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A Historic Look At Old Warson Country Club

During the War of 1812, John Murphy, an adventurer from Ireland, made a fortune trading in cotton. He acquired large real estate holdings in the St. Louis area, including parts of the property on which Old Warson Country Club is now located. The property, and additional acreage acquired over the years, was held by the family and devoted to raising cattle. In 1941 a great- great-grandson sold a total of 300 acres, including the present Old Warson property, to George Strake. Strake, a former resident of St. Louis and a director of St. Louis Mercantile Trust Company, sold 180 acres of land north of Old Warson Road to a small group of prominent St. Louisans led by W. Alfred Hayes and James E. Rarick. Hayes and Rarick put up $200,000 and purchased the land in the name of their company, the Algonquin Chemical Company. 

A picturesque view of the 12th green at Old Warson C.C. in St. Louis, which is hosting its second USGA championship this week. (USGA Museum)  

The purchase was made late in 1952, and on January 6, 1953, the first new club organizational meeting was held at the Racquet Club in St. Louis.  The founding members numbered 38, all prominent St. Louis citizens.  The first board was determined to have a golf course that would merit national recognition. As a result, Robert Trent Jones was chosen to design and supervise the construction of Old Warson’s course. Hayes and Rarick advanced additional funds, and work started in early 1953. Oscar Bowman, the club’s first superintendent, was hired about the same time and worked with Jones on the construction of the course. 

Meanwhile, there had been an overwhelming response from prominent St. Louisans wishing to join the new club. Membership was limited to 300 and there were an additional 200 people on a waiting list for membership when plans for Old Warson were completed. 

E.J. “Dutch” Harrison, a former Ryder Cup player and a Vardon Trophy winner, was hired as Old Warson’s first professional, and on April 15, 1954, the golf course was formally opened with an all-member tournament. 

Old Warson Country Club was the host for the Ryder Cup Matches in 1971, which the American team won handily. This was the last Ryder Cup team that included Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino, and was the final Ryder Cup in which Palmer played. 

In 1999, Old Warson was the proud host of the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship. As a testament to the club, Bob Hooper, at the time the longest-reigning member of the USGA’s Mid-Amateur Championship Committee, stated, “Hands down, anything else is in second place. It is the best Mid-Am we have ever had.” 

Along with hosting a USGA national championship, Old Warson has played host to several USGA qualifying rounds: U.S. Open sectional qualifying (1978, 1994, 2004), U.S. Mid-Amateur (1985), U.S. Senior Open (1990), U.S. Junior Amateur (1993), U.S. Open (1994, 2004), USGA Senior Amateur (1996) and USGA Senior Women’s Amateur (2006).

In addition to hosting USGA qualifiers, Old Warson has been a tremendous supporter of local amateur championship golf as well. The club has been host to several Metropolitan Amateur Golf Association Championships: Metropolitan Amateur (1998), Metropolitan Junior Amateur (2002), annual host of the Metropolitan Match Play (2003-2009) and will again host the Metropolitan Amateur in 2011.



Championship Facts

U.S. Women's Amateur

HISTORY: The U.S. Women’s Amateur is one of the United States Golf Association’s original three championships. It was first conducted in 1895, shortly after the inaugural U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open. The Women’s Amateur has since been conducted every year except 1917-18, when it was temporarily suspended because of World War I, and 1942-45, when it was suspended because of World War II.

PAR & YARDAGE: Old Warson Country Club will play at 6,422/6,468 yards and par of 35-36—71.

ARCHITECT: Old Warson Country Club was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and opened in 1954.

COURSE SET-UP –The USGA Course Rating® for the Women’s Amateur Championship at Old Warson Country Club is 78.1 and USGA Slope Rating® is 140.

Tees and fairways, height of grass – 7/16 inch

Collars, height of grass – 0.2 inch

Putting greens, speed – 11.5-12 feet on USGA Stimpmeter

Intermediate Rough – 1.25 inches (3 feet width)

Primary Rough – 3 inches

FORMAT: The U.S. Women’s Amateur is conducted with 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying. The low 64 scorers then advance to match play, with the champion determined by a 36-hole match-play final.

WHO CAN PLAY: The U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship is open to female amateurs who have a USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 5.4.

ENTRIES: A total of 955 contestants entered the 2009 championship. The record of 969 was set in 2006.



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