Since Baltusrol's inception in 1895, its desire to host golf's premier championships has been ever present. Only six years after its founding, Baltusrol hosted its first national championship-the 1901 U.S. Women's Amateur. Over the club's hundred-plus year history, fifteen national championships have been played on its courses, including a record seven U.S. Open Championships.
In 1901, the national spotlight shined on Baltusrol's links for the first time with the seventh annual Women's Amateur Championship, held October 8-12. Scores for the tournament's qualifying round ranged from 97 to 104. At the time, this was a fast pace for qualifying-round play, as most women were not able break 100 at the time.
The tournament itself would go down to the wire, with Genevieve Hecker of Essex County Country Club in West Orange besting Lucy Hayes Herron of the Cincinnati Country Club. The victory added the title of National Champion to Hecker's two Metropolitan Champion titles.
At the turn of the century the U.S. Open played second fiddle to the amateur. The amateur was a prestigious and gentlemanly affair; the problem with the Open was that it was just that-open to all comers. The professionals, a clan of hardy Scots with a few Englishmen thrown in, had dominated the Open since its inception in 1895. To amateurs of the day, the professionals looked like a "gang of ringers."
Willie Anderson was the star of this tournament, shooting a 73, 76, and 76, respectively, in the first three rounds and leaving himself in a position to break the then 300-stroke Open record. On the par 3 ninth hole, however, Anderson found his ball in a clump of trees. Instead of playing it safe, he chose to hit through a narrow opening in the trees. The ball hit a branch and bounced back, and Anderson would finish the hole with an abysmal eight, eventually needing an 18-hole tiebreak round against David Brown to win the tournament.
The field at the 1904 U.S. amateur was the largest assembled to date. Among the players were many notable names, including A.W.Tillinghast, who of course would later become eternally linked with Baltusrol. Also present was Jerome D. Travers of Upper Montclair Country Club, a man who would go on to win four National Amateur titles. Baltusrol was also well represented, with eleven club members entering the tournament. In the end, however, H. Chandler Egan of Chicago would win his first of two Amateur Championships, defeating New Yorker Fred Herreshoff in the final match.
The seventeenth Women's Amateur Championship was played on the Old Course at Baltusrol from October 9-14. There were more than 65 entries, with players from around the country flocking to Baltusrol. The club also boasted four member entries of its own.
The final match was a duel between Miss Lillian B. Hyde and Miss Margaret Curtis, a duo known for being two of the longest-hitting women in the country. Ms. Hyde clearly had the advantage in distance, but putting would eventually be her downfall in this match. Playing a steady, well-rounded game, Miss Curtis defeated Miss Hyde 5 and 3 to notch her second amateur title.
The 1915 U.S. Open would become the last national tournament to be played on the Old Course at Baltusrol. Going into the tournament, Jerome Travers had won everything an amateur could possibly be expected to win. He was a four-time national champion, a three-time New Jersey Amateur champion, and a five-time Metropolitan Champion. But, being an amateur, Travers was naturally not favored to win the U.S. Open.
But win it he did. Surprising everyone, including himself, Travers played with exemplary steadiness, posting a total of 148 for the first two rounds of play. He would go on to shoot a 73 in the third round, and held a one stroke lead going into the fourth and final round of play. Going into this round, he had the luxury of knowing the score of the other leaders. Travers knew what he needed to win, and this seemed to settle him throughout the round. He would eventually finish with a four-round total of 297, one stroke better than runner-up Tom McNamara.
The story of the 1926 U.S. Amateur Championship, which was played on the Lower Course, was the heroic battle between Bobby Jones, a peerless champion, and George Von Elm, a contender who would not be denied. Entering the tournament, Jones was the odds on favorite. He came to Baltusrol wearing three crowns-The British Open, the U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur. In fact, Jones was attempting to win his third straight amateur Championship coming in to Baltusrol in 1926. But in the end, Von Elm would dethrone Jones, defeating him 2 and 1, Jones' infamous drive into the creek on thirteenth Lower in the match's second and final round proved to be the turning point of the tournament.
In 1936 the Upper Course was the scene of a most unpredictable U.S. Open, one that would see the tournament record broken twice in half an hour. Harry Cooper, nicknamed "Lighthorse" because of the speed at which he played, seemingly had the Open well in hand. Approaching the fourteenth hole in the final round, Cooper was told that all he had to do to win was finish standing up. Cooper would go on to bogey three of the last five holes, one because he hit a spectator attempting to clear off the course, and one because his partner was pick-pocketed! Cooper's total of 284 for the tournament, however, was still enough to break the record by two strokes.
Then came unknown Tony Manero. Starting four strokes behind Cooper, Manero would go out in 33 and finish the round with an extremely impressive 67, finishing at 282 for the tournament-two strokes better than Cooper. To everyone's amazement, Manero had come out of nowhere to claim the championship.
Baltusrol's Lower Course was the sight of the 1946 U.S. Amateur, the first since 1941 since the tournament was suspended for four years during World War II. Ted Bishop was a professional golfer who had his amateur status reinstated by the USGA. His game featured a controlled fade that helped him at Baltusrol, as he played his 3-wood off the tee with great accuracy, especially in the final round.
In the finals, Bishop trailed his opponent, Smiley Quick, by two strokes after the first 18 holes. Bishop would make up the two strokes in the next round, however, forcing a tiebreaker hole. Here, Bishop sank his 4-foot putt while Quick incredibly missed from 2-1/2 feet, giving Bishop the championship.
The 1954 U.S. Open, the first Open ever to be nationally televised, was crammed with the absolute greatest players in the game, including Sam Snead, Bobby Locke, and defending champion Ben Hogan. But none were to win. Instead, a journeyman pro named Ed Furgol, who had just settled down as a club professional after ten years on the PGA Tour, would shock the world of Golf and make Open history.
Somehow, Furgol found himself in the lead after three rounds, shooting a steady 71 in the third while the leaders, Hogan and Littler, drifted back with a 76. Teeing off on the eighteenth, Furgol hooked his ball to the left and into the trees. Seeing he had no shot at the fairway on the Lower Course, Furgol decided to use the fairway of eighteen Upper! He was able to save par, and eventually won the championship by a single stroke.
The 1961 Women's U.S. Open featured the talents of a sweet swinging Californian named Mickey Wright. Coming into the tournament, Wright had already won the Open in 1958 and 1959, breaking tournament scoring records each time. At the halfway point of the tournament, Wright was facing a four-stroke deficit because of a disappointing 80 in the second round. On the final day, however, she would fire a spectacular 69 and take a two-stroke lead over her good friend Betsy Rawls going into the final round of play. There, Wright added a solid 72, finishing six strokes ahead of Rawls to win the championship.
When the U.S. Open returned to Baltusrol in 1967, Jack Nicklaus honestly believed that any one of 30 players could win. At the head of his list was the great Arnold Palmer, who already had two tournaments under his belt that year. The first day of competition would belong to a long-hitting amateur named Marty Fleckman, but Palmer and Nicklaus would assert themselves on the second day of play. Palmer shot an impressive 68 on this day: Nicklaus shot an even more impressive 67. The two would eventually distance themselves from the rest of the field, leaving themselves in a dual for the championship.
Nicklaus would win this dual. He performed splendidly in the final round, holding a four-stroke lead going into the final hole. Here, his now-famous perfect 1-iron and clutch 22-foot putt would not only give him the tournament victory, but a new tournament record of 275 strokes.
If one was forced to describe the 1980 U.S. Open in three words or less, those words could only be "Jack is Back." Coming off a year when he failed to win a single tournament, he was considered by many to be past his prime. Not by a long shot. On an opening day where early rainfall had made the greens extremely friendly, allowing unusually high 19 players to break par, Nicklaus would shoot a tremendous 63, tying the single-round Open record. Unfortunately, Tom Weiskopf had also tied the record that afternoon, leaving Nicklaus and himself in a dead heat.
But it would be Isao Aoki of Japan that would present the real challenge to Nicklaus. With the two competitors pulling away from the field, the contest quickly became a match-play situation. The tournament would go right down to the wire, with the two using their entire arsenal to win this championship. In the end, both players would break Nicklaus' 275-stroke record, as Nicklaus shot a 272 and Aoki shot a 274 to finish second. Indeed, Jack was back.
Long before play began on the Upper Course for the 1985 Women's U.S. Open, the very charismatic and successful Nancy Lopez was everyone's favorite to win the championship. Other popular players in the field included Betsy King, Amy Alcott, and three-time Open champion Hollis Stacy. Overshadowed and nearly overlooked was a 24-year-old South Carolina native named Kathy Baker.
With most of the media attention focused on Lopez, Baker would match her stroke-for-stroke for the first three rounds, and actually took a one-stroke lead into the final round. In all, a total of five women were within no more than two strokes of the lead, setting the stage for a fabulous final round. In the end, the championship would be decided between Baker and Judy Clark, with Baker finishing the day with a 70 and the tournament with a 280. Surprisingly, only three players finished under par for the tournament-Baker, Clark, and second runner-up Vicki Alvarez.
For the 1993 U.S. Open, the USGA set up the Lower Course at Baltusrol in a way that put the driver back in the players' hands, a club that had been missing in recent Opens. The pros were ecstatic.
The playing conditions were perfect for this Open at Baltusrol, leading to a record 88 players making the cut. But something even more extraordinary would occur before this was established. In the second round, John Daly became the first player in the history of Baltusrol Golf Club to reach the green in two strokes on the 630-yard seventeenth. Fittingly, the crowd on hand went absolutely wild as Daly's second shot bounced off the rough and rolled onto the green.
But the tournament itself would be decided between two of Daly's fellow Americans, Lee Janzen and Payne Stewart. Janzen led Stewart by a stroke going into the final round, and would remain that way until the twelfth, when Janzen missed a five-foot putt. He would regain the lead, however, taking a two-stroke lead into the final two holes and eventually sealing a victory with a birdie on the eighteenth.
The start of the millennium was marked with the hundredth playing of the U.S. Amateur. Qualifying rounds took place on the Upper and Lower courses and the match play rounds were conducted on the Upper. The final round found two strong and young collegiate amateurs - James Driscoll from Massachusetts and Jeff Quinney from Oregon. Near the end on the 17th hole, Driscoll was able to sink a hard breaking birdie putt to go one down with one to play. On the 36th hole, he recovered from an errant drive in the trees and was able to sink a 10-footer on the eighteenth green to force extra holes.
With storm clouds looming, Quinney and Driscoll halved the first hole. On the second hole, Quinney and Driscoll each faced short putts for par. It is interesting that history did not repeat itself. In 1946, 54 years earlier, Amateur Ted Bishop and Smiley Quick were in a similar predicament on the second playoff hole. Rather than taking the chance of winning or losing on a miss of a short putt, Quinney and Driscoll conceded the other's putt and marched up to the third tee for another playoff. A lightening warning sounded and play was suspended for the day.
The next morning found a large crowd assembled around the third green to witness Jeff Quinney sinking a 30-foot downhill speed putt for birdie, the win and the U.S. Amateur title. The hundredth anniversary of playing the U.S. Amateur proved to be one for the history books in that it tied the record in number of holes played to determine the winner.
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