1966 - 63rd Western OpenView Gallery
Contemporary sportswriters expected that Billy Casper would breeze into Chicago and successfully defend his 1965 title as the Western Open champion. However, his competition, and Medinahís Course No. 3, would challenge Billy Casper during every day of the tournament.
In the Pro-Am event, also played on Course No. 3, the day before the Western, Casper scored a 72, one over par, but that wasnít enough to beat the 68 turned in by Tommy Aaron.
On the first day of the tournament, Tommy Bolt was the leader with a score of 68. Casper was only a stroke behind. On Friday, the 92-degree heat and humidity may have been taking their toll on many in the field. Tommy Boltís back problems affected his game, and he dropped out of competition, clearing the way for two rookie professionals, Kermit Zarley and Homero Blanceo, who tied at 69 to win the day. Only four years earlier, they were amateurs playing on the Houston University Golf Team.
Billy Casper was close behind with a score just one under par. Tommy Aaron led the field on Saturday, and Casper, Venturi, and Zarley tied for second position. On Sunday, 20,000 spectators at Medinah joined by countless thousands watching over the largest network of television stations to ever telecast a golf tournament, could watch as Billy Casper successfully defended his title as the Western Open Champion.
His birdie 4 on the 10th hole was deemed to have been the key to his win. He hit three clubs, a 3-wood, a 2-iron, and a wedge to within six feet of the flagstick, and holed the putt. Gay Brewer was second, and Kermit Zarley and Tommy Aaron tied for third.
The tournament also provided another entry into the history of the Chick Evans Scholarship Foundation. Profits would again benefit the foundation, and Evans Scholars and alumni volunteered their services in various capacities during the event. Chick Evans was the first amateur to win the Western Open in 1910, and at just short of age seventy-eight, he competed in the 63rd Western at Medinah.
1962 - 59th Western OpenView Gallery
The Western Open Championship returned to the Chicago area after a twenty-three year absence, and it had been thirteen years since Medinah had hosted the 1949 U.S. Open. Course No.3 had undergone a few changes, and during the four days of the Western, the course earned its nickname, "the Monster." At 7,110 yards, it was the longest course played in the Western Opens.
On day one, Fred Hawkins of Antioch, Illinois, was the winner with a 68 -3 under par, giving him a one-stroke advantage over Charles Sifford, Jacky Cupit, and Paul Harney. Clyde Mullins and Jack Nicklaus also broke par. Loyal spectators were following Arnold Palmer, the defending champion, who was paired with Nicklaus, winner of the 1962 National Open, for the first 36 holes. New on the scene was Jacky Cupit, winner of the 1961 Canadian Open, and rookie-of-the-year.
After the second round, Cupit and Harney tied for the lead with Hawkins one stroke behind. Gary Player, winner of the 1961 Masters, turned in a 69, with 16 pars and 2 birdies. Jack Nicklaus first ran into trouble on the 10th hole when his second shot landed in the bunker. He needed three more to reach the green and then finish with a 2 putt. Nicklaus also 3-putted the 16th, and needed 4 putts on the 17th. Palmer found himself in the woods, edges and fringes of "the monster."
Eddie Merrins, a pro from Westchester, New York, turned in a record breaking 66 for the third round. Cupit and Player tied at 210, five strokes ahead of the field. Nicklaus ranked 7th, and Palmer was 18th.
At one point during the fourth and final round, Billy Casper, Jacky Cupit, and Gary Player were even, and ahead, until Player dropped out of contention on the 9th hole. On the 18th, both Casper and Cupit had to play out of the same bunker. Their recovery shots decided the winner of the tournament. Casper was left with a 25-foot putt that slid by the hole. When Cupit holed his putt for a par 4, he became the Western Open champion by 2 strokes. Casper was second, and Player and Hawkins tied for third.
1946 - Chicago Victory NationalView Gallery
The 1946 Victory National Open Championship played on Medinahís Course No.3 was basically two events consisting of five days of competition. It was a traditional 72-hole three-day tournament preceded by a two-day team championship event. The Victory National evolved from the Chicago Open that was first played at Medinah in 1937. After 1943, during WWII, it was officially designated as the Chicago Victory National Tournament.
The team event consisted of Pro-Amateur, Pro-Senior, and Pro-Lady competitions. The 36 holes of match play were described as the only twosome national events of their kind. For instance, pro Byron Nelson had Chick Evens as his senior partner. Frank Stranahan was his amateur partner, and Betty Jameson played as Nelsonís lady partner. Team winners were Pro-Amateur, Jim Ferrier and Jim Stefancik, The team of Ben Hogan and Louise Suggs won Pro-Lady, and the team of Harold McSpaden and Arnold Minkley won Pro-Senior. Johnny Bulla was low pro, Frank Stranahan was low amateur, and Betty Jameson and Betty Hicks tied for low lady. Not long after competing at Medinah, these women were part of the nucleus that organized the Womenís Professional Golf Association, now succeeded by the LPGA.
In the first round of the main event, Ernie Harrison and Frank Stranahan tied for the lead. Then on the second day, Lloyd Mangrum shot five birdies for a 6 under par to move into first position. Byron Nelson was 4 strokes back. In the final round, Nelson made what would prove to be his winning shot on the 365 yard 12th hole, a 90 yard niblick that landed in the cup for an eagle two. Byron Nelson won his second straight Victory Open with five under par, beating Harold "Jug" McSpaden by two strokes. Chandler Harper was third.
This was Nelsonís eighth win scored in Chicago in as many years, and would include his 1939 triumph at Medinah in the Western Open. Soon after this however, he announced his semi-retirement from full-time competition. Byron Nelsonís last regular tour win was for the 1951 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am.
The $10,000 in prizes for the Victory National Open was in Victory Bonds. Service men and women being treated in Chicago area hospitals benefited from the tournament through the CDGA golf charities fund. Beginning soon after Pearl Harbor, and during the post war years, the fund was used to construct golf facilities for their recreation and rehabilitation.
1939 - 40th Western OpenView Gallery
Medinah's First Open
When the Western Golf Association announced that Medinah Country Club would host their 40th Western Open Championship, the CDGA decided that it would postpone the Chicago Open for one year in order to give their full support to the event at Medinah. At that time, the Western Open was considered by many to be second only to the National Open in importance.
The field of 303 competitors played on Course No.1 and No.3, alternating 18 holes on both courses for the first two days. Then the low 50 professionals and 22 low scoring amateurs played Course No.3 on the final day. Ralph Guldahl had won the Western for the preceding three years, and in a practice round on Course No.3, he shot a 69, two below par.
Byron Nelson had just won the National Open, but only a week before the Western at Medinah, he was runner-up to Henry Picard for the PGA title. On day one of the Western, Dick Metz, head professional at Mill Road Farm in Lake Forest, Illinois, set the pace with a record round of 67 on Course No.3. He was among the only players to break par, along with Byron Nelson, Lloyd Mangrum, Harry Adams, and Jimmy Hines. Nelsonís 68 was on Course No.1 par 70. Metz hung onto his lead during the second day of play, but Lloyd Mangrum and Byron Nelson who were only one and two strokes away were challenging him.
Despite the fact that Nelson was not in the lead until the final rounds, he had played outstanding golf during the entire event. On the final day, Nelson came from behind to win his first Western Open. As one sports writer put it, "While all of his rivals were playing boy scout in the woods, water and sand of Medinahís Course No.3, the cool, nerveless, Nelson hewed to the fairway and delivered." He shot 52 pars, 11 birdies, and 9 bogies to win with a 281, 2 under par. Lloyd Mangrum was second and Henry Picard was third. Wilfred Wehrle was top amateur.
Over 11,000 spectators filled the galleries during the tournament, and ten correspondents reported the event with 150,000 words over the Western Union wires. In addition to the events at Medinah, in 1939 the wires were also humming with the news of the beginning of the war in Europe, and Time magazine named Josef Stalin, Man of the Year.
1937 - Chicago OpenView Gallery
The 1937 Chicago Open at Medinah was unique in several ways. The $10,000 in winnings was the richest medal play golf event of the season, proceeds of the tournament were to be used to form a caddie welfare foundation, and for the first time in the Midwest, the competing field of champions included six members of a victorious American Ryder Cup team: Gene Sarazen, Ralph Guldahl, that yearís National Open Champion; Sam Snead, runner-up to Guldahlís then record score of 281; Horton Smith, Johnny Revolta, and Henry Picard.
The field of 407 players included Babe Didrickson, the only woman, to play in the tournament, a "Masked Marvel," mystery golfer, and two young boys who were considered to be golf prodigies, for what a sports writer termed "a golf extravaganza."
All competitors played one round on Course No.1, and No.3 on Friday and Saturday. The field was narrowed down to 86 for the final 36 holes played on Course No.3 on Sunday. On the first day on Course No.3, Bill Mehlhorn was the winner, and the only player to break par shooting a 70. Gene Sarazen was one stroke back with Harry Cooper and Horton Smith close behind. On Saturday, Sarazenís 72 on Course No.1 tied him with Harry Adams and George Smith at 144.
Gene Sarazen had a comfortable lead in the final round, and in the afternoon, Cooper, Smith, Laffoon and Runyan challenged him. One by one, they dropped behind. Paul Runyan had a chance for a tie with Sarazen, but when his ball landed close to the edge of a stream, and the wind raised a wave that washed the ball into the water, Runyan had to go back to the tee and play another ball, and he was no longer a threat to Sarazen. Gene Sarazen was the winner. Ky Laffoon, Harry Cooper, and Horton Smith tied for second.
In addition to Sarazen and Smith, the other Ryder Cup team members that finished in the money included Sam Snead, Raplph Guldahl, Henry Picard and Johnny Revolta. Soon after the 1937 Ryder Cup, WWII began in Europe. The Ryder Cup competition would not take place again until 1947.
1935 - Second Medinah OpenView Gallery
The Second Medinah Open featured four rounds on the Bendelow re-designed and lengthened par 71 Course No.3. There was a starting field of one hundred three players. Johnny Revolta of Milwaukee had just won the Western Open Championship, and was favored to win at Medinah. He shot a 69 in the first round with five birdies earned by sinking four ten to fifteen foot putts. Frank Walsh and Ray Mangrum tied for second with 71. "Lighthorse Harry" Cooper, head professional at Glen Oak Country Club, who won at Medinah in 1930, had a 73 that put him three down on the leader board. (The nickname, inspired by Cooperís quick playing style, was given to him by sportswriter, Damon Runyon.)
During the second round, Revolta continued to lead with a three over par. However, Harry Cooper and Alvin Kreuger pulled into the second and third positions. By the final day, the field had narrowed down to fifty-five players. At the end of the final round, Cooper had scored three consecutive rounds of 72, and just after he posted his final score of 289, Revolta came up to the 18th hole needing a three to tie Cooper. Kreuger had just finished the hole with a birdie. Revoltaís ball reached the green twelve feet from the pin. His putt missed the hole by two inches. Harry Cooper won the tournament, and Johnny Revolta was second. Frank Walsh, Horton Smith, and Tommy Armour, Medinahís new head professional, tied for sixth. Course No.3 gave up only two under par rounds, one each to Willie Groggin and Johnny Revolta. The purse was $3,500, and proceeds benefited the Shrinerís Hospital for Crippled Children.
In 1937, Harry Cooper won the Vardon Trophy, and was the PGA tour money leader. It has been said that he was a fine golfer, yet he never won a major national tournament championship. He came in second in the 1936 U.S. Open, and in the 1936 and 1938 Masters. Cooper joined the PGA in 1923, and when he died in 2000, at age ninety-six, he was the longest serving member.
1930 - Inaugural Medinah OpenView Gallery
It was during the Great Depression, and Medinahís Championship Course No. 3 had been open for two years. That summer, Abe Espinosa, Medinahís head professional, had scored a 65 on the par 70 course. Medinahís membership had already accepted Thomas Bendelowís redesign of Course No. 3 when they decided to schedule the Inaugural Medinah Open as the clubís first national event.
Medinahís $3,000 in prize money attracted a field of one hundred of the nationís top golfers that included Gene Sarazen, Tommy Armour and Chick Evans. The competitors played one round on Course No.1 and No. 3. Four thousand spectators turned out to watch the golf, and to get their first glimpse of Medinah.
Gene Sarazen, holder of the Western Open title that year, shot a 78 in his morning round. Harry Cooper, head professional at Glen Oak Country Club in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, was a local favorite, yet he was just one of fifteen players who scored 73 or better in their first round. Leo Diegel of Agua Caliente, California, former national professional champion, shot a 69.
Sarazan finished his afternoon round with an amazing 65. He led the field until Laurie Ayton of Evanston, tied his final score of 143. Next, Lou Diegel finished with 140. The game was still going at dusk, when it was reported that Harry Cooper was completing a potentially record breaking finish.
Cooper had a poor start that afternoon when he hit a tree off the first tee and took a 5, one over par. Then he proceeded to score a par or a birdie for most of the round. He managed a total of seven birdies. On the 12th hole, 570 yards, he was on with two woods, and holed a ten footer for an eagle. His final score on Course No. 3 was a record 63 to win the tournament. Leo Diegel was second, while Gene Sarazen and Laurie Ayton tied for third.