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PGA Championship, Wednesday report

Oak Hill a golfing venue of deep, rich history

So you want to know why Oak Hill Country Club in suburban Rochester, where the 95th renewal of the PGA Championship commences on Thursday morning, is a place where the greats of golf continually return, decade after decade?

There's all kinds of reasons, really, from the incredible enthusiasm of the Rochester golf community (30,000 were out at practice on Tuesday) to the love for golf in this community, symbolized by its hosting the LPGA championship every summer.

Most of all, though, it's because Oak Hill's East Course, designed by Donald Ross in 1926, has constantly identified proper champions through the decades, while also earning the respect of nearly every golfer that has walked its fairways.

Oak Hill actually dates back to 1901, and for 20 years it occupied a prime spot next to the Genesee River, until the University of Rochester proposed a land swap in 1921 where the school got the original Oak Hill land, and the club got 355 acres of what looked like unremarkable farmland in nearby Pittsford.

Two fortuitous things happened, though. Oak Hill got Donald Ross to design both of its grand courses, and one of its members, Dr. John R. Williams, enhanced the natural beauty with thousands of trees, mostly oaks. Together, they created the background for a championship venue.

Pro tournaments began to come to Oak Hill in the late 1930s, with the likesFr of Ben Hogan and Sam Snead winning there, Hogan setting a course record of 64 that still has never been topped.

But the first national title contested at Oak Hill was the 1949 U.S. Amateur. Charlie Coe, one of the great all-time amateurs, survived extra holes in both the quarterfinals and semifinals, and in the 36-hole final routed Rufus King 11-and-10. Arnold Palmer and Pete Dye, the famous course architect, played in that event.

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