The HGP II Scorecard Series: A Final Accounting

I’ve been picking through a few scorecards left behind, in a shoebox, by my father, Harold Gardner Phillips, Jr., who passed away a year ago this week. They didn’t surface until a month or two after his death. It’s taken till now for me to really engage with them. Haven’t avoided it exactly. It’s been an eventful year, the proof being just how quickly it’s flown by. But I’m glad I waited. A little distance allowed me to revel again in my memories of him. I won’t bore you with a comprehensive accounting of all their lovely time-capsule qualities. See below a third and  final installment in The HGP Scorecard Series, as it’s time write and remember more about him than his golf game. See previous posting on this subject here and here.… A word on the photo above: That’s my dad on the 8th green at Nehoiden GC, in Wellesley, Mass., his home club the last 30 years of his golfing life. Across the street is the home we made those 30 years. It’s late November in this image; the greens have been staked for fencing come the first snow. We sprinkled his ashes here. His memorial bench sits just right of  frame, on the 9th tee. There is no headstone in any cemetery for the man, at his request. This was his chosen spot and will be for all eternity.

The Niagara Falls Country Club, Lewiston Heights, N.Y., circa 1950: My dad was probably 13 or 14 and playing with his dad when this round was recorded. Pop was a jewelry salesman and traveled all over the Northeast visiting clients and playing golf with them. I’d heard tell that he’d take my dad on some of these trips, and here’s the evidence (there’s another card from Hershey CC that details the same sort of round). My dad and I were so different temperamentally. If I played badly, it could get real ugly, especially when I was this age. Whereas Poppy and his son were both incredibly even tempered. I’m sure my dad never embarrassed Pop with any histrionics on this day, despite shooting 92. And who knows: Maybe this was 1948 and a 12-year-old Harold Gardner Phillips Jr. was well pleased with 92, which appeared to best the group. This round is also notable for the fact that there were three Harolds in the group. Filling out the troika was Harold Osw. [sic], probably short for Oswald or something. Some poor boring bastard named Bob was the fourth (!). The card is quite ornate and well designed in an old-fashioned way. There’s a special column for “Side matches”, a table detailing “85% Handicap allowances”, four perforated/detachable tags for the submission of tournament scoring, another long table (opposite the tags) showing what your handicap should be based on “Your Ten Best Scores Total”; and an admonition to “Please have caddies rake traps and replace divots.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen that written on a scorecard, in quite that way, ever in my life. They don’t make cards like they used to.

Fort Monmouth GC, Fort Monmouth, N.J., May 12, 1954: I’ve heard the brief tale and read the brief press clippings re. this game. This was the 73 he shot in some high school match against another dude named Bob, who shot 78 and got smoked. It remained his best round ever in competition, if I’m not mistaken. FMGC is now known as Sun Eagle’s Golf Course at Fort Monmouth. It’s reputed to be a Tillinghast design, built in 1940, or maybe A.W. merely stopped to walk the place and a tap out his pipe here one day — the next thing you know it’s “a Tillinghast”. Couldn’t tell you if it had the markings; never played it, and my dad never had much of anything to say about the course. It was 6,417 from the tips in 1954, so it wasn’t any Mickey Mouse layout for 1954. Military officers formed a big part of the membership here and the high school team played there, which is indicative of 1) good communitarian spirit; and 2) Fort Monmouth probably not being the most prestigious club in the area. But 73 in competition is 73 in competition (he bogeyed the first and played the rest at par). His personal best for the next 25 years. No trouble understanding why he kept this card.

Saddle Hill Country Club, Hopkinton, Mass., circa 1981: It’s obvious why some of these cards were kept in the shoebox, while other keepers are more cryptic. I don’t really keep cards, but if I shot 73 in a high school match, I might have considered it! My best in competition was 75. Somewhere I may have stashed the card recording the day I finally beat my dad, a spring Saturday at Nehoiden that just happened to be same day I first broke 80. So I can’t blame him for keeping the Saddle Hill scorecard, which is from just this time period, when I had finally caught the guy. I could  beat him now, which I think that gave him a great deal of joy (I don’t think there’s another word for that broad emotion I attribute to him in this context: pride, empathy, large amounts of credit probably apply, too). By the same token, it now meant something — something more — to beat me, which he did, 78-81. This was a big day in another way: We both played quite well, and it may have been the first time that really did happen. You can play years with a guy, and you know his game, you see him play well, he sees the same from you. But it’s actually quite rare for two longtime playing partners, amateurs, to both post really good rounds on the same day. So a round like this is something both parties remember… Saddle Hill was and remains an interesting place. We played many times at Juniper Hill CC just down the road in Northborough, but Saddle Hill always struck us as a fun and finer golf course. There’s a middle portion, holes 8-12 or something like that, where a bunch of par-4s all run back and forth, down into a valley and back up to a green; these were weaker juice, as they also suffered from their sameness. But the rest of the routing was solid and engaging. It was taken private a few years back, renamed Hopkinton Country Club, and redesigned by Canada-based Welshman Ian Andrew. I thought I had read that he’d reversed a bunch of holes — where a redesign literally turns greens into tees and vice versa — but more recently I read or got the impression he had just switched the nines. I’ve gotta get back there and play it because I’m  curious now, especially the idea of reversing some holes I know so intimately, or did. Won’t be nearly as fun going back there without my dad though.

Hollywood GC, Deal, N.J., circa 1951: This was a find. I don’t think my dad remembered, later in life, that he had played here. We talked about it and I didn’t get that impression. Indeed, I had talked about taking him to play there along with sorta-nearby Saucon Valley, where he played his collegiate golf. But we sadly never got around to it. I can say pretty safely there weren’t many of these trips never taken. We did the Scotland and Ireland things, together with my brother Matthew, and we hit a good many plums here in the States. But that Mid-Atlantic romp would have been a great stroll down memory lane for him, and both venues are reputed to be top notch (see a nice accounting of Hollywood, with pix, here)… My dad played Hollywood  this day with his mother, father and some dude identified here as “The Sheep.” I’d like to know who that was, but I doubt that information is available anymore. Pop had been a member here a decade or so earlier, but they were definitely not members at this time. They belonged to Old Orchard CC in Long Branch. Hollywood is and was, to my understanding, the truly fashionable Jewish club on the Shore, with a Walter Travis design, updated by Dick Wilson (much later Rees Jones redid it again). I can’t be sure but I think this card was kept not for what my dad had done there but for what his mom, my Gram, had done. She shot 41 on the front and 45 on the back to shoot 86, tied with my dad. (Pop self-immolated, posting 97). I think shooting 86 and halving my dad, at medal, was probably a superb day for her — and she just happened to have made 9 on the par-5 10th and 7 on the par-4 11th before closing extremely well. I just reckoned the card at match play and she beat her 15-year-old son 2 & 1, straight up, with no handicaps taken into account. I only ever played with Gram as a much older woman, naturally, so I can’t say whether this was a typical round for her, but that’s pretty good golf for a 50-year-old tennis player. She was a handsome woman who, if pictures are any indication, was doing a creditable Joan Crawford thing during this time. I’d like to have seen it. I’d like to have played Hollywood, and maybe I will some day.

There was a Saucon Valley CC card in the shoebox. It’s clearly from the mid-50s, as my dad played collegiate golf there, as a freshman, and enjoyed other rounds at SVCC during his time at Lehigh (’53-58). My dad revered this place. I can date the card pretty well because it lists a third loop (the “New Nine”), built in 1953. This would become known as the Grace Course, designed by William Gordon. Herbert Strong had done the Old Course; Gordon did a lot of renovations there, too. In any case, this card must have been gathered during my dad’s college days, before the Grace was made whole, with the fourth nine, in 1958… As indicated above, we didn’t leave too many stones unturned. When I was young, he got me on all sorts of great courses. In my late 20s, when I started in the golf business, I returned the favor. But I greatly regret never taking him back to Saucon Valley. Arranging a game for us there would not have been too much trouble, but I never made it happen. Fittingly, the SVCC card he kept is empty. No scores. It’s a pure keepsake of the place, of the time. I’ll keep it myself, as a reminder to play it. Maybe with my son, Silas.

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