History of Ridgewood

ELMSFORD, N.Y. (February 4, 2016) - We continue to delve into the past of our MGA Member Clubs, this time looking at the rich history of Ridgewood Country Club, one of New Jersey's premier courses. 

Ridgewood Country Club started out as Ho-Ho-Kus Golf Club in the early 1890s, which gave golf enthusiasts in the area a place to call home as it was the first golf course in New Jersey. With membership rising, the course was eventually expanded to 9 holes by 1897, however the property reached its limits of expanding any further. Many of its 53 members were dissastisfied with the location and quality of the course and its lack of a clubhouse.

In 1901, the Club moved to the heart of Ridgewood and changed its name to Ridgewood Golf Club. Soon after, the 9-hole course at that location just wasn't large enough for its growing membership, so the Club purchased 100 acres on a hill and began work in 1911 on 18 holes that would become known as the "Billy Goat" course. In 1914, Donald Ross made some revisions to the layout, calling the site one of the most beautiful in the country. 

Unfortunately, the club faced problems with housing developments and high taxes and decided to make one more move to its current location in Paramus. It's there that A.W. Tillinghast would turn the heavily-wooded tract into the beautful 27-hole golf course centered around the specatcular clubhouse designed by architect Clifford Wendehack.

Many great players have walked the halls as Ridgewood's club professional, among the best known was George Jacobus, the club's professional for 51 years until his death in 1965. Jacobus became the first American-born professional (and ex-caddie) elected president of the PGA of America, serving for seven years beginning in 1932.

Jacobus was responsible for bringing on Byron Nelson as the playing assistant in 1935, the year before he won the Met Open Championship at Quaker Ridge, defeating golf greats including Gene Sarazen, Johnny Farrell, Paul Runyan, Tommy Armour, and Craig Wood. Nelson credits his victory at the Met Open for launching his successful career. From there, Nelson would go on to win 52 tournaments on TOUR, including the 1937 and 1942 Masters, the 1939 U.S. Open, and the 1940 and 1945 PGA Championship titles. In 1945 alone, he won 18 of the 35 tournaments he entered, with a scoring average for the year of an incredible 68.33, an average that no other player – before or since – has even approached.

Over the years, Ridgewood has hosted numerous national and regional events, beginning with the 1935 Ryder Cup, won by the U.S. team and captained by Walter Hagen. In 1938, the club hosted the Met Amateur where Frank Strafaci won his first of seven Met Amateur titles, defeating U.S. Amateur champion Willie Turnesa. It would later host the 1952 Met Amateur, won by Joseph Marra, and the 1985 Met Amateur, won by George Zahringer III.

Ridgewood also hosted the 1960 Met Open, won by Al Mengert, who lowered the West-East record three times with scores of 69-68-67-69-272; the 1970 Met Open, where Jim Albus defeated Jimmy Wright on the playoff's 17th hole, the par-3 eighth on the Center Course; and the 1994 Met Open won by Charlie Cowell.

In 1974, Ridgewood hosted the U.S. Amateur, won by a Jerry Pate who would go on to win the U.S. Open in 1976 and the 1990 U.S. Senior Open, which saw Lee Trevino best Jack Nicklaus in their "rookie-year" of the Championship. Ridgewood also hosted the LPGA Tour's 1981 Coca-Cola Classic, won by Kathy Whitworth in sudden death over Alice Ritzman. 

More recently, the club hosted the dramatic 2014 Barclay's tournament, where Hunter Mahan secured his first PGA Tour win in two years. This year, Ridgewood will host yet another national event when the U.S. Girls' Junior Championship makes its way to Paramus on July 18-23.

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