A BRIEF HISTORY OF WESTWOOD COUNTRY CLUB
In the early 1950s, Tyson's Corner, VA, was woods, orchards, a roadhouse and a general store with one gas pump. Vienna was a railroad depot-based small town and its major thoroughfare, Maple Avenue, was actually lined with Maple trees. Alongside Chain Bridge Road between the crossroads and the town, was 200 acres, a barn and a farmhouse known as the Economic Dairy Farm.
In 1952, a local developer named Leon Horowitz bought the farm for $120,000, theorizing that the DC suburbs would expand out Chain Bridge Road. He planned to build modest homes for the burgeoning Federal work force. About that time, Horowitz was introduced to the game of golf by one of his salesmen, Ernie Garlem. Horowitz fell in love with the sport and attempted to join several of the local clubs. He was rejected because of his religion. His response was to build his own golf course and the idea of Westbriar Country Club was born.
Having no experience in the business side of golf, Horowitz relied on Garlem's experience in the development of the project. Ernie Garlem grew up in the area and learned the game in the caddie yards at Congressional, Kenwood and Columbia Country Clubs. From 1937 through 1942, he was an assistant to head professional Willy Cox, first at Kenwood then at Congressional. After World War II service, he left the golf business because the pay scale was too low to meet his family's needs. The year 1953 found him back in the golf business as the head pro at the Westbriar Country Club. His new club had everything a country club could possibly offer except a golf course, tennis courts and a swimming pool.
Between 1953 and 1954 the Westbriar golf course was laid out generally as it exists today by architect Alfred Tull. The soil, which was not good enough for raising crops, was moved around and piled up for tees, greens and bunkers. Being unable to obtain proper grass seed for the greens, the sod from the abandoned greens at Hillandale CC was purchased when it moved to its current location in Bel Aire, MD. The small size of Hillandale's 17 old greens barely provided enough turf sod for 11 greens. Despite this significant deficiency, i.e., seven missing greens, Westbriar Country Club opened to great fanfare in August 1954. At the start, the course consisted of nine greens played from eighteen sets of tees. On hand that day were local sports legends Shirley Povich (Washington Post), Morrie Sigel (Evening Star), Bus Ham (Washington Post), Maury Fitzgerald (Washington Times Herald) plus Horowitz, Garlem and his wife, Louella. Later that year additional greens sod was purchased from a nursery in Waterbury, CT and the 12th through 18th greens were prepared. The full 18-hole golf course was then in play.
Westbriar Country Club began as a daily fee course with $1 greens fee on weekdays, $2 on Saturdays and Sundays. Later, memberships were made available at $120 per year for unlimited play. The barn was used for mower and cart storage. The clubhouse was a typical Virginia farmhouse of two stories, old enough to have been occupied by Union troops during the Civil War. The bedrooms were changing rooms, offices, and storage. The parlor was the pro shop, complete with a fireplace and the "regulars" who moved over from the East Potomac, Court House and Fairfax golf courses. The shop served a limited menu of hot dogs and various liquid refreshments in those pre-liquor by the drink days. A man named Nat, whose last name nobody remembers, cooked and shined shoes. Horowitz was in charge of the overall operation and Garlem ran the golf course and played more than a little.
While Ernie was out perfecting the "ricochet off the tree into the fairway shot," Louella ran the golf shop and raised two children. Ernie's bounce shot was so renowned that for years, as a ball entered the tree line, local golfers would shout "Ernie Garlem" in hopes their ball would respond like the Westbriar pro's.
Golf began in the relatively treeless cow pasture, with double outhouses on the fifth and eighteenth tees and a farm pump for pure, cold drinking water on the thirteenth tee. Single or small clumps of trees grew in the middle of the second fairway, behind the fourth and fifth tees, around seven green, on thirteen tee and beside the eighteenth tee. A small pear orchard grew behind number three green. Evidence of the previous occupants of the dairy's pastures could still be found (and we complain about geese). Tournaments were held and dominated by a coterie of regulars. The ladies officially entered the scene with the formation of the Westbriar Women's Golf Association in 1956.
In 1958 the Club went big time. Horowitz's vision was realized as the DC suburbs advanced out Chain Bridge Road. The Clubhouse and pool (which members enjoy today) were built in 1958 and 1959, respectively, and the Club went private, initiation fee was a whopping $200.
Leon Horowitz owned, operated and ran the Club. Suggestions were duly noted and generally met with a negative response. Ernie and Louella moved from the farmhouse to their new digs in the Clubhouse. Ernie and his assistants handled the cart maintenance, range, first tee and the members -- Louella handled the cash register. Range balls came from the lakes on 5, 8 and 16 and were hand striped on a homemade gizmo in the shop.
The Westbriar Ballroom became a center for weddings, club socials and meetings for Club members and local business and town functions. The grill room offered an expanded menu and members were assigned "liquor lockers" (to store their medicinal swing aids). The Club could only provide set ups per Virginia state ABC laws. Nat continued his double duty. After the pool opened, tennis courts were installed, only slightly out of the line of fire of the driving range. The Club as we know it was essentially completed.
During the Westbriar years the nucleus of the Westwood Country Club was established. It became a friendly, homestyle operation that catered to the local golfers and their families. An active social calendar developed quickly. The junior golf program developed players and fielded teams that were dominant in the region. The Westbriar Swim Team became a traditional powerhouse in area meets. Ladies golf became an integral part of the Club. Men's golf provided challenges at all skill levels and it was an easy place to get a game. More than a few "quid" were up for grabs on any day of the week. The Club Championship was always highly subscribed (often with 10 flights) and hotly contested in every flight. Large spectator groups followed the final matches. The highlight of each year was the Club Awards Dinner-Dance where winners of all the Ladies' and
Men's tournaments received their awards.
Westbriar's character was created by its characters. The early years were fun and unstructured, however, unknown to the members, dark clouds were looming. That part of the story will be told in Part II.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF WESTWOOD COUNTRY CLUB
Part I of this series described Westwood's formative years. To bring the reader up to date, from 1954-1958 Westbriar Country Club, Westwood's predecessor, was a semi-public golf course. In 1958 the club went private and the clubhouse and pool were built. The owner of the club was Leon Horowitz, a local developer.
Like many in the real estate and development game, Horowitz fell on hard times in the 1960-1961 years and mortgaged the club to finance his business. On February 12, 1962, the mortgage holder, Victor Orsinger, called the note and the club was padlocked by the Sheriff. Ernie Garlem's pro shop was locked up with his merchandise and the members' clubs inside. Members were given a date and time to remove their belongings. February 12 was not a good day.
At critical points in history, leaders appear. Such was the case in this bleak situation. Several of the members got permission to use the old card room for a meeting to discuss the problem. In this meeting the future of our club was chartered.
The story of this transaction is fascinating and worth repeating. Without the hard work of a few key members, either the town of Vienna would now own the golf course or it would be covered with houses.
The "rump group," chaired by Ray O'Malley, put together a proposal for a financing package to present to Orsinger. The members of the group were Dick Pett, Herman Diamond, Irv Berman, W.A. Sherman, E.D. Bell, Lou Papa, "Lippy" Redmond, Herman Fink, Jack Luibl, Elmo White, Solaman Lippman, Jules Levin, Claude Corrigan and Charles Kane. They negotiated a $1 million price for the 160 acres, pool, clubhouse and barn. Orsinger sold the three acres on Maple Avenue (beside the 16th hole) to a church.
The financing package involved a $400,000 down payment, funded by the contribution of $1,050 from individual members ($300 went to an operating cash fund and $750 to a bond). A $550,000 loan was provided by the Retail Clerks International Union Pension Fund. Orsinger held a $50,000 Second Trust. The bonds financed the formation of the Westwood Land Corporation which was the owner of the property. It was comprised of the stockholding members. Louis Papa was the president; Robert Lainoff, vice president; Dr. Thomas Knox, secretary; and Richard Pett was treasurer. The Land Corporation then leased the property to the club for 10 years.
Solaman Lippman was instrumental in securing the key financing. He also drew up the Articles of Incorporation for the Land Corporation, bylaws for the club and provided legal counsel for the benefit of his fellow members. Irving Berman arranged for a local bank to provide special loan packages for individual bond purchasers. To prevent any single member from controlling the Land Corporation and thereby the club, individuals were restricted to five shares of stock. So strong was W.A. Sherman's interest in the success of the club that his "family" purchased at least 25 bonds.
The basis for the newly formed Westwood (and a key part of the financing arrangement) was that the club would be operated on a nondiscriminatory basis. At that time all of the clubs in Northern Virginia were "exclusive" in the worst meaning of the word. Westwood survived because of the perceived need for a club whose membership was not exclusive of any person.
The first WCC Board of Directors consisted of Irv Berman, Frank Bavacqua, Herman Diamond, Dr. Tom Knox, Dr. Julian Levin, Sol Lippman, Sam McClung and Louis Papa with Ray O'Malley as president.
By late Spring of 1962 everything was settled except for a high monthly interest payment and the course's need for an irrigation system and trees. The initiation fee was set at $250, dues $25 per month and a monthly food/beverage minimum of $15.00 was established. The newly established WCC went on to a pleasant summer of golf and family fun and the Board, led by O'Malley, began to develop the property as we know it.
In those days Westwood was known for some of the longest (and wildest) hitters in the area. Swing control was unheard of in those days of baked fairways, sparse rough and few trees. It was bust it, find it and bust it again. Not exactly a prescription for precision golf.
In 1962, the membership sponsored an Arbor Day and many of the pines that define our fairways were planted by the members. In 1965, in order to eliminate the local rowdies' frequent evening forays onto the golf course, a $9,500 unsecured loan was granted by the Vienna Trust Company for perimeter fencing of the property.
Westwood's PGA Professional, Ernie Garlem, and his wife Louella, continued to run the golf operation -- raising their own two children along with the members' kids. Organizing ladies' events, men's tournaments, running junior golf clinics, the range, carts and pro shop kept them fully occupied.
Jack McClenehan, the course superintendent, moved dirt, built and rebuilt greens and tees and planted trees during this decade. The irrigation system was installed in 1965 and by the early 1970's the course was reaching the early stages of maturity.
Club Managers Lou Kelly, Steve Bartosh and Jim Estep presided over an active social schedule. The Westwood Ho newsletters of those years describe frequent and well attended social events.
The Westwood Ho! newsletter was created by Claude Corrigan in 1962. It earned at least two awards as the nation's best country club publication over the years. Claude's monthly editorial, "Chipshots," was brilliantly written and evidenced his devotion to the game of golf and his keen eye for transgressions. After a few issues his byline was followed by "the views expressed in this column are solely the opinion of the author and are not the views or policies of Westwood Country Club."
In the February 1965 Westwood Ho!, an article strongly encourages the course Marshall to improve the speed of play. "The objective is 18 relaxed holes in 4 1/2 hours." Later that year, after lambasting the USGA for extending the US Open to 72 holes over four days, Claude got on to his fellow members. The club championship final match was postponed due to wet conditions. Claude wrote: "We think that this action was not only not golf -- it was almost symptomatic of the softness that has crept into our American version of the game". Not sparing even kids, he noted "Westwood's Juniors…Individual records…16-17 year-olds (real names used) played No. 1 in two matches, lost twice"…Claude definitely did not feel our pain.
Interesting Anecdotes of this Period
On Presidents: Founding member E.D. Bell had a large fade and titanic temper. The 7th hole had a large oak that partially guarded the left side of the green. On the morning after Bell was elected Westwood's 2nd president, he arrived at the barn before dawn, organized the work crew and armed them with chain saws. Before 8:00 am his nemesis was sawdust and firewood. Presidents had real power in those days.
On Names: In 1962 the club had to be renamed. Several members favored Wolftrap Country Club because the stream that runs through the property is Wolftrap Run. In the spirit of democracy a "Name the Club Contest" was held. In those pre-Filene Center days, Westwood triumphed. The Westwood Ho! also got its name from a contest. The six members that suggested the name (from a venerable course in England which the editor liked), split a $10 pro shop gift certificate for their efforts.
On Publicity: The June 7, 1964 Washington Post sports page noted: "Westwood pro Ernie Garlem was a very embarrassed man last Thursday. His lady members were holding a Member Guest Tournament from a shotgun start…all the gals had taken their positions when Garlem realized he didn't have a gun."
From the August 16, 1964 Washington Post, "Two years ago the members of the WCC purchased the Westbriar Club property for $1 million…The other day the value of the property was assessed at $3 million."
On Golf Balls: Mr. Orsinger's $50,000 Second Trust went the way of all flesh. For some reason (non-payment) he brought suit against the club and one of our members defended the club. A combination of good lawyering on our side and bad lawyering on his side ended up in a dismissal of the suit and the debt. When WCC's attorney, Allan Kamerow, presented his report to the Board, he was thanked and given a dozen golf balls for his effort -- which works out to $4,166.67 per ball in legal fees!
During this period, 1962 through 1971, the club thrived. Our competitiveness in local matches was evidenced by regular success. The Junior Interclub Team dominated the region. The ladies, not to be outdone, played all over the area and competed in state tournaments regularly. WCC was represented ably in state and regional amateur, senior and father/son matches. The WCC Swim Team was coached by Rick Curl for many years and provided victory after victory in the Northern Virginia League. The B-Team was a very social event in those years with a dinner-dance following each match. Oral history indicates that the WCC teams were competitive on the course, the dance floor and at the bar.
In summary, in 1962 the actions of a few good men preserved the club. The course they charted became the foundation for Westwood Country Club.
If it had not been for those key members, their love of golf and desire for a family club in Vienna, Westwood Country Club would not exist today. Every member should thank these gentlemen for the courage, energy and effort they expended in preserving and creating the club we now enjoy.