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The Olympic Club’s history goes beyond US Opens
Question of the Day
Not everyone left happy.
Cobb, a hot-tempered and aggressive slugger who received the most votes on the original Hall of Fame ballot, played 12-year-old Bob Rosburg in the first club championship in 1939. Although Cobb had retired from baseball more than a decade earlier, his competitiveness never cooled.
Cobb lost 7 and 6. Rosburg later won the PGA Championship in 1959. And while popular lore is that Cobb resigned in furor, the club has no record that he gave up his membership. Rosburg told Golf Digest in 2010 that Cobb was gracious in defeat but “guys at the club rode him unmercifully for losing to a child. He disappeared and didn’t come back to Olympic for years.”
“He was just so embarrassed,” Olympic general chairman Stephen Meeker said of Cobb, recalling the story.
Johnny Miller also caddied at Olympic and won so many junior tournaments in the Bay Area that members wanted him to play with their sons. So the 12-year-old Miller became the club’s first merit member _ a kid who could be a junior member without his father belonging _ at $7 a month.
“That was a huge break for me,” said Miller, NBC’s lead analyst since 1990. “When I went on tour, I thought everything was flat ground after playing the mountain, super-tough course Olympic Club was.”
While several renovations have been done to the original design by Scottish architect Willie Watson, conditions are as crazy as ever as Olympic prepares to host golf’s national championship for the fifth time.
Perched just across the street from the Pacific Ocean, the northwest winds and famous fog that swallow San Francisco summers are often most majestic _ and unpredictable _ on the unleveled Lake Course, erected on the side of a hill south of the Golden Gate Bridge. The greens are tiny and the narrow, tree-lined fairways fast and fickle.
The damp air stalls shots. The rough is so thick that often the only way to find a ball is by standing directly over it. The elevation ranges from about 220 feet above sea level to only 30.
“It’s like trying to level a tripod and hit a ball at the same time,” Finlen said.
Depending on where you are on the course, the temperature could vary some 20 degrees _ although more so in the foggier months of July and August _ with the mix of sun and marine-layer fog.
“The old joke used to be the 15 minutes of sun we get every day would be the time when the fog rolls back out and rolls back in,” Meeker said. “It’s not that far from the truth.”
The club is still a landing spot for some of San Francisco’s top athletes.
Olympic competes in 19 sports. The best men’s basketball team scrimmages Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley, every year, and there are at least 300 members with a single-digit handicap.
In all, Olympic has about 5,000 voting members. The annual budget is a whopping $40 million, and the waiting list is eight to 10 years.
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