(1859 – 1935)
Sylvanus Pierson Jermain’s legacy to the golf world extends far beyond Inverness Club, of which he was a founding member and the first president:
George Sargent, the President of the PGA of America at the time, stated, “The credit for the idea should go to Sylvanus P. Jermain of Toledo, who made the suggestion back in 1921, the year after the (U.S.) Open was staged at Inverness.” Acknowledging S.P. Jermain originally conceived the idea, the event was nearly named after another Toledoan, Walter L. Ross, president of Nickel Plate Railroad, who offered to donate a trophy for the international match between Great Britain and United States. Later of course, an English entrepreneur, who sponsored the first match and donated the trophy, became the namesake, Samuel Ryder. So, Jermaine had a profound impact on the game of golf, not only in the United States, but around the world.
(1872 – 1948)
Born in Dornoch, Scotland, Donald Ross laid the foundation for America’s golf landscape. After an apprenticeship under four-time Open Championship winner “Old” Tom Morris, he returned to Dornoch. He become skilled as a greenkeeper, a club maker and a player.
In 1899, at the suggestion of a visiting Harvard professor, Ross moved to the United States. There he built and subsequently ran the Oakley Golf Club near Boston. The next year, he moved to the sandhills of North Carolina as golf professional at Pinehurst Resort.
It was at Pinehurst where Ross’ genius began to blossom. He designed four courses there, including the famous No. 2. He would go on to design more than 400 courses in the U.S., including such gems as Seminole (Fla), Oak Hill (N.Y.), Scioto (Ohio), Aronimink (Pa.), Interlachen (Minn.) and Oakland Hills (Mich.). He was golf’s leading architect in a golden age which included the likes of Willie Park, Jr., Charles Blair McDonald, A. W. Tillinghast, William Flynn, Seth Raynor and Alister Mackenzie.
In 1916, Ross was hired to redesign the Inverness Club course to championship standards. His design garnered immediate acclaim and earned the club the right to host the 1920 U.S. Open.
The scion of a wealthy Toledo businessman, Frank Stranahan grew up playing game golf at Inverness Club. His amateur career in golf is eclipsed only by the great Bob Jones.
As an amateur until age 32, Frank won more than 70 championships. He was a two-time winner of the British Amateur, the Western Amateur, the North and South Amateur and the Canadian Amateur, and a six-time winner of the All-American Amateur. He finished second in The Masters, the Open Championship, the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Open. He played for three victorious Walker Cup Teams, and won four professional tournaments as an amateur.
Stranahan was one of the first golfers to embrace weightlifting and other fitness regimens, at a time when conventional wisdom said that being too “muscle bound” would make swinging a golf club difficult.
Frank Stranahan was twice a winner of the Inverness Club championship, his first coming at age 18. He is a fitting icon for amateur junior golf to this day.
Ted Ray was born on the Isle of Jersey in England, where he grew up idolizing fellow islander Harry Vardon. Playing at a time when the Great Triumvirate (Vardon, John Henry Taylor and James Braid) dominated professional golf, Ray would become one of the greats of the game in his own right.
A tall, hefty man, Ray was known for prodigious power off the tee. His often wayward tee shots were overcome by his prowess with his niblick (9 iron). His reputation was enhanced by an ever-present pipe, which he smoked even while playing shots.
Ray won the Open Championship in 1912 and was runner-up the following year. He was best known for his part in the playoff for the 1913 U.S. Open, when American amateur Francis Ouimet defeated Ray and Vardon.
Ray played on Great Britain teams in international competition against fellow American professionals in 1921 and 1926, events which were precursors to the Ryder Cup. In 1927, he was player/captain for Great Britain in the first Ryder Cup.
Ray came to Inverness in 1920 and earned his only U.S. Open victory, rallying from a two-stroke deficit after 54 holes to beat a group of four golfers that included his idol, Harry Vardon.
Byron Nelson was born in the same year as Ben Hogan and Sam Snead. These three ushered in the glory days of professional golf which lasted from the 1930s through the 1950s.
Born in Texas, Nelson learned the game as a caddie. He learned to adapt his golf swing to the newest technology to hit the game in the 1930s: steel shafts, which replaced hickory.
He won The Masters in 1937 and again in 1942. He added major victories at the U.S. Open and twice at the PGA Championship. More major titles might have been his had World War II not forced the cancellation of 14 of the 24 major championships between 1940 and 1945. He played on two winning Ryder Cup Teams, and led the 1965 team to victory as captain.
In 1940, Nelson was selected the head pro at Inverness Club, beating out Ben Hogan for the job. He sold clubs, shoes and umbrellas and gave golf lessons at a time when tournament winnings alone wouldn’t support him and his family. But his game didn’t suffer: He won two major championships while head professional at Inverness. He left at the end of 1944 to pursue tournament golf full time.
In 1945, Nelson enjoyed a record-breaking year. He won 18 PGA tournaments, including 11 in a row. His streak remains one of the magic numbers in all of sports.