What Julius Caesar said of Gaul (ancient France), so we may say of Oregon Golf Association history: It all can be divided into three parts.
The first portion occurred in those years from the Association’s formation in 1924 until 1941 when World War II brought about cancellation of OGA activity until after peace was signed in 1945. The second part covers the years from resumption of tournaments in 1946 until the Association was restructured in 1969-70, and the third and final phase takes us from that time into the present. Each of these eras had its own flavor, its own list of leaders, its own cast of legendary players. Somehow, luckily, these elements coincide.
Although the OGA of today has many facets and areas of activity (even owning its own golf course), its only original purpose was the conduct of championship tournaments. The OGA was founded because one man thought the three clubs in Portland which had been conducting the Oregon Amateur championship needed some help. The man’s name was Ed Nuestadter, and he was a member of Tualatin Country Club. Although no records exist today of the original formative meetings, later minutes and correspondence credit Neustadter with being the key man in OGA formation.
The Oregon Amateur started in 1904 when 11 men and 13 ladies competed at Waverley Country Club. Waverley was the only course in the Portland area at the time. Waverley continued to hold the event every year through 1916. It was played at Gearhart in 1917, and not held in 1918 because of World War I and played at Waverley, Portland Golf Club and Tualatin from 1919 through 1923. As the years passed, the fields enlarged, new courses were built and it appeared to Neustadter that the host clubs could use some help with the tournament. So he suggested the clubs kick in $10 each in annual dues and form the Oregon Golf Association. This was done in 1924, and that championship, played at Portland Golf Club, was the first under OGA auspices. By the late 1920’s there were 13 member clubs, all private or semi-private. Even so, only seven clubs were represented at the 1929 annual meeting--Alderwood, Waverley, Columbia-Edgewater, Riverside, Multnomah, Portland and Tualatin--and you could have matched the treasury with a couple of $100 bills.
In those earliest years, Neustadter was joined by such men as Harry Thompson, George Hitchcock, A.M. Cannon, Larry Newland, Roscoe Nelson and Morris Dunne in keeping the OGA alive and sponsoring the Oregon Amateur. In 1928, the OGA added to its tournament involvement by agreeing to sponsor the Oregon State Junior Championships. The Junior came about at Alderwood Country Club because of its first ardent patron, Ralph Tomlinson. He led the OGA into its sponsorship, and he went on to become one of the Association’s most dominant and visionary figures. Elected president in 1929 and again in 1935, Tomlinson shepherded the Association through the trying years of the Great Depression. Many clubs barely could meet payrolls, let alone sponsor tournaments or pay association dues, and some, such as Multnomah, went out of business. But with Tomlinson’s leadership, the OGA survived and grew stronger as the decade of the 30’s moved toward its end.
Tomlinson was a man ahead of his time. He suggested dues be charged on a per individual member basis; he fought for making the Oregon Amateur a competition for the best players, not merely a social event, and for allowing more play by public links players; he wanted lower flight play in the amateur to be completed in three days to reduce time away from work; he foresaw the need for a Pacific Coast Amateur Association to bring all golfing groups in the West closer together. Most of the ideas were many years in coming, but all did make it, eventually.
As the 30’s unfolded, other men joined in the care and feeding of the Association. Thomas Watts, A.J. Schmitz, C.E. Ingalls and C.C. Wintermute served terms as president. Times were hard, and expansion of OGA activity was not foremost in the minds of Oregon’s golfers. Some financial figures from 1933 drive home the point: Dues were established for that year at $10 for 18-hole member clubs, $5 for nine-hole clubs, and some concern was expressed at the annual meeting about the ability of a few clubs to pay. Entry in the Oregon Amateur cost $3.50 and in the Oregon Junior $1.00. Gallery fee at the Amateur was $2.00 (yes, amateur golf did attract galleries in those days), and the OGA treasury stood at $559.01. It would be more than 10 years before there was that much money in the kick again.
Two new names came to the forefront of OGA organization and operation in the late 1930’s, those of Oscar Furuset and Dr. Millard Rosenblatt. These two men would serve as chief officers from 1938 through World War II. Status quo was pretty much the order of the day, although more public course players were admitted into the Amateur, and the fields continued to grow. The Association followed USGA Rules, of course, and agreed to go along with the newfangled 14-club rule being tested in 1937. That same year, the OGA recommended to the USGA that it abandon the stymie rule. The USGA took its own sweet time in doing that.
While such men as Neustadter, Tomlinson and Furuset were forming and shaping the OGA, others were excelling in the competitions it sponsored, and a few were carrying the OGA banner into national and international prominence
Oregon’s first home grown player of note was Rudy Wilhelm of Portland Golf Club. He won the Oregon Amateur five times between 1915 and 1927 and was runner-up three other times. His chief rival early on was Dr. Oscar F. Willing, a dentist from Waverley, who also collected five Amateur titles and was runner-up twice. Willing’s victories covered a 17-year span from 1921 to 1938. These two warriors were as fierce competitors as one could find and battled like tigers whenever their paths crossed. They crossed fairly often in Northwest events, and no quarter ever was given.
Frank Dolp and Don Moe, two Alderwood youngsters, came along in the mid-’20’s to challenge Wilhelm and Willing. Dolp won the Amateur five times from 1925 until 1932 and went on to win the Western Amateur and Pacific Northwest crowns. Moe took the 1928 and 1937 Amateur crowns and was runner-up three times. Willing and Moe represented the United States in Walker Cup play against Great Britain. Both were on the 1930 team after Willing had finished runner-up to Marrison Johnston in the 1929 National Amateur.
John Robbins of Alderwood and Roy Wiggins of Oswego each won the Amateur twice prior to World War II. Lou Jennings of Portland Golf Club took the 1940 Oregon Amateur, but his finest play came in the years immediately after the War, and he should be considered as a member of the post-War wave of standouts. Three other men should be mentioned. The first was Chandler Egan. He won the national Amateur twice while living in Chicago, but he later moved to Medford, designed Rogue Valley Country Club and was very much a part of the Oregon golf picture. The second was Russ Smith, the dominant player prior to Wilhelm’s emergence and the champion twice and runner-up once. The third was Lawson Little, whom Depression era scribes tagged with the title best amateur since Bobby Jones. Little’s father was an army man, and while he was stationed at Fort Vancouver in the 1920’s, Lawson played in the Oregon Amateur out of Waverley.
As noted earlier, women’s competition always has been very much a part of the Oregon Amateur, and the ladies were not without noted players. The first was Mrs. Peter Kerr of Waverley, who won four times between 1914 and 1922. Mrs. L.W. Palmer of Eastmoreland won successive championships in 1923-24-25, and Mrs. K.S. Reed of Waverley prevailed three times from 1926 to 1931. Mrs. Rose Eva Montgomery of Columbia-Edgewater won in 1929, 1934 and 1938. She is 99 and living in Southern California now. Although she has finally given up golf, she carried a 12 handicap into her 90th year! With due respect to all the ladies mentioned above, certainly the fines of Oregon’s distaff golfers of the era we are discussing was Mrs. Marina McDougall Herron of Waverley. Marian, who still is active in golf today, won the Amateur four times and was runner-up four times from 1932 to 1940.
Other names of note are to be found in the Oregon Amateur bracket sheets. Among them are four of the area’s most famous golf professionals, Eddie Hogan, Howard Bonar, Roy Moe and Bob Duden. Also Forrest Watson, who was a leader of the Pacific Northwest Golf Association for many years, and Ercel Kay, builder and owner of Salem Golf Club.
So, World War II put a temporary stay on OGA activity, and when it resumed, a whole new cast took the stage. More on that in Part II.
Perusal of the OGA minutes reveals them to be the records of a dedicated group seriously trying to do what they perceived to be best for the game and its practitioners. Very little levity surfaces in the dry and dusty records. However, occasionally humor does creep into the pages. The 1938 annual meeting minutes contain enough whereases and whatfors to confound a Philadelphia lawyer, but they close with this delightful passage: The retiring president said that he thought it was fitting to close his term of office with a libation to the gods and best wishes for the success of the newly elected officers. We thereupon brought forth an excellent nectar labeled ‘Ballentine’s Scotch’ which was partaken of by each of the Directors, some more, some less, with a corresponding amount of conversation until the bottom was reached, whereupon the Directors quietly adjourned.