Classic golf tournament swings us down memory lane


Nostalgia. A wistful or excessive sentimentality, sometimes abnormal, yearning for the past. Me, I love that nostalgic, deja vu emotion.

Not the Norman Rockwell, Saturday Evening Post type of nostalgia. Not the Frank Sinatra singing “Fly Me to the Moon” type, either. Not even the teary-eyed “It’s a Wonderful Life” movie type. I’m more about experiential nostalgia.

Show me an old car, maybe a 1955 Thunderbird, and take me for a ride. An old steam locomotive, picking up my dad at the train station after work. Putting in the now-archaic Madman Muntz eight-track stereo in the first ride. These things bring back memories for me.

So I was really looking forward to a golf tournament that would be a first for me. It would bring back the nostalgia of the 1920s and the legendary golfers of the day. Back then, the top three golfers in the world, according to ainsworthsports.com ranking, were Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen. Little known, but not to be overlooked, were No. 26 Willie Ogg and No. 46 Wiffy Cox. Needless to say, it was a great era for golf. I could be a part of that era, me and Wiffy.

The Heritage Classic, a 1920s-style hickory stick golf tournament, was on June 22 at Eagle Crest Golf Club, 2203 Thomas W. Ryan Blvd., a 4,067-yard par-60 layout and perfect for nostalgia. You see, at this tournament, all the players were to use authentic hickory stick golf clubs and 1920s-replica Victor square-mesh golf balls.

So who was the brain of this event? Kudos go to Golf Summerlin’s marketing coordinator, Brittney Schriever. After a colleague returned from a golf outing in California and mentioned a similar event, Brittney’s creative juices flowed. After recently hosting a private 1920s Murder Mystery at home, Brittney thought a 1920s vintage golf tourney would be perfect for Golf Summerlin’s Eagle Crest course. Brittney researched and found a company called Play Hickory Inc. that specializes in antique, authentic golf club rentals and vintage replica golf balls. A few phone calls and many hours later, it became reality.

“ It was a big hit,” Brittney said. “Players said it was very challenging to hit with the old clubs. More so, it was an event that wives and casual golfers could enjoy. It was great fun and not for score. It was a no-pressure outing. Everyone had a really good time.” Look for more outside-the-box events from Brittney and Golf Summerlin coming up.

For a little perspective, history says golf was invented in Scotland in the 1400s. In those days, players carved clubs and balls from various pieces of wood. Later, clubs were made from ash or hazel wood, the ball morphing into tightly woven feathers covered by leather.

In 1826, a Scottish clubmaker began to use imported hickory from America to make the shafts, this being the choice for more than 100 years. In the early 1900s, imported persimmon was used to make the club heads. Steel shafts were formally recognized by the R&A in 1929. Billy Burke was the first to win a tournament using steel shafts, winning the 1931 U.S. Open with the new clubs.

The breakthrough in golf balls came in 1848, when the Gutty ball became popular. Made from the dried sap of the Sapodilla tree, it had a rubber-like feel and was shaped into a ball after heating.

By accident, it was discovered that a scarred ball flew straighter and farther than the smooth-surfaced balls. Voila, the first dimpling of the ball was implemented. In 1898, BFGoodrich produced the first solid rubber-core ball, wrapped with rubber thread and coated with a gutty covering. The mesh dimple design was the favorite outer design of the day.

Each twosome was given an authentic set of hickory clubs and a sleeve of Victor square mesh replica golf balls.

Each golf set included a Brassie (like a 3-wood), a mid-iron (3-iron), a mashie (5-iron), a mashie niblick (7-iron), a niblick (9-iron) and a blade putter. Each had a hickory shaft and forged iron heads. The Brassie sported a persimmon head.

Yeah, the old set of clubs didn’t have the feel of the new tech clubs. After all, we didn’t have tungsten club heads, titanium was just a word, graphite shafts were in the future, moment of inertia didn’t exist, clubs didn’t have adjustable swing weights, and different shaft flexibility didn’t exist.

But a golf swing is a golf swing.

And it was a boatload of fun. Ah, nostalgia is great. Just ask Wiffy, Willie or me.

John Asay is a longtime golfer and local freelance writer. Contact him at jasay@reviewjournal.com.