Everett’s love affair with golf

In the early years, it was easy for Everett kids to play golf. All they needed was a few clubs, a few balls, and a willingness to climb a fence or scramble through some shrubs.

George Holland, who grew up in the late 1930s and early ’40s, remembers going with friends to Legion Memorial Golf Course in the city’s north end. They would play for hours on four holes in a far corner of the course, well beyond the watchful eyes of the club pro.

“We’d play those same four holes over and over and over,” Holland said. There was no fence at the time, “so we’d just walk on. It was very simple. We just had make sure the guy mowing the fairways wasn’t around.”

A decade later, Bob Whisman and his pals were playing those same four holes, also on the sly. “It was two or three months before I ever saw the clubhouse,” chuckled Whisman, who went on to become Legion Memorial’s longtime head pro.

By the 1960s a fence had been installed, “so a lot of kids just threw their clubs over the fence and played,” said Everett High School golf coach Darrell Olson. Among them, Olson himself.

Meanwhile, golf-hungry kids on the city’s south side were also finding ways to play. In the 1940s, a young Ed Bucklin would head to Everett Golf and Country Club in the late afternoon. After making sure no one was around, “I’d crawl through the bushes to get on the course,” he said.

Bob Borup did the same in the 1950s. Years later, Everett G&CC’s members would be forgiving enough to hire Borup as their head pro, a job he held for 29 years until his retirement in 2006.

Yes, there was mischief in the early years, but there was also true passion for a game that was, and continues to be, rooted deeply in the community. Everett has many proud sports legacies, but for longevity and accomplishment it would be hard to top the city’s distinguished golf history.

It all began on August 23, 1910.

On that day, a group of civic leaders met to form Everett Golf and Country Club. Located in what was then the outskirts of town, Everett G&CC was soon one of the city’s social and recreational hubs, as it remains today.

But not everyone could afford country club golf, so in 1934 Legion Memorial opened to the public. Initially owned by the American Legion — hence the name, Legion Memorial — it developed into one of the state’s more popular daily-fee courses. It also became home to the Everett High School golf team, which from the late 1930s through the early 1970s was one of Washington’s premier high school programs, winning 11 state championships.

Virtually every young golfer from Everett “grew up at Legion,” Olson said. “And it was a great place to grow up. There were so many kids playing out there. It was safe and you were welcomed. … If you played golf in Everett, your golf experience went through Legion.”

But it was Everett G&CC that produced the city’s first golf celebrity. Jack Westland, who was born in 1904 and graduated from Everett High School in 1922, honed his game at the country club, where his father Alfred J. “A.J.” Westland was a charter member and his uncle John Horan was the first club president.

Back then, many of the game’s top players were content to stay amateurs, and so it was with Westland. His titles included the French Amateur (1929), the U.S. Western Amateur (1933), four Pacific Northwest Amateurs (1938, 1939, 1940 and 1951), three Washington State Amateurs (1924, 1947 and 1948) and, locally, the 1946 Snohomish County Amateur.

But his biggest prize came in 1952 when he won the U.S. Amateur at Seattle Golf Club. Westland was 47 at the time, making him the oldest golfer ever to win that title.

Westland’s U.S. Amateur victory qualified him for the 1953 Masters (he tied for 53rd), and by then he was both a first-term Republican congressman and a golfing buddy of President Dwight Eisenhower. Westland also played in two other Masters, three U.S. Opens (his best finish was a tie for 41st in 1934), and three Walker Cups (amateur teams from the United States vs. Great Britain and Ireland).

He made the game look easy, say those who remember. Even as a congressman in his 50s, Westland would return to Everett and drop by the country club, where “he’d check his clubs out and shoot 69, no problem at all,” Whisman said. “He had one swinging motion and it never changed. He’d hit it straight down the middle.

“He was the best around,” Whisman added.

Remarkably, Everett G&CC was home to another equally accomplished amateur. Anne Quast Sander was a Marysville native (her father Tom Quast designed and constructed Cedarcrest Golf Course) who polished her game at Everett G&CC before going on to a stellar competitive career. She was the 1958, 1961 and 1963 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, the 1980 British Ladies Amateur champion, the 1987, 1989, 1990 and 1993 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion, and she also placed fourth at the 1973 U.S. Women’s Open.

“I played a lot of golf with Anne Quast,” Whisman said. “She was very good. Not powerful, but she was very straight and she had an excellent short game.”

Others, meanwhile, were putting their own lasting imprint on Everett golf. Ken Tucker, a 1932 graduate of Everett High School, spent 43 years as the head pro at Everett G&CC before finally retiring in 1978. In that time he touched the lives — not to mention the golf games — of generations of club members, as well as others from the community.

“He was the ultimate club professional,” said Bill Meyer, a 1961 Everett High graduate and a member of the school’s golf team. “He was passionate about golf, but he was more passionate about helping other people enjoy golf.”

Tucker developed a strong caddy program at Everett G&CC, which was good for the members and good for the countless kids who used the experience to get started or progress in golf.

“Ken changed the lives of so many kids by them caddying up there under his tutelage,” Holland said. “And he was just loved by the membership.”

In Everett for more than four decades, Bucklin said, “Ken Tucker was Mr. Golf.”

Among other golf notables from Everett, there was Whisman, who won five Snohomish County Amateur titles (still the most in history); Dr. Jack Lamey, who was a high school state champion and an All-American at Stanford University, and later the winner of two Pacific Northwest Golf Association Senior Amateur titles; Bill Gowan, who coached the Everett High School team for nearly three decades; Joe Richer, a former Seagulls standout who followed Gowan as head coach; and scores of talented high school, college and even pro players, among them Holland, Bucklin, Meyer and Olson.

But the influence of some extended beyond competing. Richer, in particular, was committed to seeing that every boy and girl — not just the best, not just the wealthiest — had the chance to play golf. For his efforts, the city’s junior programs at Legion Memorial and Everett’s other public facility, Walter E. Hall Golf Course (which opened in 1972) continue to bear his name — the Joe Richer Junior Golf Club.

“Joe was a real promoter of kids being exposed to golf,” said Olson, who played for Richer for two high school seasons and later succeeded him as golf coach. “He really reached out and tried to involve as many kids as he could.”

As the years passed, Everett continued to grow geographically. Also, the Snohomish County golf world was changing with the addition of several new courses. Today there are 16 public golf courses in the county — 13 with 18 holes, three with nine holes — plus a second private course, Mill Creek Country Club.

Likewise, Everett High School no longer dominates the local prep golf scene. Yet Mariner High School, which is part of the Mukilteo School District but within the Everett city limits, has produced some names of note. Brent Webber, a Mariner grad, is the current head pro at Everett G&CC, while another Mariner alum, Rich Friend, is the longtime head pro at Tacoma Country and Golf Club. Another ex-Marauder, Greg Whisman (Bob’s son), spent a few years on the PGA Tour in the early 1990s.

They, like so many others, have helped to make Everett’s golf history rich and lasting.

Over the years, Holland said, “the city has turned out a whole bunch of good golfers. There really is a long, sustained history of good golfers coming from Everett.”

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