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A Look Back: 1957 Met Open at Plainfield

By Tom Ierubino

EDISON, N.J. (August 21, 2012) - Plainfield Country Club’s first turn in the Met Open spotlight came in 1957. When only two players in the field broke 300 for 72 holes and more than half the field failed to break 80 in the final round, Plainfield had established itself as one of the toughest tests in the Met Area.

The late Dave Marr, winner of the 1965 PGA Championship and perhaps better known for his longtime work as a television commentator, played in the 1957 Met Open and always spoke highly of Plainfield. When the 1987 U.S. Women’s Open was played at Plainfield, Marr was asked to write about the par-3 14th (played as the fifth hole for the Women’s Open and also played as the fifth for this year's Met Open) for the tournament program.

“This is one of the holes I remember most about this great golf course with that tantalizing pond in the front of the green,” wrote Marr, who worked at Rumson Country Club in 1957. “If the pin is set right center or back right and you're left, you have a sizable mound to deal with, so bring all your putting skills. Walter Hagen once called Plainfield the hardest course he ever played. This hole is one of the reasons why.”

Marr was one of only two players to break par in any of the four rounds of the 1957 Met Open, shooting a 1-under 71 in the second round. With a 147 total, Marr went into the 36-hole final day tied for second with Winged Foot’s Claude Harmon, the 1948 Masters winner. They trailed leader Wes Ellis by one. But Marr and Harmon faded on the windy final day, shooting 79-84 and 75-81, respectively, while Ellis shot 73-77 for a 296 winning total, three better than Shelly Mayfield.

Ellis’s 296 total was the highest winning Met Open score since 1927. The Met Open was played at 72 holes through 1973, and the winning score was never as high as 296 again.

After his victory, the 25-year-old Ellis decided to try his luck on the PGA Tour, and the red-headed Texan went on to win three times: the 1958 Canadian Open, 1959 Texas Open, and 1965 San Diego Open. Ellis returned to the Met Area and won his second Met Open in 1961 at Winged Foot. When the Met Open made its second appearance at Plainfield in 1963, Ellis won yet again, posting a 5-under-par 283 total that was five better than runner-up Doug Ford, the 1956 Met Open champ who also won the 1955 PGA Championship and 1957 Masters. Ford didn’t play in the 1957 Met Open because he was en route to England at the time to play in the Ryder Cup.

Starting in 1957 and continuing through the 97th Met Open this week, Plainfield Country Club has been one of the most complete championship tests in golf.

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