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Henry Picard, bringing prestige to the Hershey Country Club

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On April 27, 1930 Milton Hershey launched the Hershey Country Club with a dinner party held at his home, High Point, for one hundred of his friends and associates. Mr. Hershey offered High Point for the clubhouse. The new club’s golf course was designed by noted golf architect, Maurice McCarthy. The course received high praise from golfers for its challenging fairways and holes.

 

Hershey Country Club sponsored the "Hershey Open," an invitational professional golf tournament, for several years between 1933 and 1940.

Hershey Country Club sponsored the "Hershey Open," an invitational professional golf tournament, for several years between 1933 and 1940.

 

In 1933 the club established the “Hershey Open,” an invitational professional tournament.  This tournament brought national attention and prestige to Hershey as a golf destination.  while the club had had a local golf pro since its opening, after the start of the “Hershey Open,” Hershey Country Club needed a more prestigious golfer to come serve as pro.

 

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Henry Picard, who would win the 1939 Masters and 1939 PGA Championship, became the club’s head professional on November 1, 1934. Hershey Country Club held a dinner dance to introduce him to the Club on April 27, 1935 (which then was the opening date for the golf season). Picard had played representing the Hershey Country Club through the 1934-1935 winter PGA tour season, but didn’t start teaching and living in Hershey until April 1935.

 

 

Because of Picard’s success, Hershey was considered by some to be the “Golf Capital of America.” Picard served as the pro for all of Hershey’s courses: the Hershey Country Club, Hershey Park Golf Club, Hotel Hershey Course, and the Juvenile Country Club (the only course at that time specifically for children). At the four golf courses, which were made up of 54 holes, Picard gave golf lessons to youth and adult amateur golfers in between tours. Nicknamed the Hershey “Hurricane,” Picard, a 26-time PGA Tour winner, served as pro until 1941, winning 22 of his 26 titles while in Hershey.

 

Henry Picard resigned from his position with the Hershey Country Club and recommended Ben Hogan as his replacement.  3/1941

Henry Picard resigned from his position with the Hershey Country Club and recommended Ben Hogan as his replacement. 3/1941

 

In the Spring of 1941 Henry Picard was advised by his doctor to live in a better climate for his health and he moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. To fill his position at Hershey he recommended the up and coming golfer, Ben Hogan, as his successor.

Private or Public: Hershey = Golf Capital of Pennsylvania

 

Hershey Park Golf Course, 18th hole. 1935

Hershey Park Golf Course, 18th hole. 1935

 

 

Beginning in the 1930s Hershey became known as the “Golf Capital of Pennsylvania.”  Its 54 holes of golf (Hershey Country Club-18, Hershey Park Golf Club-18, Juvenile Golf Course-9, Hotel Hershey Golf Course-9) made Hershey a popular destination for golfers of all skill levels.

 

Hershey golf courses attracted some of the country’s best golfers. Hershey Country Club sponsored the Hershey Open a professional golf tournament for several years beginning in 1931.

 

Golf was a popular sport within the Hershey community. Hershey corporations featured annual tournaments for workers. The Hershey Men’s Club also sponsored local tournaments for members. Most of these tournaments were played on the Hershey’s public course, the Hershey Park Golf Course  (later Parkview). As one of Hershey’s public courses, the Park course was open to anyone. It was very popular with tourists and residents alike.

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In 1957 the Park Course received national attention when it hosted the 32nd Annual National Public Links Golf Championship. This tournament was first held in 1922 at the Ottawa Park Course in Toledo, Ohio. It was established to allow public course players the opportunity to compete nationally. The 1957 tournament was held July 29 – August 3, 1957. The tournament attracted players from across the United States, including six players from Hawaii.

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The competition was a match play championship where the winner of each game was determined by the number of holes won rather than the number of strokes. The 1957 winner was Don Essig III who was a sophomore from Louisiana State University who beat Gene Towry of Dallas, Texas.

Playing to win: the Hershey Open Golf Tournament

Hershey Country Club, 18th hole (formerly High Point Mansion), 1933
Hershey Country Club, 18th hole (formerly High Point Mansion), 1933

 

 

Hershey Country Club was formally established when Milton Hershey hosted a dinner party at his home, High Point, for one hundred of his friends on April 27, 1930. Preceding dinner, Mr. Hershey announced he was donating his home to the new Hershey Country Club for use as a Clubhouse. He went on to explain that the Club was to be established for the recreation and enjoyment of his friends, Hershey employees, as well as residents of the Hershey community. At this point, Milton Hershey asked his guests to lift their plates. Underneath each plate was a Hershey Country Club Charter Membership card for each guest.

 

In 1933 the Professional Golfers Association urged the Hershey Country Club to put on a tournament. Hershey Country Club accepted the idea and established an invitational Hershey Open Golf Tournament. First held in1933, the purse of $5000 rivaled that of the U.S. Open and attracted some of the game’s best players.

 

The Tournament was held for several years. The winners were:

 

1933     Ed Dudley

1934     Ky Laffoon (French Indian golf star of Denver)

1935     Ted Luther

1936     Henry Picard

1937     Henry Picard

 

In 1938 the format was changed to a Round Robin Four-Ball Invitational. That year the team of Ben Hogan and Vic Ghezzi took first place. The tournament returned to its traditional format the following year and was won by Felix Serafin.

 

PGA Tournament,  Bryon Nelson tees off while Sam Snead looks on from the sidelines.  1940

PGA U.S. Open Tournament, 1940 Byron Nelson tees off while competitor Sam Snead looks on from the sidelines.

 

The Hershey Open was not held in 1940. In its place, Hershey Country Club hosted the PGA U.S. Open.. In that tournament Byron Nelson edged Sam Snead 1-up to win the PGA Championship. The ninth and last Hershey Open Golf Tournament was held August 28-31, 1941.

 

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Hershey Open Golf Tournament, 1941

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