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How Oak Hill Country Club became an icon

1956 U.S. Open

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — On his way to finishing tied for eighth in the 1941 Times-Union, Gene Sarazen was asked what he thought about Oak Hill Country Club’s viability as a future host site for a U.S. Open or PGA Championship.

“There isn’t one weakness in the whole place and it is certainly better than the Fort Worth Country Club and the Canterbury Golf Club in Cleveland,” Sarazen said of the host venues for the 1941 and 1940 U.S. Opens, respectively.

Sam Snead, who won the first of the two T-U tournaments (Ben Hogan won the other in 1942) agreed, saying the East Course was “one of the finest I ever saw, fit for either the Open or PGA.”

Those guys knew what they were talking about, and pretty soon, the U.S. Golf Association and the PGA of America started listening.

In the 82 years since those comments were made, Oak Hill has become one of the most iconic major tournament sites in the world and is the only facility in the United States that has hosted at least one U.S. Open (three), PGA Championship (2023 will be the fourth), Senior PGA (two), U.S. Senior Open, Ryder Cup and U.S. Amateur (2027 will be the third).

The greatest names in golf — from Rochester’s own Walter Hagen, to Snead, Sarazen, Hogan and Byron Nelson, to Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino, to Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy — have competed at the venerable East Course, and a new batch of stars will descend this month when the 105th PGA Championship begins.

Here is a look back at the previous major events that have been held at Oak Hill:

The Walter Hagen Open in 1934, and the two T-U opens were just regular tournaments that were part of the largely undefined pro golf circuit, so the first recognized major tournament was the U.S. Amateur which, at that time, was considered every bit as important as the U.S. Open.

Charlie Coe of Oklahoma routed Texan Rufus King 11-and-10 in the 36-hole final as more than 15,000 spectators watched the action during the week.

Among the 210 contestants who started the tournament were Palmer, Dow Finsterwald, Julius Boros, Art Wall Jr., Willie Turnesa and Rochester’s own Sam Urzetta, who the following year would win the Amateur title in Minneapolis.

Arnold Palmer, left, who shot a 67 in practice round for the 1956 U.S. Open at Rochester, New York, with his caddie, Joe Cambisi.

The USGA was back, this time with its most prestigious event. An aging Hogan was trying to become the…


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