The Rose Factor: The William S. Flynn Golf Tour

You’ve heard of Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on Long Island, many times host of the U.S. Open Championship , including the 1986 Open won by Raymond Floyd, and the site of Corey Pavin’s famous 4-wood into the 18th green that beat Greg Norman in 1995. Retief Goosen put on a putting clinic in 2004 to win the Open at Shinnecock. Shinnecock has just been chosen to host the Open again in 2018. This classic links course was designed by William S. Flynn.

No doubt you’ve heard of Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver, Colorado, host of seven major championships and 8 USGA events. It’s where Arnold Palmer made one of his first magical “come from behind” charges, driving the 1st hole par 4 in the final round, on his way to a 30 on the front nine, and a 65, to win the 1960 Open over Ben Hogan and amateur Jack Nicklaus. Former Merion assistant pro Hubert Green won the Open there in 1978. My first USGA event was the 1983 U.S. Mid Amateur at Cherry Hills, where local legend Jay Sigel won the first of his three Mid Ams. Another great William S. Flynn design, chosen to host next year’s USGA Amateur. and the Fed Ex Cup’s BMW Championship in 2014.

William Flynn’s magic can be seen at the Homestead Resort in Virginia, where his Cascades course was home to Sam Snead. In Miami Beach, there’s the very exclusive Indian Creek Club, where’s Flynn’s imagination is seen at its best. But Flynn was at his very best right here in the Delaware Valley, where he honed his craft in the early part of the 20th century as an assistant to Hugh Wilson at Merion. Flynn then went out on his own, and his original works and consulting expertise can be seen in over 25 courses here.

William S. Flynn designs are regular choices in Golf Digest’s Top 100 Classic courses, as well as top picks in any state where he has worked. In our area, there’s Rolling Green in Delaware County, host of USGA events, Atlantic City CC, where the term “birdie” was born and where the Senior Tour had its inaugural event. Green Valley, Woodcrest, Plymouth CC, Bala Golf Club and the spectacular Lehigh Country Club. All the handy work of Flynn.

Classic Flynn short par 4, No.11 Huntington Valley Country Club.

Each year, I play what I call, my Flynna-thon golf tour, a series of tournaments at William Flynn courses, so lucky to be invited to these five great designs, playing against great players. I start in June with the A. B. Thorn Invitational at Lancaster CC, one of the region’s best Pro -Am events. Winning a club championship generally gets an invitation from your pro(or a sizeable purchase order in the pro shop). I’ve also played Pa. State Amateurs there. One of my favorite stops all year, and also a USGA favorite, as shown by its recent selection for the Women’s U.S. Open in 2015.

Next in late July is Philmont CC’s invitational, the North/South Better Ball. I grew up at Philmont, starting in 1961 and can honestly say that growing up there and playing Flynn’s great North course, I learned to hit every kind of shot imaginable and with every club in the bag. Firm fast greens, side hill, uphill, downhill lies. I learned to hit the ball from left to right, and if necessary, from right to left. Philmont is a favorite venue for GAP tournaments and USGA qualifiers, playing host to the GAP Open last year, the GAP Amateur five times since I’ve been there. I had home field advantage in winning the GAP Tournament of Champions six straight years, from 1980-85, since the winner hosted the event the next year.

August is a big Flynn-a-thon month. It’s back to back weeks, first the Tim De-Baufre Invitational at Philadelphia Country Club, followed by the Wiliam Hyndman III Senior Inv. At Huntingdon Valley CC. Philly CC has a national reputation, an original four GAP club, going back to the late 1890’s. Philly is famous as the 1938 US Open site where Sam Snead made triple bogey 8 on the last hole to blow the Open, eventually won by Byron Nelson in a playoff. Snead never did win the Open. Michele Wie stopped by at Philly a few years ago in her quest for the women’s US Am. Hall of Famers Helen Sigel Wilson and Glenna Collett Vare called Phila. CC there home. William S. Flynn at his best.

Flynn bunkering at Philmont North #8.

My home away from home is Huntingdon Valley CC. I played my first high school golf there when I was 14, playing for Abington HS, my home course HVCC. Every time we went there, we could watch all time legend Bill Hyndman the 3rd practicing. He’d hit balls off his private tee, down the edge of the 1st fairway, to a caddie who never had to move more than foot or two to snag shag balls. What a swing, and what a guy. It’s no wonder that so many HVCC golfers went on to national and international success, learning to play every conceivable shot on those side hill holes with their rock hard conditions and fast greens.

Hyndman won the British Am, two Senior Ams and who knows how many other GAP, PA State and national amateur events. O. Gordon Brewer won two national senior championships, Jim Sykes won the national juniors, David Brookreson a bunch of GAP Amateurs, the list goes on. Now the Hyndman Senior annually brings to HVCC the nation’s top seniors for a 54 hole stroke play. It’s great to give these players a taste of Flynn greatness.

Last stop on Flynn-a-thon is October’s Bud Lewis Invitational at Manufacturer’s Golf & Country Club in Oreland, Montgomery County. I just love “Mannies”, with its pure conditions in the fall, the greens just perfect, the terrain lush and colorful. It’s a better ball of partners, hosted by 101 year old legendary golf pro Bud Lewis, still going strong, giving lessons and regaling everyone with his stories of friends Nelson, Hogan and the rest. Mannies hosted the 1977 GAP Amateur, where I was low qualifier and winner of the medal play award, the coveted Silver Cross. Chip Lutz won it that year, and almost did it again 34 years later in 2011, in his return to this year’s GAP Am at Flynn’s scenic design at Mannies.

One more event in October is the truest test to Flynn’s work, it’s the 15th annual William S. Flynn Cup, an event originated by Philmont golf chairman Andy Karff, to honor Flynn and bring together teams from 11 of Flynn’s local designs for a day of challenging team golf and camaraderie at a Flynn course, selected on a rotating basis. Each team brings 12 players, including the pro and two ladies, with a net handicap Stableford format. It’s a fun day with plenty of pride at stake. I was honored to be selected to play for Philmont in the first Cup, hosted by Philmont and to no one’s surprise, won by Philmont. Did I mention home field advantage? You can bet that this year’s course superintendent will speed up the greens for his players, and choose pin positions favoring his player’s local knowledge. It won’t matter. If I know my William S. Flynn design characteristics, it’ll be challenging to all, giving players the opportunity to hit every club in the bag, from every conceivable lie. As the song goes, “Nobody does it better”.

 

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