Golf as a popular sport began in the wide eyes of those young boys who would practice putting and chipping from behind the caddy-shack waiting for the next loop. Why on earth, would a bunch of children yearn to play the game of these urban capitalists???
For very same reason the game was invented in the first place! Swinging a club or stick to hit a ball or rock, is a uniquely human skill that was probably done since the very early days of humankind. Now to hit that ball with precision and send it into a hole requires the skill of a practiced champion... or just dumb luck, as the case may be. Unlike baseball, golf is game you play by yourself, often against yourself, unencumbered by any need for a team.. Of course, having a partner to take on a small wager would certainly make the game a bit more interesting, wouldn't you agree?. It’s like a game of marbles on a grand scale.
So it's fitting that the first great American Golf Hero was a caddy who gained entry to the 1913 U.S.Open held in Boston Massachusetts. As documented in the historical fiction book “The Greatest Game Ever Played” the 1913 Open was a big deal because of the entry of great English golf professional Harry Vardon. Vardon won the 1900 US Open on his first trip to America and spent most of the decade dominating all the tournaments and revolutionized the game with the "Vardon Grip" and the first sponsored ball the "Vardon Flyer" from Spaulding. Little did the champ know, he would soon meet his match in for the form of the unknown 19 year old underdog and former caddy Francis Ouimet.
I highly recommend reading the full story as told by Mark Frost in The greatest Game Ever Played. He sets the stage for this epic match that was like the shot heard round the world and set the fire of imagination for Americans. Francis embodied the American dream with a foundation that anyone with the determination and practice can make it to the very top. though while the papers and fans loved the story, the truth is Francis' journey was not easy, his ability to play golf regularly was often thwarted by the fact he was not born privileged and his entry in the US Open was uncertain even a few weeks before the tournament began.
Above is a great old movie clip of Francis Ouimet swing and to the right we see the closely following gallery on the final 18 hole playoff match. With the US Open and golf still fairly new phenomenon the crowds can be seen walking side-bu-side with Francis and his pint sized caddy - Eddie Lowry. The photos of Eddie really point to the actual caddies of the day, who for the most part were young boys, who looped on the weekends and everyday during the summer.
Harry Vardon was household name in his home country of England and loathed in Scotland. In America he found a the people more embracing of his professional lifestyle, which in England was considered uncouth for gentleman to play sports for money.
Harry himself was once a caddie, who grew up alongside the golf links, his family home displaced by new Royal & Ancient Links being established in his home island of Jersey along the Britain coast.
Ted Ray was another fascinating character. Born on the same Isle of Jersey as Harry, an English island just north of the coast of France, was previously famous for the origin of the Jersey dairy cow. It was a farming and working mans island which only became a golf haven after the industrial revolution decimated the boat building culture. He followed in Harry's footsteps as a caddie and learned the game for the intention of escaping the island as a professional golfer.
Ted Ray was known as a basher with a long ball. He liked playing very fast, and golfers that spent too much time over the ball annoyed him greatly. When asked for advice on, for example, the drive, his main contribution consisted in the words "'it 'em 'ard, mate, like I do." If the pupil complained that he did hit hard but still did not obtain the desired result, Ted's comment was, "Well, then, 'it 'em 'arder." See original article
Francis performance is both miracle and something as natural pure golf shot. Harry Vardon and Ted Ray were true professionals, and the young up and coming hot shot Water Hagen would finish a distant fourth before he would go on to win a series of US Open Championships and become the "Harry Vardon of America" by winning a British Open leading new breed of golfers to what was known as the American invasion. The advantage of Harry and Ted was the ability to play under tournament pressure, which any golfer knows can snakebite the best of us with jerky swings and big numbers.
Francis had two advantages himself. First and most importantly, the US Open was played on the club he grew next to, so he had caddied and learned the game on the very course he would compete. Second, as he was a very late entry, and a total unknown, there wasn't the type of pressure many of the the other players like Walter Hagen. Yet, soon as the tournament approached the final day, everyone knew who Francis Ouimet was and his gallery grew and grew. Harry would later remark, “he played like a seasoned professional.”
Francis became the America’s hero for retaining the U.S. Open cup and Harry and Ted for their demonstration of good sportsmanship in congratulating the winner.
Golf as an organized sport, was barely 25 years old before it was first played on Oregon coast in 1888 in Gearhart a small vacation village just a few miles from the Astoria seaport. The first British Open to crown a Champion was played in 1860 organized and eventually won by the Ol' Tom Morris. The US Open would not begin for another 7 years in 1895. Oregon's first golf links was set up by Scotsman who owned a few clubs and directed his children to bury some tomato cans out in the fields and mark with a stick and rag. To say that many thought him a fool or worse is an understatement. Yet, the grandkids complied with grandfather's request and together they created a 3-hole course along the seaside meadows and dunes of Gearhart Resort, a short train ride from downtown Portland near the towns of Astoria and Seaside. We can only imagine the sound of that first crack of the hickory sticks, undoubtedly imported directly from Scotland brushing the sandy grass of the Oregon dunes.
His inspiration? Why the nature of the rugged seaside meadows of grassy dunes that “links” the land to the sea. The sandy underfoot of the dunes proved not suitable for building or farming, and in ancient Scotland to the present was reserved for recreation and enjoyment of the people. With all the land essentially owned by the King, or otherwise leased by fee to certain families through the generations, the “links” represented the few public open spaces where anyone could enjoy. The links were characterized as ill-suited for economic exploitation, no crops could grow in the sandy salt, save for the natural dune grasses. Constructing building were ill advised as the footing would shift. The very most it would benefit was the occasional shepherds allowing sheep to graze on the grasses and gatherings of townsfolk and lovers enjoying romantic walks along the ocean, and secluded places to place a blanket and lounge together.
To put these 3-hole pioneers into perspective the oldest continual Golf Club in the United States was John Reid and his “Apple Tree Gang” who in 1888, broke ground for the St. Andrews GC (New York) the first 18-hole golf course continuously operated in the U.S.
A few years later, the “The Founder’s Club” went ahead with the construction of a original 9-hole tract at Gearheart in 1892, in the traditional loop - where the 1st tee start at the sea facing inland and loop back around with 9th green by the sea. Like the dunes on which they are build continually shifted in location and management, so the “The Founder’s Club” never fully established a USGA club to complete and maintain the full 18-holes layout. Gerhart remained a tourist amenity and summer destination for many years, continuing to this day.
It begins... the seaside game is brought home so the game can continue
Just 6 years later in 1894, the very same year the USGA was founded, the Tacoma Golf & Country Club formed and started building a complete 18-hole course up the coast a few hundred miles in Washington. Just a few years later, the founding members of Waverley Country Club, the oldest club in Oregon, came together in 1896 to construct the 18-hole course in Oregon along the banks of the Willamette River. While these river banks both clubs chose are not exactly traditional “links” locations, and certainly struggled with issues like mud, drainage and fast growing natural grasses, these properties are the closest approximation to the links by the sea. Waverley original location was in close proximity to the where Powell Boulevard bridge was a close approximation for the residents of Portland.
It should be added however that both clubs were were equally, if not more, passionate about horsemanship and polo teams as they were about the new fledgeling game of golf.
The second oldest club Eugene Country Club started in 1899, was the first to create a course layout based on what was available, rather than on the more traditional links, using the unsold lots of housing developments to map out a series of holes right through the heart of the subdivisions of what would become downtown Eugene. The Eugene Country Club more than any other club a way for the members to have a rollicking good time on the weekends and toil away at hitting golf balls through the neighborhood. One can only imagine the flustered frustration of homeowners on the right side of the fairway with sliced golf balls careening into the wood siding and roofs. It's a fair bet to say at least a window or two may have come crashing down on a marionberry pie cooling in the windowsill with a dollop of golf ball on top.
Organized golf continued to grow and more and more people began to populate the Northwest. The Clubs which started out with people that had disposable income to use towards recreation and building social status. Golf as a game was, by default, limited to the club players and their caddies. However the caddies were not scions club members, rather the boys who lived in the adjacent neighborhoods and towns and knew that a decent wage could be made by tending to the clubs and ball of the club members. Caddies at Waverley, along with most clubs, were given special training and had to learn the game so as to provide solid advice to the member of guest, or at the very least not get in the way.
In 1912, Waverley acquired new land for the development of a new golf course on it's present location. By this time golf was becoming a greater part of the American sport consciousness. The American golfers, lead by Chandler Egan had won the 1904 Olympic Gold Medal in St. Louis, the first and only year golf was played in the Olympics, until 2016.
That same year of 1912, Chandler Egan was hired to help develop land for the new Tualatin Country Club first established in 1912. "Tualatin Country Club was established in 1912 in response to the exclusionary nature of other recreation retreats." see Tualatin Celebrates Centennial Specifically the club was formed by many prominent Jewish families who were an equal part in building key businesses, such as Meier & Frank, early cornerstones of fledgling city. As will be described later, the cafe in Meier & Frank downtown would be a center meeting place in the origin of Eastmoreland Golf Course!
As described in the post "The Greatest Game Ever Played..." 1913 was the turning point where golf captured the attention of all Americans. The young 19 year old Amartuer caddy had defeated the greatest professional golfer of his era (and arguably all time) Harry Vardon.
As we will detail in future post... Harry Vardon and Ted Ray had been touring the U.S. before and after the U.S. Open as ambassadors of golf. For the professional circuit was more a function of "celebrity matches" where the pros would come to match up against the best players in the area. In October 2013 after the U.s. Open Harry Vardon and Ted Ray come to play Chandler Egan at Waverley Country club and Portland officially caught golf fever.
Within a month the charter for the new Portland Golf Club was filed in 1913 and in 1914 construction began with the first 9 holes opening on May 13, 1914. According to the club's history
I'd love to have seen these early members out there working in overalls. It's likely there were a fair amount of actual laborers hired for the effort, yet I'm quite certain that part of the appeal for many members, and perhaps prospective members that would contribute additional labor (in lieu of cash?) to be out there moving stumps and preparing greens. Yard work is often a source of pride and solace for many professionals. Portland Golf Club would become leader of golf in the 1940's hosting the 1948 Ryder Cup as detailed in my blog post from last year.
1914 the city hosts golf courses for members only but no play available for the public citizens of Portland!!
In 1923, the municipal golf program was in serious trouble from the bureaucrats in City Hall that were looking for scapegoats to sacrifice on the alter of fiscal responsibility. In fact, what was going on was the reneging of a promist for the city to purchase the land leased to the City by Ladd's Estate Company for the purpose of building Eastmoreland GOlf Course. As described in the Origin Story, the Tax Board was a group of career politicians that may very well had the ulterior motive to turn Eastmoreland into a private country club.
What we see on this particular article is that attendance and revenues have been steadily increasing. There is even a movement from the neighborhood citizens to turn the Rose City Speedway into a golf course (and spoiler - they succeed along with Paul Keysey to build Rose City in 1924) as well as a initiative to turn the old county poor farm (why it's called that will need some researching) for a west side course. This too would be successful and become the course on top of forrest park where the Zoo currently resides.
We know ultimately that Paul Keyser, hero to the public citizens and champion of recreation, was able to muster the courage to think outside the box, and achieve victory over those that would use the weapons of pessimism and fear to undermine the efforts to build a better Portland for all.
Budget cuts, pruning knives, limited resources.... These are words and thoughts that like stormy weather that downs powerlines, crashing trees across the roadways and fairways. Obstacles become the way. For a golfer, it's like someone cuts a hole in your bag and you watch savings account of collected golf balls fall away and realize that you have to play the round with this one lone ball in your hand.
Just remember, when the chips are down, the game board is poised for brilliance. I just returned from the WWII museum in New Orleans and am often reminded on the heroics and perseverance against the odds. For example, the Battle of Britain is toasted as an early turning point and one of the greatest victories of all time because of the great odds against the Royal Air Force outnumbered by the Luftwaffe 5:1. As Winston churchill noted, it was the "few" who defeated the "many" and turned the tide of the war machine.
In local politics that war machine is bureaucracy, twisting itself into knots and despair of what can't happen what is impossible and lose sight on the goal and the belief that we own the power to change.
Presently, as many municipal golfers know, as some concerned citizens, The PP&R Golf Program is in under siege by the war machine of a budget crisis stemming from the bureaucracy of a fixed mindset. For many many years, the Golf Advisory Committee, volunteer citizens who represent the public utility ownership of the golf assets, was informed by city management that the increase in population along with the increasing popularity of the game would result in higher and higher demand. The Golf Fund, which was always in surplus though most of the 1980's and 1990's , even so far as making 7-figure loan to the ARTS program to fund the development of the Portland's Opera House. In the past 20 years, the trend has reversed though the Golf Program has made few, if any, adjustments other than (1) raising rates - impacting availability to the public it serves - and (2) reducing costs by cutting maintenance budgets - impacting the quality of the courses.
Thankfully there are people within the Golf Program that have the tenacity of Winston Churchill and the brave "few" who created a strategic plan to overcome. First and foremost the greenskeepers of the municipal golf program are some of the most talented, based on how great they keep the course in spite of constant budget cuts that limit resources and personnel. Some of the success can be attributed to newer and more efficient and environmentally friendly practices. Unlike many courses back east like Augusta, which sacrifices wildlife and bugs for the emerald green perfection (Yes the TV broadcast pipes in bird sounds like a laugh track) the Portland Municipal Courses has followed and even lead the way in minimizing the use of chemicals in favor of allowing the course to adopt to the native grasses. Interestingly, many of these practices have been pioneered in some of the oldest courses in Scotland, where the natural growth of the ground is hallowed and revered in it's imperfections. These are the purist conditions which cause "rub of the green" or random bounces and lies unlike the manicured perfection of many PGA tour events on private country clubs.
Secondly, even with golf rates inching upwards year after year, the Golf Program has maintained prices at the lower end of the market. The issue with the rates and revenue is actually three distinct and separate problems which I will review here
The Golf Program will "blame it on the rain" like some 1980's one-hit wonder. For the record deluge of 2017 there is no more obvious culprit for declining revenues. It's also a fair assessment on any month-to-month basis, though in the context of a 5 year strategic plan it would be helpful to see more revenue driving initiatives. The problem isn't just the rain, after all this is Oregon, and the golf program was self sustaining for decades. The challenge is the current revenue model is not built to withstand the weather changes that result in lumpy revenue as unpredictable as the weather. In business school, the goal would be to deploy solutions designed to smooth the model is essential to effective budget planning.
What the Golf Program has just started to follow golf market trends and offer more incentives for loyalty cards to golfers. Almost every public course offers loyalty incentives for regular players to purchase annual golf passes, either all inclusive or at special rates. Leadership initiated a program for a Centennial Golf Card, which for the few golfers who took the time to appreciate the offer, happily purchased one of the two options. However, many of the most avid golfers, who very likely would have benefited the most from the cards, were not sought out as customers.
Interestingly enough, when I attended the GAC meetings and on occasion spoke up, the strong rebuttal from the director of golf that these passes were a terrible idea "because golfers would play too much" Which to me was laughable given the fact that the GAC and Golf Program is designed to encourage recreation. Zoller pointed to the "lifetime card" as an example of great loss to the program, which is one way to look at it, because an equal case can be made that these lifetime golfers (only 200 mind you) actually saved the program from bankruptcy in a time of great need.
Remember the mission of Porltand's Public Golf Program: to offer recreational activities for all citizens of Portland under a model of financial self-sufficiency.
With the pessimistic mindset from the start - is it really surprising the program wasn't successful? It should be noted that golfers that make their primary home course of Eastmoreland and Rose City did step up to the cause. Had every course sold a similar proportionate amount then the program may have succeeded, or certainly come much closer. But the other properties of Heron Lakes, Redtail and Colwood, were lagging behind and negligible sales.
There appears to be two critical reasons
Thankfully the PP&R and City Council was able to provide funds to the Golf Program to help stem the tide. This is equitable for a few reasons. First, the golf program has supported the ARTS program and Swimming Pools over the century multiple times - as the only self sustaining Parks Program it's given far more than it's received over the years. Second, the purchase of the Colwood property was an initiative foisted on the Golf Program by city rezoning on the original Colwood 18 hole course. The need to maintain open space for wetland habitat preservation led the city to approach the Golf Program to acquire the property with enterprise funds earmarked for the Golf Program. While the Colwood property may prove to be a great addition, the GAC board minutes indicate there was great concern for using Golf Program Cash reserves, at the time, for the renovation of a project when there were more pressing issues at hand. This concern was precient as the Colwood GC remains unprofitable and will continue to weigh negatively on cash flow for the foreseeable future..
Conclusion: The future of the Golf Program requires new vision and collaborative leadership between Golf Program and the Citizens of Portland. The golf program leaders have indicated that the Centennial Annual Pass was a failed experiment and they are going back to discounting rates. The lesson is "if you try and fail, don't ever try again." Whereas, this author and many citizen leaders of the golf community agree the real lessons to be learned are
Look to the tenacity and the integrity of Paul J Keyser, the great director of PP&R and take heart in the truth that new leadership with a growth mindset can learn from the past to build a better tomorrow.
In June, the Portland chapter of the American Heart Association hosted the annual "Saving Strokes" at Eastmoreland, sponsored by Providence Hospital. The purpose of this event is to introduce golf as a therapeutic activity for stroke survivors. Research sponsored by the AHA has shown that golf can help with patients develop neuroplasticity, motor learning, practice and performance and dynamic stretching.
The event attracted well over 100 participants and involved practice time with the Eastmoreland golf Pros Ray Comella, Andrew Thorn, and Michael Charles. The activities included basics of putting and distance control, chipping and full swings on the driving range. As any golfer will tell you... the mind and body connection is essential ingrediant to a successful shot, because.... in the words of one the legendary Bobby Jones
“Golf is a game that is played on a five-inch course – the distance between your ears. ” -Bobby Jones
The Savings Strokes program began in 2001 in Sacramento, CA. Since then as many as 100 participants in each program in more than a dozen locations are introduced to how the game of golf as therapy. Golf therapy involves group participation in variety of the elements of the game including, putting, chipping, sand shots and full swings. As a result, stroke survivors of all abilities can find ways to come together and experience a new way to explore rehabilitation in an outdoor group setting.
In an article from the Portland Tribune, attorney Diane Sawyer spoke about how her advocacy for Savings Strokes is to "push people trying to the best they can." Ted Lowenkopf of the Providence Stroke Center notes that "playing golf requires a lot of the functions affected by strokes"
What makes golf a compelling therapeutic activity is the same that makes the game so compelling and loved by so many people. The game involves one general concept, swing a club around the body, though with numerous types of shots, from long whipping drives, to high lofted pitch shots, chips scooting across rolling greens and delicate putts for the gentle tap in.
For the survivor participants and their spouses, the Saving Strokes event at Eastmoreland provides a wonderful way to meet new friends, challenge themselves, and have fun.
"Bob Shields and his wife and caretaker Sue Shields first learned about Savings Strokes in Arizona where they met program director, Nora Perry. Both Bob and Sue were avid golfers and discovering the program was a delight since Bob's debilitating stroke that left him with total left side paralysis.
"Being outside, enjoying beautiful courses, seeing improvements, making new friends - socialization part is wonderful. Plus the golf skill improvements, including balance, endurance, inclusion with others are all important to Bob's future and recovery."
Bob and Sue look forward to Saving Strokes at Eastmoreland and wish for monthly golfing events at Eastmoreland or elsewhere in the greater Portland area. Sue believes having therapists and pros available together is a huge benefit for survivors.
Our Eastmoreland men's club has a member Scott Cantor, who's too often a sure thing for our Sunday game winner's circle. He may play to one of the higher handicaps (all golfers have a 'handicap' adding or subtracting strokes so different skill levels compete on an even playing field), though more often than not Scot walks away from the 19th hole counting the cash won. What further surprised me, was to discover that five years ago, Scot woke up in the hospital after a stroke, unable to speak or swallow and requiring some physical therapy... "though I never lost my balance."
Scot always planned to play golf when he retired. He grew up golfing in Ohio because his mother was a young breast cancer survivor and started playing golf for recreation and rehabilitation. Ever since "the rest of the family played golf together all the time."
What Scot didn't plan on was this stroke, and long rehabilitation to learn how to talk and eat. With the help of doctors and physical therapists, he made great progress and set his sights on returning to the golf course. Finally stepping up to driving range with a small bucket, "I didn't know what to expect" though a smile creased across his lips with the first swing when the ball sailed dead straight down the middle. "I have lost some distance, but I now hit the ball really straight!"
If most people gripped a knife and fork they way they grip a golf club, they'd all starve. - Walter Hagen
Stroke survivors have experienced the physical challenge of having blood flow cut off from the brain. As a result, some of the brain pathways are damaged and sometimes result loss of speech, balance and motor control. The road to recovery is one of physical therapy to help repair and reconnect the brain and motor pathways for the survivor by stimulating neuroplasticity - our brain's ability to rewrite and rebuild these connections.
Scot's story might be inspiration for Chris Gilliland, a Saving Strokes participant in 2016 and 2017. Chris was introduced to the program by his outpatient physical therapist, Jamie Musgrave. His favorite part is "the feeling like I'm improving my balance and making progress since the stroke. Also, since I was once an avid seasonal golfer, it feels good to believe that maybe it is possible to get back to golf as a hobby one day."
Chris has been a recreational golfer since about the 5th grade, and hopes to play golf regularly now that he's discovered the therapeutic qualities. "With Saving Strokes, I feel a certain peace from the practice. It's as if I can feel my weaker side (left) gets stronger with each swing and helps with my balance"
Golf also taught Chris a lesson in mindfulness...
There was one time, years ago, when I was really struggling through a round. I think through 5 holes during an evening 9, I had tripled every hole. I hit a decent tee shot on 6 and found myself in the middle of the fairway with a sand wedge from about 60 yards. Well, I bladed the shot, threw my club in frustration and shouted out a string of vulgarities. The ball bounce along the ground, hopped up over the collar of the green and skidded into the flag stick and dropped in the hole for a birdie!!
That's golf - sometimes you're capable of so much more than you expect...
Neuroscience and golf: the mind-body connection
Any golfer out there, whether a child, competive amatuer or a professional - understand the game is truly the most definitive expression of the mind-body connection. When we watch the professionals on television, few realize their capacity to use the mind to control the flight of the ball so precisely to send it to a hole some 10 feet, or 10 yards or 100 yards away. For those that understand, the ability to confidently swing the club and have the ball go where it's intended requires mental focus and body connection - that, of course, lends itself to neuromuscular connections.
The greatest golfers are readily admit, they key to well executed shot is pre-shot visualization. Imagining yourself hitting the shot and picturing exactly how the ball will fly in the air. Sometimes pros might visualize a series of shots, choosing shots like low draw or hide fade as. baseball pitcher chooses a fastball or curveball. Then once the shot is pictured (firing in the neurons) you simply address the ball and let that swing happen with minimal thought or conscious effort.
In 2000 the University of Chicago did MRI studies with LPGA professionals to better understand how a repeatable golf swing is powered by visualization, the pre-shot routine required to set the mind and body to execute the shot required.
"Preparing to swing a golf club is the perfect activity for this sort of study," said Milton, an avid golfer. "A good golf swing involves a very elaborate and somewhat unnatural series of movements, yet it takes place in a fraction of a second, much too quickly for the brain to make the necessary adjustments during the process."
Professional golfers and many dedicated amateurs now dedicate significant practice time to mindfulness and a phenomena called "quiet eye" where the player allows the subconscious motor skills to complete the shot with limited conscious effort, other than intention of sending the ball to the target. This neuromuscular system is what makes being human so special, while many of us may not know it, we complete impossible complex physical actions all day without conscious thought. In fact, as many golf pros delve into the science of mindfulness, using tools like Focus Band to measure different brain patterns to help the pro access subconscious state of flow, marked by increased Theta waves, and essentially not think all.
At the Portland City Championship just a few weeks ago I had the pleasure to meet Linda Schwartz and learn her story of Eastmoreland. I already knew her husband Jim Schwartz, who works as a starter and ranger a few days a week.
Linda learned about the Eastmoreland 100 Project from the advertising of the Launch Party and from her sister, Carol Jolly, a longtime women's club member. Linda herself isn't much of a golfer, even though she played for the Cleveland High girls golf team. "She didn't like playing golf at all" One reason may be that she already spent so much time at Eastmoreland working for her Uncle Arnie Inman and Aunt Dottie Inman in the shop and restaurant.
The photo below is of Linda & Jim's wedding from 1966. In the photo is a literal "who's who" of top golfers from the neighborhood in the young prime of their lives. Linda included a lovely note to help share the story which I've included below with a typed transcript.
Dear Mr. McGee -
My husband is currently a starter/marshal - full circle since we both put in many hours for my aunt Dot and her husband Arnie Inman. I began working in 1959 at the old (wonderful) clubhouse on the opposite corner and know lots of old timers. The photo enclosed is of our wedding in Aug - 1966, so we have passed the half century. My point is, that besides my husband Jim Schwartz - 'our attendants' are friends and some good golfers. In the photo is Best Man -Gordon Herbert - John Orr and Jim Orr, Gay Davis, Kathy Martin and my little sis, Carol Rhoton Jolly. We had a lot of Eastmorelander's at the wedding, and still use the dishes from the men's club and have the sweet Lenox pitcher from a young Clark Cumpston. Fond memories all around and quite an education for Jim and I managing to do 16 things at the same time! Happy 100! -
Linda Rhoton Schwartz
Linda & Jim are lifelong residents of the neighborhood along with Uncle Arnie and Aunt Dot, all the golfers became their extended family. All the guys in the wedding party were avid golfers and most competed in the City Championship, which was "very big deal" in the 195-'s and 1960's according to Linda.
Gay Davis specifically changed Oregon golf as one of the founding members of Pumpkin Ridge. In 1996, Pumpkin Ridge hosted the U.S. Amateur, where 20-year-old Tiger Woods won his unprecedented third consecutive title on the Witch Hollow course and then turned professional, with Nike founder Phil Knight on hand. (from Wikipedia)
Below is a photo from the card and gift received from the women's club, a state-of-the-art electric blanket for those rainy evenings. Many invited guests were from the men's and women's club as well as fellow employees including a young Clark Compston (who along with his brother Rob currently manages the shop and restaurant) who worked the range shagging balls under Gay Davis' watch.
Linda, Jim and I had the pleasure to share some coffee and some swedish fish candy and reminiscence some of the 'old timers' they both remember from the clubhouse. For now I'll just publish a beautiful picture of the clubhouse.
In time, I'll be writing posts in more detail about the original "old clubhouse" where Linda and Jim worked and where Ron McPike lived upstairs a few years earlier from 1957-1958. Soon there will be a more detailed list of all the "old time" players and the club managers like Arnie & Dot Inman, Rob & Clark Cumston and pros like Tom Marlow, Ted Westling, Ray Comella and more. Of course even these "old timers" had their own connection to "old times" of their generation like Frank Dolp and John Rebstock and Don Moe.
Special thank you to Linda and Jim for reaching out to share their story - and for the readers there is much more to come.
If you have a story on Eastmoreland, please Share your Story today! We have a quick online form you can share and then our volunteers will be in touch. This community story project exists because of your contributions. Thank you!!
Extra bonus :) Here's the Sellwood Bee's interview of Linda Schwartz for their 100 year centennial. She shares her story on growing up in the sellwood neighborhood in the 1950's
From the Sellwood Bee's 100 year celebration. Click here for the original.
Thanks to everyone who showed up to celebrate the start of the 100th year at Eastmoreland. For an inaugural event, it warmed our hearts to see how many people came out from the community to participate....
Of course it wasn't all for volunteering. Everyone got a chance to check out the hickory sticks provided by Rob Ahlschwede, of Northwest Chapter of the Society of Hickory Sticks and fresh from the Gearhart 125th anniversary and hickory golf tournament.
The sticks for demo hitting in the range was a huge hit - literally - with everyone, including yours truly, amazed on how well the hickory stick clubs felt when striking the ball. As the immortal Ben Hogan says "… a well hit golf shot as a feeling that goes up the shaft, right into your hands-and into your heart.”
Vincent DiGiano managed to snap one of the hickory shafts in half - one that was modern replica, according to Rob, so not a big deal at all. Apparently a taking a hard hack like an axe-man chopping wood is not the smooth flowing swing from yesteryear by the likes of Chandler Egan, Frank Dolp and Bobby Jones.
One of the more memorable golfers to play Eastmoreland was none other than the Champion Boxer Joe Louis. Known as the "Brown Bomber" Joe Louis became an avid golfer towards the end of his boxing career, becoming a scratch amatuer and companion of many great black golfers that broke through the race barrier of the PGA tour in the 1950's and 60's. He was welcomed to a match at Eastmoreland and we have a first hand account of Ron McPike, who followed the foursome for most of the match, as a young 15 year old fan.
First, some historical context:
Joe Louis was first introduced to the game at age 22 in 1935 by TV personality Ed Sullivan just a few months before a fight with Max Schmeling in 1936. He even left his Lakewood, N.J., training camp two weeks before the fight to spend a day at that year's U.S. Open at Baltusrol. Instead of discussing boxing during a conversation with a Detroit sportswriter before that fight, Louis talked "all golf: stances and grips and hooks and slices." The result was a stunning defeat, which he later attributed to his fascination with golf. "He was spending more time on the golf course than training for the fight." according to his son Joe Louis Barrow Jr. in an interview with golf sportscaster Jim Nantz in 2012. He later avenged the loss in a 1938 rematch with Schmeling with a knockout in the first round after 124 seconds.
Joe exemplifies why so many professional athletes gravitate towards the game during their playing career and for a lifetime after. Golf requires intense practice and mental fortitude which are precisely they talents and discipline required for professional athletes. He was known to play 36 holes a day, often as many as 54 holes in the summer. He loved that the game required the practice and focus to succeed... and his love of the game helped bring the entire game forward by elevating awareness of the best black golfers of his era.
"He loved the individual nature of golf," says his son, Joe Louis Barrow Jr., now the executive director of The First Tee, a golf and life-skills learning program for youngsters. "He loved that your success is up to you." Golf Digest
Joe Louis also has the honorable position to be the first ever black player to compete in a sanctioned PGA event the 1952 San Diego Open. By winning the UGA Amatuer title in 1951, he was invited to play in the Pro-Am which caused a bit of a scuffle with the PGA, because unbeknownst to many, had a bylaw limiting the field to "caucasian-only." For many of us in the present day it can be hard to imagine such a rule existing, yet, the fact remains that even in 1952 racial segregation truly was the law of the land.
The San Diego Open sponsors of the tournament were thrilled to have Joe Louis but had not counted on the PGA. "The week before the tournament began, the PGA ruled that Louis could not play at San Diego, and it also rejected Bill Spiller, the black pro who had made it into the tournament by competing in qualifying rounds." See Caucasian-Only - by Thomas Jones Bill Spiller was a top golfer, having tied Ben Hogan, the eventual winner, with a 68 in the first round of the Los Angeles Open in 1948.
In what Joe called "the fight of his life" he challenged the PGA head on. Eventually Joe punched through this barrier and was granted an exemption. Unfortunately,even though the PGA relented, they steadfastly refused to let Bill Spiller play as a pro. Reluctantly Joe Louis agreed, despite Spiller's frustration, and made the important first step. Joe made the fight for inclusion in the PGA a lifelong cause. He continues to support the careers of many up and coming black pros - including Charlie Sifford, known as the "Jackie Robinson of golf", who received a tour card after the PGA desegregated in 1961.
Back to 1957... Eastmoreland Golf Course
Ron McPike worked in the clubhouse restaurant when Joe Louis comes into looking for a game - and with plenty of the Eastmoreland Wolves around there was a game to be found. According the Ron, the guys who came to play were John Merhar - who owned the 82nd Drive in movie theater - immaculate dresser. Always wore sharp two toned shoes a known gambler at Eastmoreland a long gone course Top o' Scott and the track. He would never just bet the bet - always made sure he had an edge.
Legend has it that the match was for a cool $5,000, which in 1957 would have bought not just one, but two brand new 1957 V8 Bel Air convertibles. Whether this amount of money was actually on the line is just conjecture. Though it was no secret that Joe Louis played the game for cash, like most celebrated players of that day (and many today). The legendary Titanic Thompson, the most famous golf gambler and by some account, the greatest golfer that never played in any PGA event ("because I'd take a pay cut") played for closer to a tune $25,000 with Joe Louis.
In 1958 however, Joe Louis was in the midst of a battle with the IRS so he was not as flush as during the boxing years and explains the reason he was in in Portland: He was invited by the Portland Boxing Commission to be the guest referee. They originally sought wither Joe Louis or Jack Dempsey.
Through a bit more research I discovered the results of the match which occurred the night of June 16 and published in the Tuesday paper the next day. It was an interesting match - with a grizzled veteran versus an "undefeated" hometown boy Phil Moyer, a Central Catholic graduate. As you can see, the veteran gave "the Portland youngster a first class lesson in ring warfare" (see Green Box)
What I loved about this research is side by side in the Sports top headlines is the results from the 1958 Oregon Junior Championships. Now you might remember that we covered the OGA Juniors a few months ago with the bracket results for Eastmoreland's very own boy wonder Dick Estey. What caught my eye in this event were some of the names, which I still hear bandied about among top golfers. Specifically one named jumped to my attention is John Hedlund - who played Oswego Lake most of his life and longest running member there. I had the pleasure to meet John a few weeks ago and he's Oswego Lake's historian and helping me get more details on Paul C. Murphy, who after he donated the land to build Eastmoreland - went on to build Oswego Lake. (See Red Box)
Back to the Money match - Merhar gets the call
Golf was how Joe Louis lost much of his money. "He loved to play golf, he loved to bet, and he lost thousands." With that legendary fame in place - getting a game together at Eastmoreland was not much trouble at all. They pack that hung around weren't called the Wolves weren't for nothing... many were gamblers a match with Joe Louis was right up their alley...
or drive-through window... as the case may be. Because the man that got the call was John Merhar, who along with his brothers ran a hamburger drive through joint up on Powell and 82nd.
It's fair to say the match was for some real cash - if not $5,000 and we ascribe "fairy-tale inflation" by a factor of 10 - then the match could have been for $500. Again - that buys you 1/4 of a 1957 Chevy - or an entire full set of brand new MacGregor Irons, Woods, Leather Bag and a sharp outfit to match.
Which apparently both John Merhar and Joe Louis, of course, were known for in their respective circles. According to Ron McPike, Merhar was always sharply dressed in "two-toned shoes that you don't see anymore." He was known as a good golfer and brought in a partner, by the name of Miller, though Ron can't exactly remember who he was... and most likely the discussion of playing for money involved some discussions and negotiations for stokes... or just straight up.
Merhar was known as a great golfer, though not one of the best, and his name never adorned the City Championship. What he was better known for was a big time gambler, especially on bets where he had an edge. Some of the current men's club guys fondly remember playing with his though rarely for money matches.
How about Joe Louis? According to golf digest he was a player:
Louis never had an official handicap, so opinions vary on how accomplished a golfer he was. He is described now as having been "almost scratch" to "a 3 or a 4" to shooting "around 80; he'd have a lot of pars and then a blowup hole." He mostly played at public courses, often with the best black golfers of the post-World War II era, sometimes in money matches for $1,000 a hole, sometimes in United Golf Association tournaments such as the Negro National Open, sometimes in his own Joe Louis Open in Detroit, but he always was the same unpretentious competitor he had been as heavyweight champion. Golf Digest 2006
Golf also provides ample opportunity for players to use handicaps - or the giving of strokes to even up a match - and of course the pressure of playing for high stakes is exactly the kind of action professionals are used to... a channel to the thrill of competition.
According to Ron McPike, Joe Louis had a black pro touring with him... and by all accounts it was probably either Bill Spiller or perhaps the younger Charlie Sifford - who had just won the 1957 Long Beach Open and would go on to earn a PGA tour card a few years later in 1961.
Ron was so excited that Joe Louis was playing the course, he skipped out of the restaurant. "Somebody could have come in and taken all the money." John Merhar had some of his bus boys from the drive-in come to caddy for him.
Did anything memorable happen? Once they all get over to 12th tee (now the 13th), the famous Par 5 that Walter hagen once called the nest he'd played in 1922. The tee shots go up close to the waste area and old creek. Merhar showing some concern lett's Joe Luis
"Listen Joe this is kind of a hidden hole I'll send one of my boys up to the top of the hill and make sure your ball is in play...to watch for your ball."
"Nope." Joe stopped the boys in their tracks "You just keep your boys right here. We don't need any help."
Smart move, of course, because any bus boys working for Merhar might just as likely kick the ball out of bounds. Golf is one the purest forms of sports, with the player calling all their own penalties, so everything should be on the up and up. Just the same, when the stakes are high - it's best to keep a close watch on nefarious ways the scales might be tipped for an advantage.
Who was winning as the foursome rounded the final stretch?
McPike can't be sure because he wasn't following the hole-by-hole tally - just watching from a distance. Plus with the potential that some pops (free shots) were given one way or the other the actual scores may not tell the story.
One hint of the potential outcome was a special display on the the 17th green (current 18th green).
A drink to savor a satisfying win or soothe the loss? We may never know for sure.
"The only difference," Louis told him, "is that in boxing you recover from a punch. In golf, it's on the card to stay."
Joe Louis play of Eastmoreland is one of the coolest stories of golf and a celebrity that truly impacted the game of golf.
Did you know that Joe Louis was founding and instrumental supporter of the start of "The First Tee" program to introduce golf to all youth at a early age. Louis' son, Joe Louis Barrow Jr., is the Chief Executive Officer of The First Tee, an organization dedicated to teaching junior golf. The program is world class and supported by the PGA, USGA and many pros, the most notable being Tiger Woods.
What I love about Joe Louis love of golf is that it's no different than any other competitor who gets hooked. Once you start swinging away at balls, there's something compelling about coming back for more.
RCTID = Rose City - Til I Die!
On my last article about Gearhart, the birthplace of golf in Oregon, I discovered that both golf and soccor were banned by Scottish Parliment in 1497. the concern of the country's leaders were that able bodied citizens where devoting all thier time to playing games - instead of practicing ways to kill one another. For shame, if they only knew the great battles of Rory and Sergio or Manchester United and Real Madrid to come!
The attorney in me wants to go right to the legislative text. Here's what we found:
On the very same day I met one of the owners Chris Underwood of a great local company OPB Oregon Blue Print - an avid golfer and Timber Army fanatic. He has a custom "McKenzie Bag" made here in Portland, OR (more on them in the future). Let's let this post be short and bask in the honor of doing battle in these colors on the pitch on or the green.
maybe a Timbers Army + Eastmoreland Wolves tournament is in our future.
Timing is everything. With the Eastmoreland 100 Launch Party in early planning stage for 2018, I had the pleasure to join in the 125th celebration at Gearhart Golf Links this past weekend. According to USGA, Gearhart is the oldest course west of the Mississippi, founded in 1892 (with evidence of a 3-hole makeshift course as early as 1888) by many of the founding members of Waverley. Much like the shangri-la of American golf - Bandon Dunes, the Gearhart Golf Links were built into the sandy dunes that reminded the Scottish immigrants of the sandy cliffs of their homeland.
Here's a little background history:
The word "links" comes via the Scots language from the Old English word hlinc : "rising ground, ridge" and refers to an area of coastal sand dunes and sometimes to open parkland. Links land is typically characterised by dunes, an undulating surface, and a sandy soil unsuitable for arable farming but which readily supports various indigenous browntop bents and red fescue grasses, that result in the firm turf associated with links courses and the 'running' game.
Thus "links" are a term referring to the terrain... and it's the attributes of the land that helped create a recreational game. Because the links were unsuitable for farming or building homes, the Kings and Lords of the day decreed that the links would remain public spaces for recreation and enjoyment of the people. Unlike most all other lands, that were held as estates and required grants of entry for use and passage. For example, even hunting in the forest could be considered crime without the express blessing of the King.
While golf is often seen as "elitist" the origins of the game are egalitarian as a recreational activity to be enjoyed by all people. You see, by decreeing that Links are open to the public the Kings and Lords of Scotland, literally opened the door for people to find ways to amuse themselves. the two primary sports that began to consume all their free time? Why golf and football, of course! (sound familiar?)
The exact origin of when the Scots started hitting rocks or feather stuffed leather balls with sticks sometime in the 15th century is not certain, however there is evidence similar games were played in Roman times and as far back as the Song Dynasty in China in 976. Afterall - who as a child did not pick up a stick and try to hit rocks or pine cones. It's the natural inclination to use tools that makes us human. Just like it's natural to kick a ball.
Now these Scottish Lords probably imagined the Links used for picnics, romantic walks on the beach... and military practice, specifically long-bow archery. When the young able bodied future soldiers began to whittle their time away practicing their approach shots with mashies,and countless chipping with a niblick, well... that was too much to bear. After all, even public recreation should serve the King, right? - and thus the Scottish Parliment banned the golf practice in 1457, along with football (soccer), because the sports were interfering with archery practice.
Author's note: If only the King knew that well practiced golfer like Dustin Johnson can drop bombs from 350 yards
While golf is often seen as "elitist" the origins of the game are egalitarian as a recreational activity to be enjoyed by all people.
I can only imagine these early golfers, surreptitiously sneaking away with their sticks, finding a grassy area behind some dunes. Like skateboarders culture, I imagine their kilts with hand sewn patches saying "Golf is not a crime!" with secret handshakes with their football playing brethren. A much better diplomacy for England and Spain to settle differences is 18 hole grudge match Rory and Sergio some 500 years later.
The elitist orgins in a way started because some 100 years later, probably in a time of peace, the King himself started to pick up the otherwise illegal but very popular game. It was then that it became a game for the elite... though because of the location on traditionally public land, all the ancient golf links are open to public at various hours and days. From the very early days, while the elite may have started to lay claim to the sport, as their own, most of the best golfers have always come from the ranks of greens keepers (Tom Morris) and caddies to dominate the sport. (Young Tom, Harry Varden, Francis Ouimet, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and our Frank Dolp and Don Moe)
Fast forward to the late 19th century - where Oregon has been state barely 30 years old, and people began to build the earliest summer homes on the coast. Upon the sight of this gorgeous sandy links, what Scot wouldn't immediately send for golf clubs and have the kids place tin tomato cans with sticks and flags around? No one would build there of course, it was open space for the enjoyment and recreation - and there is a perfect game to do just that!
Thus, Oregon golf was born at Gearhart - originally not connected to the Hotel - though over time - the purveyors of the hotel recognized the draw and built the original "Sand Trap" clubhouse just next door and had the holes redesigned so the first tee was just a short walk from the hotel patio.