Few golf clubs in America have earned a bigger place in the game’s history than Winged Foot Golf Club. The club’s two A. W. Tillinghast courses in Mamaroneck have hosted a dozen major tournaments including five US Opens (with a sixth to come in 2020), a PGA Championship, two US Amateurs, the Walker Cup, two US Women’s Opens, and the USGA Senior Championship since it opened in 1923. Winged Foot club professionals along with pro and amateur members have won countless times on tour (including 10 majors), with Craig Wood winning both The Masters and the US Open, and his successor, Claude Harmon, triumphing at Augusta as well.
The most significant event in Westchester golf may well have been the 1929 US Open at Winged Foot, which Bobby Jones won in a 36-hole playoff. It was his third Open victory. The next year, Jones would not only win the US Open again but would add the US Amateur and British Open and Amateur titles, completing the sport’s first and, so far, only Grand Slam.
Billy Casper won the 1959 US Open at Winged Foot by one stroke. His conservative strategy on the treacherous par-3 third hole contributed to his victory: he laid up with a five iron, chipped on, and one-putted for par all four days. The 1974 US Open went down as the “Massacre at Winged Foot” as Hale Irwin won with a score of seven over par. During the entire four days of the tournament, not one player was under par after any round. Fuzzy Zoeller took the 1984 US Open in a playoff with Greg Norman.
The club was known for its amateurs, too. Club librarian Dermod O’Sullivan says, “In the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, Winged Foot had the finest group of amateurs in Westchester. Guys like Joe Gagliardi, Dick Chapman, and the Kuntz brothers [who began their golf careers at Bonnie Briar] played in competitive events almost weekly. They set very high standards and contended in the US and British Amateurs and other amateur championships around the world.”
Westchester’s third PGA Championship was played at Winged Foot in 1997. Davis Love III’s victory, his only major win, was marked by a rainbow that appeared as he holed out the winning putt.
The most recent major at Winged Foot was the 2006 US Open, which will always be remembered for the man who lost. Phil Mickelson came into the superb 18th hole with a one-stroke lead. He pushed his tee shot into the trees, tried to slice a three iron to the green but hit a tree branch instead, and finished the hole with a disappointing double bogey for second place. Australian Geoff Ogilvy was the winner.
A. W. Tillinghast designed two excellent courses at Winged Foot. The West Course is better known, but the East is an equally difficult test. It hosted the US Women’s Open in 1957 and 1972. The first USGA Senior Open was also held on the East Course. It was won by Roberto De Vicenzo in 1980.
Winged Foot’s membership is deeply devoted to preserving the club’s history. A major project to rejuvenate the men’s locker room this year didn’t touch the iconic metal lockers, for example, except for a paint job and restoration of the solid brass handles. Craftsmen, working from pictures of the originals shot in 1923, duplicated several pieces of classic furniture in the lobby. Even the proposed restoration of the East Course by architect Gil Hanse is intended to enhance rather than replace Tillinghast’s work.
An otherwise unheralded Winged Foot member made another entry in the history books when a shot was named after him. He was fond of taking a second shot on the first tee if he didn’t like his first one—an all-too-common blatant violation of the rules. His name? David Mulligan.