The Seattle Times - 8/16/1997
Craig Smith, Seattle Times Sports Writer
(Craig was an Inglewood caddy in the 50's and recalls some of these events firsthand - Thank you for the contribution to Inglewood's history)
Inglewood Country Club in Kenmore, site of this weeks Senior PGA Golf’s GTE Northwest Classic, routinely appears on lists of state's most challenging and beautiful golf Courses - for good reason - it’s tough, fair and gorgeous.
If another category - most colorful history - were compiled, Inglewood would be on that list too. Although every private club can produce stories of eccentric members and strange events, Inglewood’s lore is so rich it gets retold at other clubs as well. After all, this is the golf club where:
- A member who was playing alone bled to death on the ninth hole in the 1950s when his club broke and imbedded itself in his leg. It was the wrong hole for such an accident. Peacocks were kept on the adjoining property and their screech usually sounded like the word help. “The peacocks would scream and screech, “ said Ivan Lottsfledt, 79 a member from 1946. Even if he had yelled for help, the theory is people may have heard something but wouldn’t have paid attention to it thinking it was just the peacocks.”
- A doctor who was on the course played past the dying man thinking he was just taking a nap
- When most of the course was shut down during World War II, sheep grazed to keep the grass from getting too long. The clubhouse and some of the property were used as a rest and relaxation site by the Coast Guard.
- In 1954 a light plane made an emergency landing on the 18th fairway, then had to be dismantled for removal.
- In 1973 an arrest for Prostitution was made at a home bordering the 10th fairway. Clientele for the house of ill repute came from through out the Seattle area (the place even had membership cards) and sometimes golf carts were parked in front of the establishment. Some members said they didn’t realize it was going on until the police arrest. “I was so naive that it never occurred to me why all those women were in the house,” said one member.
- A Deputy Sheriff was shot and killed and two other deputies were wounded in 1952 when the club’s dishwasher mistook them for safecrackers returning to the scene of a crime. An hour earlier, the dishwasher and two watchmen had been tied up by four safecrackers who had escaped with $6,800 from the safe and 25 then legal slot machines. ("The club was a gambler’s paradise in those days," recalls one member who joined in the early 1950s). An offshoot of the robbery was the conviction of the Chief of King County Detectives for taking a bribe from the robbers.
-During a Memorial Day in the early 1950s, the competing golfers and gallery reached the top of the 4th hole during the morning round and looked down to find the pin placement. Instead, they saw a man and a woman entwined on the green doing something other than putting. The story goes that the club pro at the time, Charlie Mortimer, turned to the gallery and ordered, move back, back, back, especially you ladies.” Since then, some members have called the 4th hole “Lovers Lane”
These days Inglewood is flourishing again with a full membership of 402 and waiting list to pay the $8,500 initiation fee*. The club’s success has not stemmed from old family money and the members with roman numerals behind their names. Like the topography of many of its holes, Inglewood has had many ups and downs.
Inglewood opened in August 1921, when the city limits of Seattle ended at 55th Street. The course was considered out in the boondocks. It was designed by Robert Johnstone of Seattle with assistance from noted British Columbia golf Architect A.V. Macan, who also designed Fircrest in Tacoma. In 1925, fire destroyed the original bland clubhouse, which was replaced in 1926 with the present 64,000-square foot, Spanish (French Normandy) Stucco building at a cost of $133,736. For some reason - some suggest marshy land - neither the course nor the Clubhouse takes advantage of the proximity to Lake Washington, less than a 2-wood from the clubhouse.
Membership rose to 500 in September 1929, one month before the stock market crash. By 1934, membership was 48. The original corporation was disbanded but was replaced by another. The club changed hands again in 1940 and was purchased by Jack Barron.
A financial crisis in the early 50s was eased when Olympic Golf Club in Seattle closed and merged with Inglewood.
In the late 1960s, after an assortment of problems that included inability to complete sale negotiations with owner Jack Barron, some influential members left to help start Sahalee Country Club in Redmond. Baron and the club agreed on a $2.2 million price in 1970. The club struggled in many years to make payments. Some dedicated members made generous grants to help keep the Club afloat. Now, those members are being repaid and the entire mortgage is only two years from being paid off.
When that burden lifts, there is talk of “Upgrading the Course” with water, hazards, more fair-way traps and new tees.
It's a love of the course itself that kept many members loyal. "Every single day this Course has a different beauty," said Rick Adell, Head Professional since 1977. One of Adell's -favorite scenes: When the sun comes out in the late afternoon or early evening and you have shadows from the tall trees casting across the fairways. Lottsfeldt., who has played the course thousands of times, said he never tires of it. “That's the nice part of this course," he said. “you might get tired physically but never mentally. It is not monotonous. There are different all shots all the time. It's a challenge every time you play it.“ Lottsfeldt also likes the seclusion of many holes. “When you are on a fairway, you’re almost on a golf course of your own," he said.
The course is 6,640 yards from the championship tees and is known for its difficult par 4s. "Anyone who is going to beat the course has to do it on the par 5s," said Rick Acton, Pro at Sahalee and a PGA tour veteran. "The par, 5s are birdie-able. The rest of the holes are difficult." The string of holes from 4 through 14 is considered one of the finest consecutive collections in the Northwest. Two nightmare greens - the three-tiered No. 13 and the sloping No. 14 - have ruined thousands of otherwise good rounds of golf.
Major tournaments aren't uncommon at Inglewood. The club played host to two of the final appearances of the PGA regular tour in the state - the 1963 and 1965 Seattle Open. (Also 1936 Seattle Open and 1962 LPGA Valhalla Open). Bobby Nichols won the 1963 event with a 16 under 272 for' 'four rounds and Gay Brewer beat Doug Sanders in a Playoff to win the 1965 Tournament.
Five golfers, including Sam Snead and Don Bies, have fired 64s in competition Inglewood and the course record is 63, shot by two members, Steve Johnsen and Jeff Rhodes. Johnsen fired his 63 in 1976 playing with Bill Sander, another young member now on the PGA Tour.
The course records will probably be safe this week when the nation’s best golfers over 50 try to conquer the hilly layout and each other. But history seems to show that anything can happen at Inglewood