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100 years later, USGA back to Nassau CC

Entrance to the Nassau Country Club, St. Andrews

Entrance to the Nassau Country Club, St. Andrews Lane, Glen Cove. (June 1, 2011) Credit: Richard Slattery

Nassau Country Club prefers not to keep its history on a shelf or under glass. The club on St. Andrews Lane in Glen Cove, established in 1896 and rooted in its current location since 1899, likes to bring its heritage into the light, out in the air. So there was only one choice when members wondered how to mark the 100th anniversary of having hosted the 1914 U.S. Women's Amateur.

Host the tournament again in 2014.

The U.S. Golf Association announced yesterday that the tournament will return in three years. It will be the first USGA event ever held at the same course on a 100th anniversary.

"We've been around a long time, we fancy ourselves to be a real traditional club," club president Jack Caliolo said. "History is something we have, having been a real mainstream part of the early days of golf."

The idea for 2014 came to club officials during the Met Golf Writers Dinner four years ago. They approached the USGA, and, as Caliolo said, "Their first reaction was positive, as opposed to a 'Well, we'll get back to you.' " A vote among club members drew a strong turnout, about 80 percent, and even stronger support, more than 90 percent voted "yes."

Peter Quick, a club member and co-chairman of the women's amateur committee, said, "I think the history is great and I think it's a privilege to have any kind of big tournament." "You've got to remember, this is one of the three original championships. And this club has always been very open in terms of women playing golf.''

The first U.S. Women's Amateur, in 1895, began competitive golf for women in the United States. It was held the same year as the first U.S. Open and U.S. Men's Amateur. The women's tournament was born on Long Island, played first at the original Meadow Brook Club (on the site of the current Meadowbrook Parkway) and won by Lucy Barnes Brown.

Ruth Underhill, one of Nassau Country Club's early members, won it in 1899 at Philadelphia Country Club. The 1914 women's amateur was won by Kathleen Harley Jackson, 1 up, over Elaine Rosenthal. The latter was a friend of Bobby Jones, who had his own distinct connection with Nassau.

Jones was practicing at Nassau for the 1923 U.S. Open at Inwood and was putting terribly. He borrowed a putter from club pro Jim Maiden and sank a 40-footer with his first stroke. Jones won the Open and never returned the club, which was nicknamed "Calamity Jane."

Nassau, of course, is best known for the scoring system established there in the early 1900s. Prominent business people were embarrassed by seeing lopsided match scores, such as 7 & 6, published in the newspapers, so Nassau member J.B. Coles Tappan devised a three-point system: one point for the front nine, one for the back, one for overall. The worst loss would be recorded as only 3-0. That spawned a template for betting, known as The Nassau, which has become universal.

Golfers in the 2014 women's amateur will use the same clubhouse -- built in 1913 -- that Harley Jackson, Rosenthal and other competitors did. Current club manager Tom Sperandeo has his office in it, and will have to deal with logistics unimaginable a century ago: Where will Golf Channel's TV trucks go? How do you get volunteers? Where will the spectators park? "With two years to plan for it, we should be OK," he said.

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