- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
As a 19-year-old competing in the 1921 U.S. Open at Columbia Country Club, Bobby Jones finished T-5 and lost low-amateur honors by one shot.
Rumor has it his favorite hole at the hilly course just north of Washington, D.C. – host of this week’s U.S. Girls’ Junior – was the par-3 16th. The tee shot is a tricky one. The long and narrow, multi-tiered green is guarded in the front by water, as well as two bunkers, one in front and one behind.
Word around the club is the hole served as Jones’ inspiration for the 12th hole at Augusta National Golf Club, which opened for play in 1932, 11 years after Jones played in the U.S. Open at Columbia CC.
No. 12 at Augusta National (top) and No. 16 at Columbia Country Club (bottom).
Due to its proximity to the nation’s capital, the club is steeped in history and boasts an impressive array of members, like former United States presidents Barack Obama and Richard Nixon. Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, hosts of Pardon the Interruption on ESPN, are also members.
This year marks the 100-year anniversary of Columbia hosting the 1921 U.S. Open, its first USGA championship. Prior to this week’s U.S. Girls’ Junior, the club also hosted the 2003 U.S. Junior, won by now two-time PGA Tour winner Brian Harman, and is one of 15 clubs to host a USGA girls and boys junior event.
Back in 1921, President Warren Harding presented the U.S. Open trophy to Jim Barnes. President Obama got involved earlier this week, welcoming the girls to the club with a letter placed inside their lockers.
It’s the first practice round today at Columbia Country Club ahead of the 72nd #USGirlsJunior.
All the players were greeted by this letter in their lockers from one of the club’s more recognizable members 👀 pic.twitter.com/88eDYHmHBW
— USGA (@USGA) July 10, 2021
“I think the idea just kind of blossomed,” said Columbia’s general manager William Duthe. “I had reached out to a member of (Obama’s) staff, and one of our members has a relationship with him. And we had kind of reached out to say, ‘Hey, since you’re a member here, how cool would it be if you could play a role in this championship?’”
“I think a bunch of different ideas were bounced around, and this ended up being what everyone ran with, and I think it was the most personal way to connect with the girls,” continued Duthe. “Seeing their facial expressions coming out, it was really cool.”
Establishing a culture
A rare occurrence in the golf world, only three head golf professionals have worked at the club since it opened in 1911: 1908 U.S. Open champion Fred McLeod, William Strausbaugh and current head PGA professional Robert Dolan. How does that happen?
“I think part is the culture within the membership. It goes back to when they founded the club,” said Duthe. “My predecessor, he was general manager for 36 years. The members truly take an interest in the employees, which kind of creates this family-type bond between the two. If you look department by department, in the hospitality industry there’s a lot of turnover. But here, there tends not to be.”
The club has around 1,500 member families, with a little over 1,000 golfing members. Up until the COVID-19 pandemic, Columbia CC never had tee times. After the championship ends on Saturday, the club will transition back to not having tee times.
“That’s part of the spirit of the club,” explained Duthe. “You can show up, and you could be a low handicap or a high handicap and just want to come out and play golf and our matchmaker is going to pair you together and going to construct a great match for you to play on what we think is an incredible match play golf course. “
“The membership kind of embraces that tradition and that culture, that’s part of who we are.”