Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Interview Inspires Look Back to 1951

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Interview Inspires Look Back to 1951

Article excerpt

Robin McCool initially planned to interview Billy Maxwell, winner of the 1951 U.S. Amateur golf championship, for the Saucon Valley Country Club newsletter. But after 21/2 hours at Maxwell's Florida home, McCool left believing that he had tumbled into a book about an important piece of the club's, and the sport's, history.

A year later, McCool, the winningest amateur golfer ever at Saucon Valley, completed "Once Upon a September," his ode to one of the club's great championships. The 1951 U.S. Amateur, the first of seven USGA events Saucon Valley has hosted, was held at a time when amateur golfers were more popular than their professional counterparts.

An estimated 7,000 fans packed Saucon Valley for the championship match between Maxwell, a Texas native and future professional golfer, and Joe Gagliardi, a career amateur and future New York State Supreme Court justice. The record crowd for a U.S. Amateur (bigger even than for Bobby Jones' historic win at Merion in 1930) saw Maxwell defeat Gagliardi to become, at 22, the second-youngest U.S. Amateur champ to that point.

McCool, a Bethlehem resident and decorated amateur golfer who has played in 15 USGA events, returned from his interview with Maxwell intent on delving deeper into the 1951 U.S. Amateur.

"I wanted to help preserve the history of this championship and also to make sure that Billy Maxwell got his due recognition," McCool said. "It's fair to say that Billy had a career that, for the most part, was underappreciated. He flew under the radar, but he accomplished an awful lot."

"Once Upon a September," chronicles the early history of Saucon Valley's relationship with the USGA, which led to the club hosting two U.S. Senior Opens and a U.S. Women's Open. Eugene Grace, the late president of Bethlehem Steel and among Saucon Valley's founders, demanded a meticulously crafted course, which received raves from players. …

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