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Senior PGA Championship: A history of Oak Hill

May 22, 2019 11:23 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- Thursday marks the 12th major championship hosted by Oak Hill. It's a total that speaks to the rich history and tradition of golf that this course stands for but Oak Hill wasn't always where the current clubhouse stands. 

Now it stands as a symbol of excellence in golf but when it was founded in 1901, Oak Hill was a quaint little course along the Genesee River where the University of Rochester sits today. 

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"It was a nine-hole self-made golf course with an old farm house as the club house, and a barn as the locker room, no running water, kerosene lamps, no foul langue, no gambling," said Fred Beltz, Oak Hill historian. 

In the early 1920s George Eastman wanted to move the UofR away from downtown Rochester and offered the membership of Oak Hill's 355 acres in Pittsford in exchange for the 90 acres that now makes up the school's River Campus. 

Fred Beltz is the Oak Hill historian and says that the club's grand debut on the national stage came in the next decade. 

"1934, the 20th anniversary of Walter Hagen's first U.S. Open win and the centennial celebration of Rochester's incorporation, so Walter came back and invited his buddies for a tournament." 

Highly prominent tournaments continued to return to Oak Hill. In 1941, the Gannett Company founded the Times Union Open for a grand prize of 5,000, which attracted the best golfers in the country.

The second year of the tournament proved to be historic.

"The '42 was held, it was won by Ben Hogan and he set the then-course record of 64. That record lasted for 70 some years." 

A record that stood until Jason Dufner shot a 63 on his way to the 2013 PGA Championship. But that's only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to majors at Oak Hill.

All six of the traveling men's American major championships have been played at Oak Hill. They are the only club in America which can make that claim

"I think it's a testament for the overall great golf course and facility we have here and the respect it holds by the golfing world...the Ryder Cup is a world event, probably the most viewed, most well known, to have hosted that was extraordinary, royalty from England was here." 

It truly is more than 100 years of tradition. 

The Senior PGA Championship tees off Thursday and in 2023, Oak Hill will host the PGA Championship for a fourth time. 

WHECTV

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