Olympia Fields Country Club History
Founded in 1915, Olympia Fields Country Club is an enduring monument to the Golden Age of American Golf. This storied era saw leading industrialists team with legendary architects - including Ross, Tillinghast, MacKenzie, Park and Bendelow - to fashion from incomparable native landscapes what would become known as America's crown jewels of golf. This was the age that created Baltusrol and Winged Foot, Seminole and Oakland Hills, Cypress Point and Medinah. But if the Golden Age is best known for its industry and bold ambition, then there are few testaments to the Golden Age equal to Olympia Fields.
By 1925, the club boasted four 18-hole courses and the largest private clubhouse in the world, featuring an 80-foot, four-faced clock tower visible to golfers from all four first tees. The grandeur of Olympia Fields was remarkable even to Herbert Warren Wind, America's leading golf historian, who, in his landmark work, the Story of American Golf, marveled at this unparalleled expression of the spirit of the Golden Age:
“Bigger and better went up all over the country. But Olympia Fields was the daddy of them all.”
Conceived in 1914, this gargantuan retreat in the woods below Chicago was at length completed in 1925. "The world's largest private golf club" was the first to offer its members 72 holes of golf, with more than 1,000 caddies enrolled. The clubhouse was a liberal translation of English Tudor with a dining room that seated 800 and, a cafe seating 600. An outdoor dancing pavilion provided 500 feet of veranda. The club operated an ice-making plant and its own hospital. One hundred families owned cottages in the dells of the club's 692 acres. Through some oversight, Olympia Fields never made provisions for its own college and major league baseball team, but it was possible to live your life out there if your wants were not exotic.
Today, the English Tudor clubhouse and its regal clock tower are daily reminders of the club's Olympia beginnings even as the club's acreage and membership - including the number of private cottages - have adjusted to more contemporary proportions. Although the men's grill retains the name "73rd Hole," golf is now played over two nationally-ranked masterpieces - the North Course, designed by Willie Park Jr. and the South Course, designed by Tom Bendelow. Olympia Fields’ championship traditions place it in a small coterie of the nation's leading golf clubs. In 2011, Olympia Fields hosted the 63rd U.S. Girls' Junior Championship, won by Ariya Jutanugarn and in 2015, the tradition will continue with the playing of the 115th U.S. Amateur Championship, Olympia Fields will join only eight other American clubs - including Winged Foot, Oakland Hills and Cherry Hills - that have hosted the U.S. Open Championship (1928, 2003) the U.S. Senior Open Championship (1997), the PGA Championship (1925, 1961) and the U.S. Amateur Championship (2015).
The U.S. Amateur Championship was born in 1895 due to a controversy. In 1894, two clubs - Newport (R.I.) Golf Club and New York's St. Andrew's Golf Club - had conducted invitational tournaments to attract the nation's top amateur players.
Newport's stroke play tournament was won by club member W.G. Lawrence, who triumphed over a field of 20 competitors. The match-play competition at St. Andrews attracted 27 golfers and was won by Laurence Stoddart, of the host club.
Both clubs proclaimed their winners as the national champion. Clearly, golf needed a national governing body to conduct national championships, develop a single set of rules for all golfers to follow, and to promote the best interests of the game. With that, representatives from five clubs founded the USGA on Dec. 22, 1894.
As a result, in 1895, its first full year of operation, the USGA conducted Amateur, Open, and Women's Amateur Championships. The Amateur and Open Championships were conducted at Newport Golf Club during the same week of October and Charles B. Macdonald became the first U.S. Amateur champion.
The Amateur Championship is the oldest golf championship in this country - one day older than the U.S. Open. Except for an eight-year period, from 1965-72, when it was stroke play, the Amateur has been a match-play championship.
Many of golf’s greatest players had held the U.S. Amateur title. It was, however, longtime amateur Robert T. Jones Jr., who first attracted media coverage and spectator attendance at the Amateur Championship. Jones captured the championship five times (1924, 1925, 1927, 1928, 1930). His 1930 victory was a stunning moment in golf history when, at Merion Cricket Club in Ardmore, Pa., Jones rounded out the Grand Slam, winning the four major American and British championships in one year.
Sixty-six years later, in 1996, Tiger Woods attracted similar interest and enthusiasm when he won a record third straight U.S. Amateur at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Ore.
In 1994, Woods, at 18, entered the record book as the then youngest ever to win the Amateur Championship. In 1996, he smashed yet another record when he won, having registered 18 consecutive match-play victories.