Over a century ago, the eighty founding members of Irving Golf Club put their carry bags over their shoulders and moved from a nine-hole course at Addison and Kedvale to a more spacious site along Smith Road on Union Ridge, land scouted by charter Irving member Harry G. Zander.
Since 1909, when the new nine-hole layout on Israel J. Smith's homestead farm was expanded to 18 holes, it has been known as Ridgemoor. Technically, Ridgemoor Golf Club at first - renamed to Ridgemoor Country Club in connection with the 1913 reincorporation surrounding the land's purchase - but always with playing the game in the forefront.
The club's history-rich golf calendar includes Jabberwalk, a member-guest that commenced in 1924 and has never failed to produce both smiles and stories. In the early years, Ridgemoor also hosted a Red Cross fundraiser during World War I and a series of big-name exhibition matches in the 1920s. Gene Sarazen, Walter Hagen and other stars played Ridgemoor through their friendship with longtime member Harry Radix, whose enthusiasm for the game led him to award a trophy for the low scoring average on tour -- the CDGA still awards the Radix Trophy annually -- and to start the Radix Cup, an annual competition between the state's best amateurs and the Illinois PGA section's best pros.
The greatest competitive moment in the club's first 100 years on the ridge - Smith Road long ago became Gunnison Avenue - came in 1942, a half-year after the United States was pulled into World War II. The Hale America National Open Golf Tournament, a replacement for the canceled United States Open, was arranged in a matter of months. Sponsored by the Chicago District Golf Association, the United States Golf Association and the PGA of America, the Hale America, which raised over $20,000 for the Navy Relief Society and the USO, has achieved legendary status thanks to its winner. Ben Hogan scored 17-under-par 271 across four days, including a course record 62 in the second round, to capture the Hale America by three strokes over Jimmy Demaret and Mike Turnesa.
In later years, Hogan would sometimes argue, and his backers would always insist, that his win in the Hale America was a de facto fifth U.S. Open win, to go with victories in the 1948, 1950,
1951 and 1953 Opens. Any impartial seasoned observer of the golf scene would note that while the medal Hogan received was very similar, the Hale America, which featured tri-sponsorship, a senior division, a long drive contest, little rough, no cut, lower scores than any U.S. Open before or since, an exhibition the day before featuring Bob Hope, plus qualifying in Canada, hardly fit the template of a National Open, then or now.
That said, Hogan regarded his win at Ridgemoor with pride, and the club, having hosted the only Hale America to be played, and having Hogan as its winner, has always felt the same way. Most of the golf course Hogan and the rest of the field played in the Hale America has changed little since the 1920s. Thomas O'Neil, the head pro at Edgewater Golf Club, designed the original nine holes in the fall of 1904. Newspaper accounts intimate the course opened on May 30, 1905, though a few rounds were undoubtedly played before that.
David McIntosh, the head pro at Westward Ho! Golf Club, designed the original back nine, and redesigned some of O'Neil's holes to better-fit newly leased land, in the fall of 1904. The expanded course opened in the fall of 1905, after McIntosh and Ridgemoor head pro Dave Jolly carefully placed bunkers to create the optimum challenge. The members of Irving Golf Club, which started on a 40-acre site in Irving Park in 1901, finally had a full-sized golf course to tackle.
William Langford gave Ridgemoor a major facelift in 1921, and again in 1927, accompanied by Theodore Moreau for the second redesign effort. Original drawings from Langford's visits have not survived, but we know that most of the course's green complexes date from his plans. However, recently located documentation indicates that the 18th hole, the green moved in the mid-1930s from the current pool area, was redesigned by A.W. Tillinghast, with longtime course superintendent Ed Dearie, himself an architect, in charge of the work.
In the postwar era, the course has been remodeled by Larry Packard and his son Roger, and finally by Bob Lohmann in 1988, but to this day, three of O'Neil's original nine holes (holes 2, 3, and 4) survive almost unchanged, and two more have been altered only slightly
Beginning with the installation of a watering system under Dearie, in charge of the grounds for 22 years, Ridgemoor has always been able to boast excellent playing conditions to this day.
Grounds superintendent Peter Hahn, in charge since 1978, takes great pride in the splendid work of his crew.
Head professional Paul Colton, who rose from the assistant ranks in 1978 as well, is only the third head pro in the last 82 years. He worked for Steve Blatnak, who succeeded Howard R. Davis, whose first year on the job was 1924.
Longevity in service is nothing new at Ridgemoor. The standard of excellence was set by John Lemker, who arrived in 1918 as a caddie and retired in 1981 after 54 years as the locker room manager. It was Lemker who arranged countless games between members who might not have known each other that well.
From the days when Lemker drove a horse-drawn wagon over dirt and gravel roads from the end of the streetcar line to Ridgemoor's front door, he fostered a spirit of camaraderie that continues to this day. Ask any member. He'll tell you that you can arrive at the club unannounced, but within minutes, you'll have a game. As much as Ridgemoor has evolved over the years, that has never changed.
President Joseph LoVerde
The second swimming pool started with the destruction of the first pool which was built in the 1950s.