Golf is big business and that will never be more evident than next week in Rochester, when the PGA Championship is played at Oak Hill Country Club. The players are competing for $15 million with the winner taking home $2.7 million. The PGA estimates $200 million in economic impact in our community.
Oak Hill Country Club (OHCC), and Ron Pluta, the tournament Chair, are to be commended for how they have operated their portion of the business. Like any effective enterprise they started over two years ago putting together a detailed plan, forming committees to discharge responsibilities, developed mile posts for achievement and managed through unanticipated events and obstacles, leading to what I’m confident to be flawless execution.
Oak Hill is the only Club in America to host every touring Major including the PGA, US Amateur, Senior Open, Senior PGA, Ryder Cup and the US Open. These events have brought hundreds of millions in economic benefit to our region. We have heard a lot about Walter Hagen and his contribution to the business of golf and in particular the PGA as a founding member. One thing the Haig didn’t do was bring the business of golf to Rochester. I went on a search to find the entrepreneur who had the vision and foresight that has brought world class, competition, entertainment and economic riches to our community.
When you drive into OHCC the driveway is called Chapin Way named after a father son duo that together brought the business of Championship golf to Rochester. The father, Louis Chapin, was a founder of OHCC in 1901, but it was his son William, a local business owner, that put the course on the map. William Chapin was president of Oak Hill in the mid 1950’s as the story has been related to me, he, along with his friend Bobby Jones, persuaded the USGA to play the 1956 US Open at Oak Hill. He became Chair of the 1956 Open Committee and put together a business plan for the event.
Unlike the extravaganza of today, the first US Open in Rochester was a toned-down affair. William Chapin hosted a party at his house on the eve of the tournament for about 100 guests. In those days Players didn’t have handlers or posses’ so most of the top players were there including Arnold Palmer and the eventual winner Dr. Cary Middlecoff. William’s son Bill remembers that the star of the show was the Haig who held court telling stories of his travels.
The tournament went off without a hitch and Dr. Carey Middlecoff defeated Ben Hogan by 1 to become the 1956 US Open Champion. His name was etched on the trophy, and he received the winner’s share, $6,000. William Chapin went on to the USGA Executive Committee and made sure the majors kept coming to Rochester.
Businesses and Rochesterians owe a debt of gratitude to selfless entrepreneur William Chapin.d