Entries Tagged as '2019'

A testimonial from former President of PCC

Jim Tanner Caddy Classic, July 8, 2019 at Pawtucket Country Club.

My name is Paul Rego and along with being a past president and the current greens and handicap chairman at Pawtucket, I have the distinct honor of being a close friend of Jim Tanner.  I first met Jim in May of 1982 when I played in a charity event at Pawtucket.  I was new to the area and got invited as a last-minute fill in for the event.  I arrived about a half an hour early and went to lower lot at the club to drop my clubs and then park my car.  As I opened the trunk and very nice man walked up and said, “Sir, please allow me to take your clubs.”  He then asked me my name and with whom I was playing with that day.  I told him my name and then I asked his name and he said it was Jim Tanner.  We shook hands and he told me where to go to sign in and to have lunch before the event started.  After lunch I came down to the putting green and started practice putting and for some strange reason that I don’t know today, I felt compelled to stop and go back over to talk to Jim about the club.  Jim told me what great place it was if you wanted to play golf and how much I would enjoy being a member there, should I someday decide to join.  Jim was very proud that was he mentoring over twenty caddies that year.  I told him that I wasn’t ready to join yet, but when I was, I would definitely put Pawtucket at the top of my list.  I felt even more strongly about that after I had the opportunity to play the course that day.

Another few years went by and I played in several more charity events before I finally joined in 1985 and every time that I went to the club, Jim remembered my name and always went out of his way to say hello and ask if there was anything that he could do for me.  Little did he know how much I would take him up on that offer over the next thirty-four years!  When I first joined, walking with caddies was in vogue and Jim always gave me a great caddy or asked me to take one of the younger caddies to help break them in.  Jim just didn’t trust his new trainees with anyone and I was very happy that he considered me suitable to have a newbie carry my bag or fore caddy to break them in.  Jim was truly a father figure to the caddies in those days and I know that they all felt Jim had their backs as long as they did their jobs the way that he trained them to do it.

Within a year of joining, I was serving on the Greens Committee and this brought me even closer into everyday contact with Jim and the golf staff.  It also brought me close to a very dear friend named Malcolm Najarian, who was a former caddy.  Being close friends with Mal during his short life also brought me into contact with Rod Mackenzie, Kevin Fortin and a large contingency of former caddies who were becoming successful businessmen at that time.  Those friendships continue on to this day and the stories about Jim from those guys never stop, and truthfully, are music to my ears.  When this close-knit group of guys started the idea to have a tournament to honor Jim, it was a natural in my mind and I have been involved with it in one form or another for the past fourteen years.

The great idea that began back fourteen years ago to initially help caddies, has since raised over $100,000, and now helps additional qualified employees of country clubs to further their educations through the John P. Burke Memorial Fund, of which I am proud to be a board member.  One of the highlights of my year is to spend an evening with Jim at the Annual Burke Scholarship Awards dinner.  Jim is equally proud of every individual who is honored with a scholarship at the event, but he especially takes pride in the individual who receives the Jim Tanner Scholarship.  Jim sometimes knows the recipient because they may be an employee at Pawtucket, but in the event they are not employees, Jim always makes a point of seeking out the family of the individual and spends time with them, or invites them to sit at our table so we can all be together for the JT award presentation.  That’s indicative of just how kind and caring Jim still is about “his caddies.”

Two former caddies of mine who Jim spoke to me a lot about as they were going to high school and getting ready for graduation, were undecided about their futures and whether or not college was going to be the answer for them.  Jim saw that they both had great potential hiding inside and asked me to speak to them as much as possible about how important getting their educations was going to be as time went on.  As our caddy program wound down and they worked more in the bag room and golf shop, we had time to play a lot of golf together after their shifts were over.   The conversations ultimately led back to their futures, education and giving themselves an opportunity to improve the way they would be getting started in life.  After many night games until dark, and constant reinforcement between Jim and myself, both of these fine young men went on to college and are thriving in their careers, one as a PGA Professional at a top-rated RI country club and one as a Special Agent in the United States Secret Service.  I know that once again, Jim was instrumental in making sure they got on the right path in life, as he did with so many others before them.

Over the years as I advanced on the Pawtucket board and became president and later treasurer, I was always able to seek good counsel from Jim about nearly anything.  Jim’s knowledge of the club and its members are invaluable to anyone who was in my position(s) and I took full advantage of his offer to help me when he was able to offer his advice.  And I still do today as Greens Chairman.  I probably worn out my welcome a long time ago, but Jim is too kind to kick me out of his “board room” or send me away without lending an ear and offering advice.

There may not be caddies at Pawtucket today, but we still have Jim Tanner running our bag room and we treasure everything that he does for all of the members and more importantly, what he stands for in life.  An honest, caring and decent man, a true gentleman, devoted family man and dedicated employee of the club and membership that he loves so much.

JT Classic registration for 2019

Pick your own foursome or register as individual(s) and we will fill out the foursome. PCC members can register with the proshop and the $150 entry fee will be billed to your account. You can also send a check payable to Jim Tanner Caddy Classic to Michael Gelinas 900 Armistice Blvd Pawtucket, RI 02861.
There will be a lunch and dinner and net and gross team best ball prizes. There will also be a net and gross shoot your age individual contest. Net and gross skins can be entered at registration before the tournament.
There will be a raffle and auction with many foursomes of local private golf courses available for auction.
We plan on limiting the field to 100 participants so please enter early. If you are interested in making a personal cash donation or plan on donating item(s) for the raffle or auction please email info@jimtannercaddyclassic.com or call Rod MacKenzie at 508-735-1707 or Mike Gelinas at 401-725-2918.
Proceeds from the tournament will go towards Scholarships administered by the Burke Fund www.burkefund.org

13th Annual Jim Tanner Caddy Classic – Monday July 8st 1:30 shotgun

Players –
1) ____________________________Handicap____
2) ____________________________Handicap____
3) ____________________________Handicap____
4) ____________________________Handicap____

JT caddied for Charlie Sifford in 1956 in RI Open @ PCC

In 1956, Charlie Sifford won the RI Open played at Pawtucket Country Club. At the time, Jim Tanner had assigned a caddy from Agawam to caddy for Sifford in the first round. Charlie entered the pro shop after the first round and asked the caddy master if there was another caddy available that knew the course.
JT asked Charlie what he had shot in the first round. It was an even par 69. So, JT told Charlie he would be happy to carry his bag the next 2 rounds. Charlie shot 69 -68-67 204 to win the 1956 Rhode Island Open and he was the first black golfer to play the RI Open.
Charlie was considered the “Jackie Robinson” of golf. He was the first black golfer to play in the majors and the first to win a PGA event. Tiger Woods said, “Charlie Sifford was the grandfather I never had.”

Original 9 hole sketch before Willie Park Jr. Design

Two Famous course architects designed PCC

Pawtucket Golf Club was originally a nine hole course layed out on 50 acres of land east of the Ten Mile River and alongside Armistice Boulevard and Brook Street. The land was leased from Herbert Sidney Daggett, a member of the 8th generation of the original Daggett family settlement. The first tournament was held on Labor Day, September 1, 1902. In 1917, the Club purchased all of the farm land from the Daggett family for $15,000 which was about 90 acres total.
The course was expanded to 12 holes shortly after the land was purchased. A small clubhouse was erected where the 10th tee now resides. Then in 1923, then PCC President Frank Bishop and his board of directors decided to hire one of the most celebrated of the early golf architects, Willie Park Jr.
Willie Park in his younger days won 2 British Opens, was a club maker and ball maker. Pawtucket Country Club stepped into the front ranks of Championship courses when they hired Park.

Park’s well-known United States courses include the Maidstone Golf Club on Long Island, Woodway Country Club in Darien, Connecticut, the New Haven Country Club in Hamden, Connecticut, the North Course of the Olympia Fields Country Club near Chicago (host of two U.S. Open (golf) events (1928 and 2003), as well as the 1961 PGA Championship), and The Milton Hoosic Club in Canton, Massachusetts.

A. W. Tillinghast, famous for such designs as Winged Foot, Baltusrol, and Bethpage Black was hired in 1936 to perform reconstruction of the third green, a new fifth teeing area and rearranged the eight hole showing a rearranged green and properly bunkered and contoured for a 535 yard par 5 and also tile drainage for the fairway.

1. Information was copied from “A Centennial History of Pawtucket Country Club” 1902 – 2002 written and compiled by Gary R. Grund

2019 Jim Tanner Caddy Classic “Score Your Age Contest”

The countdown begins to the Jim Tanner Caddy Classic as we celebrate the thirteenth year. We have raised over $100,000 and helped many deserving young scholars. This year we plan a few new challenges for our competitors. The format will continue to be one best ball of your foursome including gross and net prizes. The 5th with be closest to pin for all single digit handicaps and the 15th will be closest to the pin for handicaps of 10 or greater at 100%.
We will include an individual champion for gross and net for your score in relation to your age. The scoring for the net will be at 100%. So, if you shoot 80 and your handicap is 10 your score is 70 minus your age. If your age is 60 then your net score will be 10.
The example for the gross winner of closest to your age champion is shoot 85 minus your age of say 65, then your gross score would be 20.
As always, we welcome all members, former caddies and friends of PCC to celebrate Jim Tanner’s wonderful career at Pawtucket. My bet is on JT to win the “Score your Age Contest”.

Willie Park Jr. designer of the original 18 holes of Pawtucket CC in 1924

Mungo Park describes the life and work of his illustrious ancestor.

Some years ago, in 1995, I was lucky enough to play The Maidstone on Long Island, with club historian David Goddard. In a rare moment of golfing competence, I birdied an almost blind par three, designed by my great uncle, Willie Park Jr, to demoralise the overconfident. He had not reckoned with the last dregs of the family gene pool. I avoided the sea to the right, and the wide diagonal swathe of marram grass, lifting and falling in sympathetic motion. I watched in disbelief as my ball, to which I must have imparted, accidentally, just the right amount of backspin, bit and stayed on the crown of the tiny green, allowing me an easy putt.

At the time I suspected supernatural intervention, but rationally I believe the original design of the Maidstone demonstrates the coming of age for the first golf architect to use the title. For Willie Park, course design was the art of the possible. It was not his role to punish the club player for having a high handicap, but he didn’t shrink from making life a little more difficult for the scratch player. His involvement at the Maidstone spans over 25 years, productive years for Willie in Britain, Europe, America and Canada. His example showed the way for many who came after.

As a player and clubmaker, Willie, learnt his trade from family and surroundings. He was born in Musselburgh, the ‘cradle of golf,’ in 1864. His father, Willie Park Sr, had won the first Open four years earlier and, with Old Tom Morris, dominated the championship in its early years. His uncle Mungo (Old Willie’s brother) came back from the sea in the early 1870s and won the 1874 Open at Musselburgh, the first time it was played there. Old Willie won again the following year.

Fifteen years later, in 1889, Willie Jr was to play, and win, in the last Open to be played in his home town, as the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers moved out to Muirfield in 1892. Golf was growing enormously in popularity, but there was not a living to be made as a professional golfer alone, even with the money matches that were popular, so Willie Jr learnt his trade as clubmaker and ball hammer in the family firm of William Park and Sons, and practised putting with marbles on the brick floor of his father’s workshop.

Willie was born at a critical time in the evolution of golf. The gutta percha ball had been invented just before he was born. This simple innovation transformed the game and indirectly led to the development of many new courses. The plentiful supply of relatively cheap gutty balls meant that golf was no longer the exclusive domain of the wealthy, as it had been when the feathery was the only adequate projectile of choice.

Willie was born in the right place at the right time. In 1880 he had mastered his trade sufficiently to take the post of ‘assistant professional, club and ball maker, steward and green keeper’ at Tyneside Golf Club, in Ryton to the west of Newcastle, where his uncle, Mungo Sr was professional. Mungo had just laid out the course for the Thompson brothers, two expatriot Musselburgh men, but he returned to Alnmouth shortly after, and young Willie, aged sixteen, became the club professional. In the same year he entered his first Open, and came fifteenth. Four years later, in 1884, he returned to Musselburgh to help run the business. It is likely that his father’s health was starting to fail.

In 1886, at 22, he laid out his first course at Innerleithen. He did not charge a fee, but instead obtained a preferential ‘franchise’ for the supply of William Park and Sons clubs to members. Fortunately for the profession, course design as a loss leader did not catch on! But it was the start of Willie’s rise to prominence in course design.

As a golfer Willie was approaching his best. In 1887 he won his first Open, and two years later, his second. After that, business took over from playing, to a great extent, as he built up the name and reputation of William Park and Sons. From 1890 Willie was effectively in charge of the firm. He opened branches in Edinburgh, London and Manchester, and in 1897 he opened a branch in New York.

The 1890s too saw a great demand for Willie’s skill as a course designer. In 1892, it seems likely that Mungo Sr and Willie Jr collaborated with Davie Grant of North Berwick to design and construct the course at Silloth on Solway. This was and still is a fine course, although it is much changed by a series of prominent architects. Bernard Darwin said: ‘I never fell more violently in love with a course at first sight’. In the same year as Silloth, Willie was working at Jedburgh and Peterhead.

As the century approached its close Willie was approaching the peak of his prosperity, although much of his best work was still to come. He had ridden the crest of the first golf wave in Britain, and like many of his Scottish colleagues saw the opportunities offered by the game’s growth in America. In 1895 he went across the Atlantic. In the same year he married his second wife Margaret, and also published his seminal work, The Game of Golf. The book was one of the first to look at the game in a theoretical way. It was applauded as being ‘a triumph of simple language.’

From a man who had had no formal schooling, certainly beyond the age of 15, and possibly younger, it is a considerable achievement, and makes cogent and sensible reading today. His written comments on the second edition are copious and astute. Many of them would apply today: “Holes which formerly required three strokes to reach the green can now be driven in two and hence larger greens are a matter of practical necessity unless scoring is to be reduced to an absurd minimum.” And again: “If it can be avoided, putting greens should not be laid down on a plain uninteresting piece of ground. There should be a suggestion of a terminus of the hole, or in other words the position should be suggestive to the player that there is the place to which he must aim to drive his ball.”

His comments show a thoughtful, confident mind, with clear design ability and a good working knowledge of agronomy and greenkeeping. “Rolling however, requires to be carefully done. In dry weather it is only good for polishing the surface, and if done too frequently may render the green so keen and fast as to make putting an impossibility.” With minimal intervention an expedient and economical way to build, Park’s courses concentrated on the celebration of natural topography and ecology. He employed high quality construction professionals and shapers, and, although he moved the design process from ‘walking the course’ to ‘planning the course’ he never lost his ability to use and enjoy the form and articulation of landscape, with the insertion of a little artifice to make a hole more challenging.

His par threes provide a library of devices by which to snare or disorientate the golfer. Often he used a diagonal hazard to distract the player, or to provide an artificial perspective to a hole. Transverse diagonal ditches or streams, as at Stoneham, or heather covered banks, as at Sunningdale are typical, but Willie was happy to try new devices, as at Aldeburgh, which he designed with James Braid, where a small cliff of vertical timber sleepers at the back of a long horseshoe shaped bunker contains the par three fourth green, reached over a landscape of brutal and engulfing gorse.

Willie’s greens were typically described as “a tipped platter with two fried eggs,” but like Colt, MacKenzie and Simpson, the next generation, he preferred to allow the strategy of the hole and the green’s location to inform its design, with as little help as possible from the construction team. Willie never embraced the ‘penal’ philosophy. As Geoffrey Cornish wrote to John Adams (The Parks of Musselburgh, Grant Books): “It is evident to me that Willie Park was practising strategic design in Canada and the US during his 1916-23 years… whether or not the words strategic and penal were being used at that time in relation to design.” The Game of Golf argues sensibly for the strategic approach, as the only practical way to cater for the diverse ability of golfers. Willie was in all things a pragmatist.

By 1900 Willie was at the height of his powers. He had designed and built Sunningdale, which opened to universal acclaim, and he had set up his own development company, Chiltern Estates, to build a new course and housing at Huntercombe. This too was greeted with critical acclaim, and the present course, substantially unchanged, is a testament to the quality of its early design. But the success of the design and construction of Huntercombe was to be transformed into a bitter failure. By 1906 it had passed into the possession of the Norwich Union Life Insurance Company.

This was a difficult time, but Willie continued to build, particularly around London, and on the Continent. After Huntercombe was lost he poured himself into work, and before the First World War he was at his most active and influential. Among a long list, he worked at Royal Wimbledon in 1907, West Lancashire, Temple, Lauder and Biggar in the Borders and Grantown on Spey further north. Nieuport Bains, Mont Agel (Monte Carlo) and Royal Antwerp were also carried out in this period, and Killarney in 1911. With the onset of war there was little to be done in Britain or Europe, and few people to do it. In 1916, thus, he went again to New York, where his younger brother John was already professional at the Maidstone. Willie developed the office of ‘William Park – Golf Architect’ with the same energy and application as in Britain. Between 1916- 1924 he built some of his best courses in North America and Canada. They remain a testament to his skill and aptitude.

At the end of his career, in 1923, with the assistance of his younger brother John, Willie once again undertook work at the Maidstone, which they had first laid out in 1895 or 96, and which John had constructed in 1899. But by 1924 Willie was losing his ability to run the business. It is possible that his mental health was suffering from the effects of thyrotoxicosis, which at the time was untreatable. In 1924, my grandfather, Mungo Park Jr, travelled from Argentina, where he was also a golf architect, to New York. He brought his older brother home to Musselburgh: he died at Craigiehall mental hospital on 22 May 1925 Willie’s lasting legacy was the breadth and span of his activities. He combined successful careers as a greenkeeper, professional golfer and club and ball manufacturer with the development of the new profession of golf architect. Arguably he was the first to coin the title. It is noticeable that when he first went to America he described himself on the ship’s manifest as a golf professional. By the time he returned to America in 1916, at the age of 52, he is listed as ‘Golf Architect.’

He, more than any other, provided the bridge between the players of the money match days and the new men of business who were driving the game forward in America and Britain. Henry Leach, writing in The American Golfer, describes his leaving as the breaking of “the only solid link remaining between the golf of today and the really great golf of the past, the time when the history of the game as we know it was being built up, that link being comprised in the human person of our Willie. For you see, Willie Park was ‘one of the boys of the old brigade.’ In this respect there was none like him.”

This legacy may be as significant to the overall history of golf architecture as his designs. His work at Sunningdale and Huntercombe inspired Colt, Abercrombie and many others. They demonstrated that successful new golf development of the highest quality was possible on inland sites. His work in America and Canada confirmed his position as the father of golf course architecture. Inevitably it is his built legacy for which he will be remembered, and it is a testament to the quality of his courses that so many remain relatively unchanged. Gullane, Huntercombe, Sunningdale, Mount Bruno, Ottawa, the Maidstone, Olympia Fields, Royal Antwerp, Mont Agel, Killarney and many others are a substantial legacy, but so too are lesser known gems, such as Silloth, Kilspindie, Aldburgh, Temple and Stoneham, where the great Willie Park encourages lesser mortals to practice the art of the possible in subtly considered landscapes, and to achieve, from time to time, those satisfying moments of unimportant personal greatness.

Mungo Park is an architect, specialising in clubhouse design and refurbishment. He is the great-nephew of Willie Park Jr, and the great-grandson of Old Willie Park. Any information on Park designed courses from clubs or club historians will be gratefully received by e-mail info@mungo-park.co.uk or telephone +44 (0)1684 274848.

This article first appeared in issue 14 of Golf Course Architecture, published in October 2008.