Golf Architect: Albert Warren Tillinghast
108-Hole Westchester Open
photographed on september 23, 1938
Golf legends who competed at Fenway in the richest PGA Tour event of the era:
Jack Grout, Frank Moore, Sid Brews, Paul Runyan, Ben Hogan, Dick Metz
Byron Nelson, Jimmy Hines, Vic Ghezzi, Sam Snead, Jimmy Thomson,
Harry Cooper, Frank Walsh, Horton Smith, Johnny Revolta, Harold McSpaden
Fenway’s stature as one of the pre-eminent golf clubs in Westchester results from the time tested greatness of its golf course and the rich history of its professionals. The course, designed by A. W. Tillinghast, one of America’s greatest architects, opened on July 4, 1924. Fenway’s sloping greens, deep traps and deceptively difficult landing areas, have proven time and again that this golf course need be compared to no other and stands on its own as a premier test of golfing excellence.
Fenway, recently restored by Gil Hanse, is just as good an example of Tilly's work as Winged Foot or Quaker Ridge.
"If it were located outside of the New York Metropolitan area, it would probably be a famous U.S. Open venue."
- Tom Doak
In 1920, an aspiring group of businessmen chose the 40-acre Scarsdale estate of publishing baron Eugene Reynal as the anchor point for a new golf course. Having begun this quest almost 100 years to the day that James Fenimore Cooper, the famous early American author of The Last of the Mohicans, settled in Scarsdale, they chose to name their new club after him. By the spring of 1921, the members of Fenimore Golf Club had acquired enough adjacent land to build a full, 18-hole course as well as a nine-hole executive course. To carve out these courses, they enlisted legendary golf course architect Devereux Emmet.
The Early Days and History of Golf Professionals
Not long after its introduction, the members determined that the Emmet design did not fulfill their goal of establishing a truly championship caliber course. Therefore, the club retained the services of the incomparable A.W. Tillinghast, who was then designing neighboring venues Winged Foot and Quaker Ridge.
“Tillie's” design featured a strong dependence upon the natural terrain along with heavily bunkered greens of various dimensions. When Fenimore re-opened in 1924 its new course was immediately crowned a smashing success.
During its first decade, Fenimore became one of the first clubs in the country to employ a playing Tour professional as well as a standard club professional. Leo Diegel, who won back-to-back PGA Championships in 1927 and 1928, was among the club’s notable playing pros. During this period, "Wild" Bill Mehlhorn, a member of the PGA Hall of Fame and Diegel's counterpart on the Inaugural United States Ryder Cup Team manned the club's Pro Shop.
With the nation suffering through the Great Depression, Fenimore's members found themselves struggling to maintain the club's financial viability. The club was forced, in 1936, to reorganize as Fenway Golf Club.
Since that time, Fenway has flourished as one of the preeminent golf clubs in the Metropolitan area.
Golfing greats Sam Snead and Byron Nelson have lauded Fenway greens and Tommy Armour referred to the course as “one of America’s best”. GolfWeek Magazine routinely ranks Fenway amongst the 100 Greatest Classical Courses in the United States and Golf Digest Magazine lists Fenway alongside such magnificent designs as Winged Foot, Shinnecock Hills, Oak Hill, and Bethpage Black as one of the top 20 courses in New York State.
Following in the footsteps of Diegel and Mehlhorn, a young player from Port Chester, NY, named Herman Barron settled into the Head Pro position. Over the next four decades, Barron became a golfing legend throughout the United States. A leading tour player, he captured the Western Open, Philadelphia Inquirer, Goodall Round Robin, Senior PGA Championship, the World Championship along with scores of other tour and local events. Herman was a member of the 1947 Ryder Cup Team, considered by many to be the greatest of all time.
Jimmy Wright, a seven-time Met PGA Player of the Year, won his Met Open title at Fenway in 1969. He later returned to Fenway as Head Pro in 1976. Jimmy captured all the major local titles, earned entry into the Metropolitan Golf Association’s Hall of Fame and still holds the Westchester Classic scoring record with a remarkable 62.
Jimmy was succeeded by Jeff Foxx. Jeff won the Nissan Classic in 1984 and the Westchester PGA in 1985 and played in the U.S. Open in 1984 and the PGA Championship in 1986.
In 1999, Fenway welcomed Heath Wassem as its Head Golf Professional. Heath was honored as the 1999 Westchester Golf Association Player of the Year. A five-time qualifier for the National Club Professional Championship, Heath was also winner of the 1998 and 1999 Metropolitan Club Professional Championship. Heath currently serves as President of the Metropolitan PGA.
In its continual quest to maintain the quality of its facilities, the membership retained the services of renowned Golf Course Architect, Gil Hanse, to perform "a gentle restoration" of the original Tillinghast design. Hanse, aided by Tillie's original plans and aerial photographs of the course (believed to be taken in the late 1920's) painstakingly went about restoring many of the green and bunker complexes originally created by Tillinghast and orchestrated the removal of hundreds of trees in order to reestablish the sightlines originally envisioned by the master himself. Gil continues to serve as the club's architect and is entrusted to ensuring that this Tillinghast treasure loses none of its glorious luster. In 1999, maintenance of the course was put into the hands of the equally renowned, Bob Alonzi, one of the most respected Greens Superintendents of his era and a legend in the Metropolitan area. The Alonzi tradition is now carried on by Bob's son, Robert Alonzi, Jr., who himself is one of the region's most accomplished Greens Superintendents.
The Current Course
Each August, Fenway is proud to host its own Mittelmark Invitational Tournament gathering the most accomplished amateurs in the area to test their skills against the challenges of Fenway. Many of its champions and participants such as Johnson Wagner, Keegan Bradley and Andrew Svoboda have gone on to successful PGA Tour careers.