Monday, September 5, 2011
The Ultimate Foursome - Vardon, Ray, Fraser and Hagen
In the fall of 1921 Harry Vardon and Ted Ray played an exhibition match against James Fraser and Walter Hagen at Pottstown, Pennsylvania.
Fraser, from Fraserburg, Scotland, was the Seaview Country Club (NJ) professional, whose ten year old son Leo would caddie for him that day. Leo would go on to become the Seaview pro, the owner of the Atlantic City Country Club and an important PGA administrator.
Harry Vardon and Ray Ted, both from the English channel Island of Jersey, were among the first UK professionals to take golf on the road and physically promote the game.
Walter Hagen, the obstinate Yank, would become known as the "great emancipator" for giving the golf professional the status of gentlemen and thus permitted in the club house, from where they were previously regarded as employees. Hagen was the first touring golfer to earn a million dollars.
Vardon, Ray and Hagen won 16 US and British Opens among them.
Ted Ray won the 1912 US Open and 1920 British Open, while Harry Vardon, said to be the greatest ever, won the 1900 US Open and the 1896,1898,1899, 1903, 1911 and 1914 British Opens. Walter Hagen, who would be the first successful touring pro, won the 1914 and 1919 US Opens and 1922, 1924, 1925, 1926 and 1927 British Opens.
James "Jolly Jim" Fraser had played in some early Open tournaments and while primarily a club professional, he was no slough, as Fraser and Hagen won the match with Vardon and Ray, said to be one of only two exhibitions they lost on that tour.
Vardon made three tours of America, playing an exhibition at the Atlantic City Country Club in 1900, and in 1913 was accompanied by Ray and Wilfrid Reid. All three played in the famous Shawnee Tournament and "The Greatest Game" at the U.S. Open at Brookline. Two years later Wilfrid Reid would assume Fraser's job as pro at Seaview when Fraser would be killed in a traffic accident. Reid would also lay out the original Lakeside course at the Olympia Club in San Francisco where the 2012 US Open will played.
The 1921 tournament at Pottstown was played over a course that was part of Hill School, but a few years before this match was played the Brookside Golf Club was formed by the citiens of Pottstown and today it remains a very respectable club rich, with history.