the Michigan Section PGA for three years
Reid obtained U.S. citizenship in 1921. Reid served as a professional at several of America’s top clubs, including Country Club of Detroit, Grosse Pte. Farms, MI, Beverly Country Club,Chicago, IL, The Broadmoor Golf Club, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Seminole Golf Club, North Palm Beach, Florida, and Atlantic City Country Club, Northfield, New Jersey. He defeated Gene Sarazen in the 1924 Augusta Open, won the 1926 Michigan PGA Championship and had 26holes-in-one in his long playing career. At various times he won the French, Dutch, German and Swiss opens. The border of his stationery, that he used to send to club-makers such as George Izett of Bailey & Izett Inc. his customers’ golf club orders listed so many of his accomplishments that there was very little room left for him to write his message.
Not only was Reid a wonderful golf teacher, his greatest accomplishments were golf course designing. Reid began designing golf courses at an early age and laid out courses in Europe and Britain before settling in the United States. He once estimated that he had designed 58 courses and remodeled some 43 others during his design career. While based in Michigan during the 1920s, he partnered with another club professional, William Connellan.
The firm of Reid and Connellan designed some 20 courses in that state alone. Reid retired to Florida in the early 1950s and consistently improved his game in both social and competitive rounds. Even into old age he continued to "beat his age" in score on his birthday. In 1985, Reid was posthumously inducted into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.
Reid designed courses in the following states: California (Olympic Club - original Lakeside Golf Club course, San Francisco, 1917), Delaware (see below), and Michigan (see below). In addition he designed courses in England, France, Belgium and Canada.
Oftentimes, his first name gets misspelled as "Wilfred" in documents, such as in the movie and book The Greatest Game Ever Played. Occasionally, his middle initial is incorrectly documented "A." as well.
Results in major championships
Tournament 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909
The Open Championship
T53 CUT T37 CUT T37 T35 T21
Tournament 1910 1911 1912 1913 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 1919
DNP DNP DNP T16 DNP T10 T4 NT NT T21
The Open Championship
T24 T16 T20 26 T41 NT NT NT NT NT
NYF NYF NYF NYF NYF NYF R32 NT NT R16
Tournament 1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929
T56 DNP DNP DNP T47 T27 CUT T48 DNP CUT
DNP DNP R64 R32 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Tournament 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939
DNP DNP T49 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
Note: Reid never played in the Masters Tournament, founded in 1934.
NYF = Tournament not yet founded
NT = No tournament
DNP = Did not play
CUT = missed the half-way cut
R64, R32, R16, QF, SF = Round in which player lost in PGA Championship match play
"T" indicates a tie for a place
DuPont Country Club - the original DuPont Course, Wilmington, Delaware, 1921
Wilmington Country Club - original course, now Ed Oliver Golf Club, Wilmington, Delaware
Newark Country Club, Newark, Delaware, 1921
Port Huron Golf Club, (Reid, Connellan), Fort Gratiot, Michigan
Indian River Golf Club, (original 9 hole), (Reid), Indian River, Michigan
Birmingham Country Club, (Reid), Birmingham, Michigan, 1916
Water’s Edge Golf Course, (Reid), Grosse Ile, Michigan (9-hole course commissioned byWilliam S. Knudsen)
Brae Burn Golf Club, (Reid, Connellan), Plymouth, Michigan, 1923 (666 yard par 5 hole - "The Monster")
Gaylord Country Club, (Reid), Gaylord, Michigan, 1924
Indianwood Golf and Country Club - Old Course, (Reid), Lake Orion, Michigan, 1925
Tam-O-Shanter Country Club, (Reid, Connellan), West Bloomfield, Michigan, 1929
Bald Mountain Golf Course, (regulation course), (Reid, Connellan), Lake Orion, Michigan, 1929
Flushing Valley Country Club, (Reid, Connellan), Flushing, Michigan, 1940