July 11, 2009

A History of Golf in Winchester
Part I
by Charles J. Haviza

Some time ago, while visiting Winchester, I saw a photo of Charles J. Haviza in front of a Rotary Club backdrop.  His topic for the meeting was "The History of Golf in Winchester".  None too shy, I asked Charlie to expand on that speech for our website.  The following is Part I.

For some, finding a passion and being able to live it is a dream and for others, it becomes a reality.  Charlie has a passion for golf and through the detail of this article, it comes through loud and clear.  In April of this year Charlie fulfilled one of his lifelong dreams - attending a practice round at the Masters!  Thanks, Charlie for sharing your passion. - Jill

***Warning!!!  Much of this story is going to sound like the life and times of Charlie Haviza, but there really is some history sprinkled in here and there***

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in the fall of 1981.  I made arrangements to be in the group with Francis (Grandpa) Simpson for our usual Saturday golf choose-up.  But before I continue, let’s back up to the late 1950’s when I got my first look at golf in Winchester.

As with many of us, I caddied at the Beeson Park Golf Course in the late 50’s and into the 60’s.  As you caddies remember, the big days for golf were weekends and Wednesday afternoons.  The city basically closed down on Wednesday afternoons.  (I wonder, is that why the stores then stayed open until 9:00 on Friday night?)  The caddies would meet under the big tree behind the 9th green to wait for the golfers.  We each had our favorites and the golfers would often look for a certain caddie.  Most golfers had a pull-cart so we did not have to lug the bags around on our shoulders.  When we started caddying as 3rd or 4th graders, some of those golf bags were as big as we were.  It was tough on a little guy to climb the hill on Hole #2, especially the second time around each day.

I caddied for Dick Hinshaw, Charley Holdeman (Valerie’s dad), Leo Bastian, Jack Longnecker, PC Winbigler, Harold Hawley, Max Helms and Mike Helms.  I have forgotten many other names, but I was also caddy for Coach Hodson.  One of my all-time favorites, however, was Dr. Koch.  He always treated you right.  Even when he was called away during a round, he still paid you the full amount.  (Later in life, I played with Doc on several occasions and learned more about how helpful and generous he was in many ways.  Dr. Koch was still practicing and was the physician in charge during the birth of our first child in 1977.)

The going rate for a caddy was $1.00 to $1.50 for nine holes with maybe a quarter tip if you did your job well.  In those days, that was big money.  I could go to the Little Red Store, buy a pop, candy bar, several packs of baseball cards and still have money to put into the bank account that was started for me at Willard.  Remember that little bankbook we took to school every week and someone from the bank was there to mark in our deposits and take our money to the bank?  Some of my money went back to the golf course as the caddies could play as much as we wanted on Mondays for $1.00.  This is where many of the future members of Winchester golf teams got their start.  I played some, but not much.

My #1 sport was baseball and #2 was basketball and most everyone knew,  sports was my life.  I was not a track person and in those days baseball was a summer sport, so springtime sports left me with nothing to do.  That is until  my good friend, Steve (Artie) Howell, changed that for me.  When we were together, you recognized him as the tall, good looking one. Steve was one of the outstanding golfers in our class, along with Joe Casey, Steve Harrell, and Tom Fraze.  Some other members of the 1966 team were Monte Krahulec, Mark Helms, John Ashley, Dave Stump, Ken Mills, Mike Holdeman, and Mike Gard.    Phil Hodson was our coach and was actually my coach for all four sports I played our junior year - baseball, cross-country, basketball and golf.  Steve talked me into joining the golf team during our junior year and spent a lot of time over the next several years helping me with my game.  There were many Saturday evenings when we would meet at the golf course around 5:00 pm, take just one club and play to different holes.  When it got dark, we would go to the dance at the Beeson Club House.  Those were some of my fondest memories and the beginning of my lifelong love affair (or as my wife calls it, my addiction)  with golf.  Come to think of it, my first “golf” experience with Steve was when he would come over to the house and hit wedge shots to me and I would catch them in my baseball glove.  He would stand in my backyard and I would be over in Susie O’s backyard.

I worked on the golf course the summer after our junior year along with Tom Fraze.  We had a ball and I learned a lot of life skills that summer.  (I have some good Tom Fraze stories, as many of you have, but those will have to wait for another time.)  Our golf season got started earlier than I had hoped for our senior year.  We lost a heart wrenching, double overtime sectional game to Union City (the only time Union City had ever beaten us in basketball).  Steve and I sat in the locker room in our uniforms for at least an hour after that game.  I think we both were in semi-shock not wanting to accept the fact that our high school basketball careers were really over. We were all hoping to go to New Castle for the regional.  The senior golf season was cold and windy.   Coach Brueckheimer was our coach that season. Being able to spend my last sports adventures with Steve, Joe, Tom, Steve, Monte and Coach Brueckheimer made the entire season a lot of fun.   By the time the golf sectional rolled around, Artie, Joe, Steve and Monte were in good form and finished 2nd in the sectional.  I did not make that sectional team, but Coach Brueck took me out of school so that I could watch the team in action.  In the regional, they represented the Falcons well, but did not qualify for the State.  Steve Howell did have one of the lowest individual scores at that regional and under today’s rules would have qualified for the State.  Things were different in the 60’s.

After graduation, I began working at Anchor Hocking to make some college money before going on to IU in the fall.  (By the way, I roomed with Mark Bickell from Union City all four years at IU.  Mark was a guard on the Union City team that beat us in the sectional.  You can bet that sectional game was relived more than once over those four years.)  During that summer of ’67, I played in my first tournament at Beeson Park.  It just so happened that I was drawn to play against Francis (Grandpa) Simpson.  I was 18 and Grandpa was 65.  He had recently retired from the phone company and was given a new invention as a retirement gift, an electric golf cart.  This was one of the first golf carts to appear on the Beeson Park links.  This wasn’t my first encounter with Grandpa, as I had caddied for him and shagged balls for him when I was younger.  This was my first tournament and I was nervous.  I was a couple of strokes up on him when he was called away from the course because a building he owned was on fire.  He was such a gentlemen that he conceded the match to me and off he went.  We will get back to Grandpa in just a little bit.

During my college summers, I found myself drawn more and more to golf.  I had the fortune of meeting someone who would become my golf mentor, John Monks.  John was a very generous man, who studied the game of golf like it was a religion.  John was about 67 years old at the time, but was still a very good golfer who would often help others with their game.  One day, I asked John if he could help me.  He said that he would be happy to if I did two things: (1) listen to him and do the things he suggested and (2) be on the course a lot and practice what he taught me.  I agreed and we developed a very good friendship.  We worked together almost every day for many more years.  There were many days of nothing but practice and others where we played together in the daily choose-ups.  It was during some of those practice sessions that John and I would talk of his earlier years in golf and I learned that there had been a golf course in Winchester in the 1920’s.  At the time, I did not think too much about Winchester Golf History, as I was more concerned about improving my own game.  John had gotten me so excited about golf that there were many days when I would get off work from Anchor at 7:00am, go straight to the course and play and practice until the afternoon, then go home and sleep, go to work and do the same routine over and over.

After IU, I was hired to teach in Union City (once again, how ironic).  I moved into a trailer on Kem Street (just off Beeson Drive), with another teacher and golfer, Steve Burton.  We lived there for a year and I worked on the golf course during the summer and continued to play and practice with John.   Steve got married and I moved into an apartment with Dave Puckett close to the WCHS Fieldhouse.  Seb Reyenga lived across the street from us.  Seb, at the time, was the Pro at the golf course.  During my second year of teaching, I met Sally, who was also teaching in Union City.  We were married that following summer and moved to Union City.  I continued to drive back to Winchester to play my golf and still continued to work with John through the summer of 1977.  My first son, Christopher was born in April of that year and you all know that adds a new meaning to your life.  But, I was a golfer and still found a way to continue with my passion.  Then in early 1978, I got a phone call that I hoped would never come.  John Monks had died of a heart attack.  My friend and golf mentor over the past several years would no longer be there to teach.

Over the next few years, I would sit and think about the things that I had learned from John, I kept remembering his stories about the Winchester Golf Course of the 1920’s.  History, of any kind, was not my favorite subject.  In fact, they were my worst grades, as the subjects were so far removed and uninteresting.  But to help ease my time away from golf during the cold winter months in Indiana, I took up two other golf related endeavors.  Around 1975, I began learning how to repair and refinish golf clubs.  At this time a wood was made of real wood and they required  upkeep than the metal woods of today.  Then in 1980, I joined an organization called the Golf Collectors Society and began collecting golf memorabilia, especially books on the subject.  Some of those books were on the History of Golf and all of a sudden “history” took on a new meaning to me.  This is where we finally start to get back to the real story at hand.  As I read more about the history of golf around the world, and especially the history of certain golf courses, I began to develop more of an interest for the history of the courses where I spent a good portion of my life.  Armed with the brief historical knowledge shared by John, I recalled that his stories had included playing with Frances Simpson.  This then brings us back to that fall Saturday in 1981.  P.S.  Our second son, Matthew, was born in September of that year.

The Winchester Golf Club of the 1920’s

Grandpa Simpson was the MAN at the Beeson Park Golf Course.  He was there everyday and you will later learn he was very prominent in its development.  During the ride with him that afternoon, I asked all manner of questions about the course in the 1920’s and about the current Beeson Park Golf Course.  As with many of the previous stories you have read about our classmates, this one too has a 1967 classmate connection.  The golf course in Winchester in the 1920’s was on the property of the Hahn family.  Grandpa suggested that we should get in contact with Louie Mendenhall to learn more.  I called Mr. Mendenhall and made arrangements for the three of us to meet.  What I found waiting for me were treasures that Louie had saved from the first golf course in Winchester and also from the early years of the Beeson Park Golf Course.  To someone new to the history game, this find for me was like a ship wreck hunter finding the Titanic!  Louie had old score cards, tournament pairings, early score cards of Beeson Park and other area golf courses, and a Constitution of the old course dated January 14, 1924.  However, the most cherished prize was an old 16mm film that had been taken back in the 1920’s.  This film showed golfers on that first golf course, but it also contained footage of Winchester and of a parade through downtown.  Neither Louie nor Grandpa could remember exactly what year it was from or for what occasion, but they did point out several participants in the parade who were Civil War Veterans.  I met with Louie many times over the next few weeks to learn as much as I could about the old course and its players.  At that point, I had no real plans of publishing any of this information, but just wanted to get it on paper before it was all lost.  Over the next couple of years, I spent many hours in the Union City and Winchester Libraries looking though Randolph County history books and old newspapers.  It took me this long because I found it so fascinating.  If you have never had the chance to just browse through newspapers of the early to middle 1900’s, you need to do so.  The little blurb that Craig wrote about his day with Mike and Debbie is exactly how things were stated back then.  If someone had died in an accident or of an illness, the articles did not leave much to the imagination.  I found myself spending hours just reading through one paper after another and learning a whole lot more than just what I was looking for, and history continued to take on meaning for me.

Golf was being played in area cities before it reached Winchester.  Golfers would travel to Muncie or even Dayton to play.  When Union City opened its course in 1920, a group of residents decided it was time Winchester had a course of its own.  H. A. deZayas, Louie Mendenhall’s brother-in-law, had settled in Winchester after marrying Louie’s sister.  H. A. was from the east coast, where golf in America had first taken hold in the late 1880’s and he was instrumental in bringing golf to Winchester.  According to a newspaper article, several citizens of Winchester met at the city building on April 25, 1921 to discuss the formation of a golf club.  All present pledged to support a club and the Winchester Golf Club was born. The usual officers and committee members were selected at that meeting.  John Turner was President, Carl McCamish, Secretary, J. Vining Taylor, Treasurer, and John D. Miller and Ed S. Goodrich were other members of the Executive Committee.  Future meeting dates were set up for site selection, drawing up the plans for the golf course, and how the actual construction would take place.  The construction was to be completed entirely by this group of dedicated golfers.  Imagine the time and money needed to design and build a golf course today.  Things were different in the 1920’s and less than one month after that first meeting, the course was opened for play on May 23, 1921.  On the evening of the opening, many men were honored for their contributions to bringing the dream to fruition.   JP Clark, who served as the mayor of Winchester during different periods, was honored for his oversight of the project, H.A. deZayas for his financial contribution and the ideas brought with him from out east, and Lou Britton was also honored.  Lou owned Britton’s Drug Store, which was the usual meeting place before and after a round of golf and whenever the committee had to meet to discuss business (I think this later became Leonard’s, but I am not sure).  The club prospered over the next several years.  Even though the club’s Constitution initially limited membership to just 50, there was always a waiting list.  Club matches were set up with Portland, Union City, and Greenville.  Out of these, a tournament called the Inter-City was started that would last for 57 years.

As the years went by, many thousands of rounds were enjoyed, discussed, and even cussed.  The original layout was changed at least three times during the club’s existence.  This was fairly easy to do, as the teeing area was made of sand, the greens were just semi-level areas that were mowed lower and the local livestock maintained the fairways.  John D. Miller owned the land where the golf course was constructed.  As mentioned earlier, Don Hahn later purchased this property and the Hahn family still lives there to this day.  For those of you who spent time at Greg’s, you could see that this was a perfect place for a small golf course.  There were just enough trees, plenty of small “hills and valleys”, Sugar Creek meandered through the property, the gravel pits had already been dug and the County Ditch entered the grounds from the east.  All of these obstacles posed enough problems for the beginning golfers without the need for creating more hazards.   Remember, in the 1920’s the golf clubs all had wooden shafts and the golf balls did not travel as far.   Actually, the course today would be considered a Par 3 or Executive Course due to its short length.  No one ever found this to be an easy course.  No one ever broke par on this course and Louie Mendenhall owned the course record at even par 30.

You could enter the grounds from the Stockyard Road (old 27) or the east from West Street.  There was a small clubhouse built close to the road, about 100 yards north of Greg’s house.  The clubhouse was just a small, white shed-like building, just big enough to sell pop and candy and a few golf items.  One or two tables were in the clubhouse for scorecard figuring and regular card games.  I would imagine that since this was during the years of Prohibition that there would not have been any “homebrew” served the patrons.  I have included a hand drawing of one of the course layouts by Grandpa and Louie.  I wish I had time and space, and you had interest, to go into all of the games played, the rules for play, and more about the equipment used.  It is fascinating!

As the decade came to a close, unfortunately for the golfers of Winchester, so did golf.  The land for the course was shrinking due to more sand and gravel excavation.  But, by far, the biggest reason was the Great Depression.  The membership had dwindled to only 22 and this small number of golfers could not maintain the course properly.  The golfers of Winchester would have to once again go out of town to play their golf and many continued this for several years.