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Historic Golf Created Winged Foot’s Legacy

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Winged Foot’s East Course 18th Hole | Photo courtesy of Winged Foot Golf Club

Six US Open Championships are only part of the club’s legend.

This week marks the sixth time Winged Foot Golf Club has hosted the US Open Championship, but the club’s reputation as the epitome of tournament venues was built with a long list of other significant events in its 99-year history.

The club was founded in 1921 and celebrated the opening of the two AW Tillinghast courses in September, 1923, with an exhibition match between four of the greatest golfers of the day. Bobby Jones and Jess Sweester, two leading amateurs, took on Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagen in a widely-reported 36-hole match on both the East and West Courses. The pros held a five-up lead after the round on the East Course, but Bobby Jones turned it on when they got to the West and the amateurs took the match 1-up.

Among the dozen major championships the club has hosted, few were as memorable as the 1997 PGA Championship, won by Davis Love III in a finish literally crowned by a rainbow on the 18th hole.

Winged Foot has been the site two US Amateur Championships as well. The first, in 1940, was won by Winged Foot member Dick Chapman. In 2004, Ryan Moore won the Am, then turned pro in 2005 and played his first PGA Tour event at Westchester CC that year.  The Walker Cup was held on the West Course in 1949 with a team captained by Francis Ouimet than included Westchester native Willie Turnesa.

The East Course has seen its share of significant tournaments, too. Betsy Rawls won the US Women’s Open there in 1957 in a confusing finish where the apparent champion, Jackie Pung, signed an incorrect scorecard and was disqualified. Winged Foot’s members took up a collection and awarded Pung with over $3,000 as a consolation prize. Susie Berning won the 1972 US Women’s Open on the East Course as well.

The US Senior Open was introduced on Winged Foot’s East Course in 1980. The winner by four strokes was Roberto De Vincenzo.