Pennsylvania golf history prominently featured at USGA Golf Museum
LIBERTY CORNER, NEW JERSEY – Legendary players, world-class courses and unforgettable moments. The United States Golf Association Museum may reside in the neighboring state of New Jersey but Pennsylvania is represented all over the place.
“What we strive to do here is to tell the stories of the most amazing championships and amazing stories in golf history,” explained USGA Senior Historian Victoria Student. “This is a chance for people to get up close and personal with golf history. It makes you a better player, makes you have more fun out on the golf course to know where your place is in the story of the game of golf.”
It’s easier to be part of history if the events take place within your borders.
“When you look at a state that’s hosted 87 different championships in 31 different sites, obviously you know there is something special about it that it has hosted so many more than other states around the country," said USGA Championship Director Rachel Sadowski. "I’d have to say there is a need and a want there.”
“The Merion, the Philadelphia Cricket Club, you start talking about Oakmont, Stonewall, even the events in Hershey. It goes on and on and on," marveled Ben Kimball, also a USGA Championship Director. "I know the folks in Pennsylvania are certainly proud that they’ve hosted more than anyone else.”
Merion Golf Club near Philadelphia is home to several of the most famous moments and milestones. Ben Hogan’s 1-iron on the 18th hole in 1950 to secure a playoff the next day, one year after a near fatal car accident. Bobby Jones using Calamity Jane to finish off a grand slam at Merion in 1930. Perhaps the best woman to ever play Mickey Wright was victorious at Churchill Valley. Oakmont near Pittsburgh is another regular on the U.S. Open rotation. Jack Nicklaus outdueled Arnold Palmer there in an 18-hole playoff in 1962.
Of course Palmer is probably the first person that comes to mind when you think of golf in Pennsylvania. Student conducted our tour and had a wealth of material to discuss when it comes to "The King."
"The connection to the fans is the one thing that stands out about Arnold Palmer. Obviously, he had an incredible career and amassed an amazing professional record. But he is someone whose relationship with the people of this world and golf was so special and we have here this amazing piece that really showcases that. We have a portrait done by James David Chase called "Gratitude." It's made up of over 22,719 words all written at a tenth of an inch, hand-written. It took him 15 years to create and he did this solely out of thankfulness and gratitude for Arnold Palmer and what he's given to the game.
Palmer electrified audiences in person and on TV. He’s just one of many Pennsylvania golfers to be listed in the Hall of Champions.
“In the Hall of Champions, you can see the names of every champion to win a USGA Championship," added Student. "That’s what really makes this place special. When you win a USGA Championship, you are forever remembered and celebrated here among the greatest in the game.”
Manheim Township grad Jim Furyk is there on the U.S. Open trophy. Two of the greatest amateurs ever, Jay Sigel and Carol Semple Thompson, In Gee Chun at Lancaster Country Club three years ago.
Even the trophies themselves, many of them made by the J.E. Caldwell Company, based of course, in Pennsylvania. Don’t expect the trend to stop anytime soon, The USGA is bringing more championships in the future .
“If they want to open the doors to host more championships, we’d be happy to go down that road with them," said Kimball. "Just quality golf, quality golf.”