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Published: Sunday, 7/24/2011

U.S. SENIOR OPEN

Inverness is a clubhouse, museum all in one

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
The classy, warm and welcoming living room has been the sight of many formal affairs through the years at Inverness Club. The classy, warm and welcoming living room has been the sight of many formal affairs through the years at Inverness Club.
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The sand wedge Bob Tway famously used to win the 1986 PGA Championship hangs on the wall. As does Paul Azinger's driver that he rode to a title at the 1993 PGA, and the putters used in victory by Craig Stadler in '73 and Hale Irwin in '79.

These golf clubs, along with photographs, letters of gratitude, and other mementoes, are among the items that have been collected over the years at Inverness Club and now decorate the walls of the opulent Byron Nelson Room.

Inverness will host its ninth major championship, and second U.S. Senior Open, July 25-31. Memories taken from the previous eight majors can be seen prominently throughout the clubhouse, especially in the Byron Nelson Room, a spacious multi-level area overseeing the 18th green that serves as a museum as much as it does a formal dining room.

One of greatest competitors in the history of the sport, Nelson worked at Inverness as the club's head professional from 1940-44. To get the gig, Nelson had to beat out another familiar name, Ben Hogan.

The well-appointed men's locker room will welcome competitors in this week's U.S. Senior Open championship. The well-appointed men's locker room will welcome competitors in this week's U.S. Senior Open championship.
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Only weeks after he signed his work contract with Inverness in June of 1939, Nelson managed to win the U.S. Open in Philadelphia. By the time his employment at Inverness ended in 1944, Nelson had won two more major championships -- the 1940 PGA Championship, and his second Masters title, in 1942. In '45, the year after he left Inverness, Nelson won 18 tour championships, including a record 11 in a row at one point. He died in 2006, and his 52 PGA Tour victories ranks sixth all time.

Those who have written letters of appreciation to Inverness that now appear on the walls of the Byron Nelson Room are Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Gene Sarazen. All three of the golfers competed in their first U.S. Opens at Inverness.

If any area at Inverness manages to rival the Byron Nelson Room in terms of historical significance, it could be the gallery-style Champions Hallway. From 1935-52, Inverness brought together the best 16 players on the PGA Tour to play in a two-man match-play tournament known as the Inverness Invitational and/or the Inverness Four-Ball. Hogan won the event four times, as did Sam Snead. Various pictures taken at the Inverness Invitationals align the Champions Hallway, which is located a few steps off of the 18th green. After finishing their rounds at the Senior Open, competitors will make their way into the hallway to sign their scorecards.

The Byron Nelson Room is for formal dining. The Byron Nelson Room is for formal dining.
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Most of the players who traveled to Toledo for the tournament worked elsewhere as club pros, said Inverness head professional David Graf.

"There was no tour in the summer, so this was an event that they could come for two weeks as guests of the club, play, and get paid," Graf said.

A sunken bar is the centerpiece of the Mixed Grill, which offers an excellent view of the 18th green and, like the nearby Byron Nelson Room, showcases pieces of history that help tell the story of Inverness.

The architect of the golf course has a dining room named after him. The Donald Ross Room adjoins the Ballroom and overlooks the 18th fairway and green. A small bar greets visitors as they enter the room, and blown-up photos hang horizontally on the wall.

The mixed grill features a sunken bar and walls filled with history.  The mixed grill features a sunken bar and walls filled with history.
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When you walk into either of the two men's locker rooms, you won't see any stray bath towels lying on the carpeted floor. The identical lockerrooms, located on the first and second floors of the clubhouse, house lockers made from wood, each with a nameplate identifying a member of the club. Actually, some non-members have a locker, too. The names of famous golfers such as Tom Watson and Payne Stewart are engraved on "dummy" lockers in place to hide pillars.

To the left of the lobby is the Living Room, which is nothing if not beautiful. A piano sits right of the entrance, and spectacular lights hang from the wood-beam ceiling. The room is generally used as a gathering place for those attending an event in one of the dining rooms.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com or 419-724-6160.



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