Check out what it's like to tour Worcester Country Club, home of the 1927 Ryder Cup
WORCESTER, Mass. -- Walking through the clubhouse at Worcester Country Club in Worcester, Massachusetts, is like walking through a mini golf museum.
From 1960-2013, the Donald Ross-designed course in the Bay State's second-largest city boasted something no other club in the country could: It played host to a U.S. Open (1925), a Ryder Cup (1927) and a U.S. Women's Open (1960).
Pinehurst No. 2 joined that company in 2014. It hosted the U.S. men's and women's Opens in consecutive weeks that year and also the 1951 Ryder Cup. Hazeltine National in Chaska, Minnesota, became the third when it hosted the 2016 Ryder Cup to go along with the U.S. Open (1970, 1991) and U.S. Women's Open (1966, 1977).
But there's one thing no Ryder Cup venue -- past, present or future -- can ever take away from Worcester Country Club. Worcester hosted the inaugural Ryder Cup on June 3-4, 1927 and the 91st anniversary is right around the corner.
When you walk in the clubhouse, the walls ooze of history.
A replica of the coveted Ryder Cup trophy is front and center, along with replicas of the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open trophies.
Photos from the 1927 matches adorn the walls. In those matches, the USA team -- captained by the great Walter Hagen (a playing captain) -- soundly defeated the Great Britain contingent headed by Ted Ray, 9.5-2.5.
Also notably on the U.S. team? Johnny Farrell, Gene Sarazen, Joe Turnesa and Leo Diegel.
"There's definitely been a push the last few years to not forget what makes us different," said Allan Belden, Worcester Country Club's head professional. "I think the members here know that we have a special place, but not everybody does. It would be easy to allow people to forget, but the board of governors here have been adamant the last few years about making sure we remind people that Worcester is a special place."
It's particularly special because of Ross, it's renowned designer. Outside of some small renovations, Worcester Country Club's layout today is nearly identical to what it was over 100 years ago.
Ross courses stand the test of time.
"The genius of Donald Ross is that he designed golf courses that are enjoyable to play for, I think, anybody of any handicap," Belden said. "Anybody can play a Ross golf course and enjoy the game. They're not overly penal. His defense of par is very subtle. It's usually around the greens.
"To think of what they did with no heavy equipment, over a hundred years ago and being able to put a golf course together with basically shovels, backhoes and wheelbarrows, is kind of amazing," Belden added. "Ross had an eye to be able to go through a piece of land and work with what was there. There wasn't a lot of earth that was moved because they couldn't. The ability to be able to stand on a hillside and overlook a piece of property and be able to see where holes should be laid out and make things flow and make it enjoyable and playable is really kind of amazing."
The clubhouse features photos of Ross -- like this one in a mink coat -- surveying the land.
The history isn't limited to the main part of the clubhouse. Down below in the men's locker room, as if stepping way back in time, lives "Ryder Cup Row," -- featuring the line of lockers, with nameplates intact, used by the U.S. and Great Britain teams at the 1927 Ryder Cup.
Captain Hagen's locker is first in the line up. There's a plaque beneath explaining Ryder Cup Row that reads:
"These lockers commemorate where the members of the 1927 Ryder Cup teams lounged, changed clothes, shoes and interacted with each other in friendly international competition. This began the historic 1st Ryder Cup International Matches."
There were no "team rooms" back then -- just one room for both teams.
"It's a special thing," Belden said. "The members of the club embrace the history, as you can see from the way things are laid out upstairs and in the locker room. The members take a lot of pride in the tradition of what Worcester has to offer when it comes to the Ryder Cup and also the Opens that were played here as well."
Remember when the great Bobby Jones called a penalty on himself that cost him the U.S. Open and, when praised later, barked, "You may as well praise me for not robbing a bank. There is only one way to play the game?"
That happened on the 11th hole at Worcester Country Club in 1925.
If only the walls could talk.
"When I travel around the country -- no matter where it is -- and even over in Scotland, people ask where you're from," Belden said. "When I say 'Worcester Country Club,' it's amazing to me how many people are aware. The people who are avid golfers are aware of the history and know the name of this club."
"The Ryder Cup has evolved into something that is way larger in magnitude than anybody could have ever imagined, obviously, in 1927," Belden said. "It started as a friendly match and it was played in June because it was leading up to the U.S. Open. Those players from Great Britain were coming to this country to play in the U.S. Open at Oakmont. Worcester was somewhat 'on the way' to where the U.S. Open was going to be played a couple of weeks later. They came over, by boat -- there was no air travel then. They'd land the ferry on the east coast and decided to have a friendly match of which Samuel Ryder donated the trophy and hence the name 'The Ryder Cup.' To think some 90 years later it's arguably the largest golf event in the world now from a spectator-standpoint -- and it all started here -- is pretty cool."
Indeed it is. And Worcester has gone out of its way to be sure its membership recognizes that significant history.
Here's a look at a few more images from our visit to Worcester Country Club.
Captains Walter Hagen and Ted Ray shake hands at the 1927 Ryder Cup.
The winning U.S. Ryder Cup team in 1927.
A VIP ticket to the inaugural Ryder Cup.
Worcester Country Club PGA Head Professional Allan Belden stands on the clubhouse patio with the 18th hole in the background. Belden has been at Worcester CC since 1996 and became the head professional in 2000.
A candle-pin bowling alley for members from the 1940s and 1950s is still functioning in the basement of the Worcester Country Club clubhouse.
The Ryder Cup logo is built into the bar at Worcester Country Club...
And so is the club's crest.