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"Englewood Country Club"
"NJ-0282"

Englewood Country Club
Image submitted by Joe Amendola

Englewood Country Club
Bagtag from the late 60's and early 70's.
Description

Englewood Country Club - NJ-0282 - Englewood Golf Club, once a piece of golf history, now a piece of the Turnpike

Published: Saturday, June 20, 2009, 6:22 PM
By Michael J. Fensom/The Star-Ledger

It looks like many tree-lined streets in Bergen County. There's a quiet elegance to the place, with its light gray condos and Volvo station wagons parked in the driveways. But the history made here has long since been paved over.

The site of Cross Creek Pointe development in Englewood holds a special place in U.S. Open history.

Exactly 100 years ago, Englewood Golf Club became the only other New Jersey course to stage a United States Open championship. The club was considered one of the finest in its day, and having already staged the then more prestigious U.S. Amateur, was developing a championship pedigree all its own.

Then it hosted the Open.

Afterward, Englewood began its slow decent into the golfing abyss.

"It wasn't real long and the property didn't give it much room to be long," said Daniel Wexler, a golf writer who chronicled Englewood's brief history in "Missing Links."

"It had some good bunkering and the green complexes were fairly interesting. There just wasn't any room for it to expand. So inevitably, it would have become a quaint, old relic -- even had the Turnpike not been built through it."

The only piece pointing back to Englewood Golf Club's time on this earth is a little windy street that runs on the far end of the Cross Creek Pointe development, called Golf Course Drive. The fairways and greens where George Sargent set a record for tournament scoring, with a 290, are no longer visible.

Englewood's vanishing act into the history books began with the 1909 U.S. Open. Even though it was the 15th staging of the Open, it was still viewed as a second-fiddle major event. There were only 84 entrants into the field that year and tickets still weren't even sold (and wouldn't be for another 23 years).

The club had already hosted the much more important Amateur championship three years earlier, won by Eben Byers. So when the Open came to New Jersey, at a club other than venerable Baltusrol, there was excitement. In fact, when the USGA asked what dates were preferable to hold the national championship, the president of the club, H.V. Keep, told the executive committee "any date would suit the club."

But then the players arrived and the scoring began.

The Open at Englewood shattered all sorts of tournament scoring records: The English-born Sargent's 290 was five shots better than any 72-hole Open score before it. American Tom McNamara, the runner-up to Sargent, still holds the record for the largest 36-hole lead in an Open with four. It is still one of only four U.S. Open courses to finish with a par-3 and 70 was broken for the first time in this championship.

But after the Open left town and the players had shredded the tough persona of it, Englewood quickly began to become outdated.

"By the 1920s, it probably wouldn't have been anything resembling an elite course," Wexler said. "But in 1909 -- where there weren't that many really good golf courses around -- it probably stood up pretty well because there wasn't a lot of competition."

As the decades peeled off the calendar, Englewood inched closer to the end of its life. Pieces of the land were auctioned off to sell off debts. Then in the early 1960s, the big blow came -- the New Jersey Turnpike extension to the nearby George Washington Bridge was going to cut right through the club's property.

"I don't know of many clubs that can survive being split in half by a major interstate," Wexler said.

In some ways it's quite surprising that Englewood was picked apart before finally going under. It was known in the area for having a fairly ritzy membership list. U.S. Senator Dwight Morrow was an original member at Englewood. It was also a big hangout for celebrities and local athletes: Joey Bishop, Buddy Hackett, Billy Martin and Rocky Graziano were known to be frequent players.

Then in the 1950s, it began to gain a reputation for being a place where the mob played Sunday afternoon rounds. Thomas "Tommy Ryan" Eboli, a former acting boss of the Genovese crime family, and local Mafia member Joseph "Joe Bayonne" Zicarelli were known to be club members.

In spite of all of its fame -- both good and bad -- Englewood wasn't able to avoid its date with the wrecking ball. The last condo built on the plot of the former course was completed 24 years ago. Any trace that Englewood Golf Club ever existed now resides in the USGA's history books.

But 100 years ago, it was the center of the golfing universe -- if only for a brief, fleeting moment.



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Englewood Country Club

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