Reading Country Club
|Architect||Alexander H. Findlay|
|Tee Sheet||Front 9||Back 9||Course|
Reading Country Club was formed in 1923. It was owned by its members, who paid $200 per share for an equity position. Alex Findlay, the worldwide ambassador of the game (he played 2,400 courses during his lifetime, held the record at a number of them, and at one time belonged to 229 clubs) was called in to lay out nine holes, which opened later in 1923. By 1927, the club had a full 18 holes, with each of the two nines a mixture of the original and the newer holes. Behind the 12th green were the club’s stables. Horses were available to the members for riding on trails around the perimeter of the course, or, when a fox hunt was in progress, right through the very heart of it. At one time the club owned 288 acres.
Reading’s original clubhouse, which burned to the ground in 1930
In 1930, the clubhouse burned to the ground. In its place was erected a new one, designed in the Tudor style (after all, Reading is an English name).
A couple of young Texans who’d grown up caddying together in Fort Worth applied for the professional’s post in 1937. Byron Nelson got the job, but Ben Hogan soon landed a similar spot at Hershey Country Club. Nelson, who was now playing the PGA TOUR, stayed at Reading for only a couple of years before moving on to Toledo’s Inverness Club. But what years they were—in 1937 he won the first of his two Masters and in 1939 his only U.S. Open.
Henry Clay Poe succeeded Nelson and established an excellent reputation as a teacher (a very young Betsy King was one of his pupils). He served the club until 1965, moving south shortly thereafter. In 1975, he was elected president of the PGA of America for a two-year term.
The Great Depression and World War II combined to force the club into bankruptcy, though golf continued to be played. In 1944, a group of 20 local businessmen—among them J. Elmer Lutz, Otto Bechtel, Harvey J. Golden, A.W. Golden, Oscar A. Funke, William H. Schaefer, Ray Wallace, Andrew Maier, Theodore Z. Kramer, Pierce B. Hettinger, Ira O. Fisher, Harry J. Becker, Paul Guldin, David J. Wentling, Dr. Michael Pents, and Walter J. Hansen—bought the club for $80,000. Each of the 20 put up $5,000, which left $20,000 to improve the condition of the course and strengthen its playing characteristics. One result of the new ownership and management was the club’s hosting the 1949 Reading Open.
The years that followed would see the property sold, in whole or in part, on three separate occasions: in 1969 to Judge Francis J. Catania, John Bosacco, and Dale Reese (all 288 acres); in 1979 to the Filippini family (142 acres, with Reese retaining 146 acres); and in 1987, when Bob Thatcher, former Aronimink head professional, and Joe Dahl acquired the course and clubhouse.
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