Fellow RTJ Society Members,
We just returned from another fantastic meeting of the Robert Trent Jones Society. The eleventh annual meeting was held at the Wigwam Resort, in Arizona. This beautifully restored resort was originally the cooperate headquarters for the Goodyear company, beginning it’s historic existence in 1918. Although it was never intended to be a hotel, as the years rolled by, more rooms were added and the original golf course was opened in 1930. In 1965, Mr. Jones was asked to redesign the course and found there was enough room to add a second course at the same time. The Gold course was immediately named to the Golf Digest top hundred and remained there for over twenty years. A recent bunker renovation by Tom Lehman has given this 50 years old course a fresh new look and has helped bring it back to it’s original majesty. If you has never seen the Wigwam, you need to go and if it has been a while, return.
After registration we all met at the Welcome Cocktail Dinner. Old friendships were reinstated and introductions were made for the new members. After a good nights sleep, we awoke to the bright dessert sun and breakfast. The morning Historian Meeting began early with the history of the Wigwam and the two RTJ courses. The Tom Lehman’s restoration was explained with slides and a short video helped us visualize the significance of his effort.
Following this, with slides and a very nice video, Lee Asseo went through the rational for the a major turf reduction program at Birnam Woods Golf Club. With the real possibility of losing their course to the drought, this aggressive renovation has given them a new lease on life and a model for others to follow.
Next on our agenda we were lucky to have Joe Passov, who writes the “Traveling Joe” column for Golf Magazine, talk about his youthful time in Arizona and his memories of the Jones years at the Wigwam. According to Joe it turns out that the major reason for bringing Mr. Jones to Arizona was that the Goodyear management were upset by the fact that Sr’s redo of the Old Firestone course had given their major competitor all the press that year and they wanted to compete; and they did. The “Gold Standard” was brought to the dessert, where it remains today. At the time, it was said to be the finest test of golf in Arizona and quite possible the entire Country.
Attending the meeting for the first time, Jack Bonner from the Dunes golf course in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was our next speaker. He has been involved in golf for most of his life and told many interesting and fun stories of his earlier meeting and contacts with Mr. Jones. We look forward to hearing even more at next year’s meeting.
Lunch followed the morning meeting and it was off for the first challenge on the Gold course. In near perfect weather, there was no excuse for anything but a fine round, but this course has many subtleties and your approach shots and putts needed to be near perfect. There were some low scores, but most felt they would do better the next day.
The evening dinner was superb and was followed by an interesting presentation by a USGA agronomists, Brian Whitlark. For the past three years Brian has been responsible for preparing the course for the US Senior Open Championship. He helped give us a behind the scene look at what it takes to prepare a course for a USGA major. That is five years of planning, millions of dollars, and hours of effort. Get things consistently firm and fast and you have the right combination for a USGA Open Championship. To close out the evening Lee Asseo gave a heart felt memorial for the loss of our great friend and fellow founding director, Bob Kummer. His commitment to golf at Birnam Wood and the RTJ Society will never be forgotten. In an effort to keep Bob’s memory with us and his wish for more involvement in the maintenance aspect of our courses, the first annual RTJ Society Robert Kummer Award, for one of our golf superintendents, will be presented at next year’s meeting.
The second round was an early shotgun, followed by lunch and the awards presentation. Spyglass came from a slow start on the first day, to win, once again. Individual awards were given to the top men and women and after our fond goodbyes, everyone ran for their cars and cabs for their trips home. We look forward to next year for the Twelfth Annual Meeting at the Dunes, in early fall of 2016. The exact dates will be announced soon.
Robert Trent Jones Society