It’s Always Tee Time
Golf’s lengthy hold on Fairfield and where to play
Who will be the next J.J. Henry to emerge from Fairfield’s country clubs and become one of the consistent money winners on the Professional Golf Association tour? Who will be the next Julius Boros to develop his game at one of the town’s public courses and go on to win 18 PGA tour events including two U.S. Opens? The answers, it appears, are still in the formative stage.
The Fairfield Museum and History Center’s new exhibit, Fairfield Fairways: 120 Years of Golf, will celebrate the town’s rich golf history. Opening June 11 and running through October 4, the display will put the spotlight on Henry, Boros, Gene Sarazen, Heather Daly-Donofrio and other prominent golfers from the area as well as changes in golf attire and customs over time.
Indeed, Fairfield’s country clubs have provided the venue for the sport to flourish, beginning with the founding of the Brooklawn Country Club, when golf emerged as a national obsession in the 1890s, to the Country Club of Fairfield, created during golf’s first “golden age,” and The Patterson Club following World War II.
As time went on, public courses—including Fairchild Wheeler, among the nation’s earliest municipal courses, and H. Smith Richardson—brought golf to the masses. Ronald “J.J.” Henry III, who recently turned 40, has averaged more than $1 million in earnings per season across the past 14 years on the PGA Tour. The Fairfield-born golfer has won two tournaments thus far, the 2006 Buick Championship at Cromwell and the 2012 Reno-Tahoe Open. He pocketed $792,000 for his Buick win and $540,000 for his victory in Nevada.
When he was 5 years old, J.J. began hitting golf balls across the sandbars during low tide on Fairfield beaches. At 9, he was competing in junior tournaments at The Patterson Club, where his parents were members. “I was lucky to be exposed to golf at a young age,” says Henry, whose father Ron is a scratch golfer. “Golf is a gentleman’s game, and it’s taught me honesty and integrity, and it’s made me a better person.”
Henry progressed up the golfing ladder, starring at Fairfield High School, in the junior ranks and at Texas Christian University, where as a senior he was the individual runner-up in the 1998 NCAA Men’s Golf Championship. After graduating with a degree in marketing, he turned pro.
Henry founded the Henry House Foundation, an organization that raises public awareness to support community-based programs focusing on the well-being of children.
Boros, born to Hungarian immigrants, grew up in Fairfield and graduated from Roger Ludlowe High School in 1937. He was among four brothers who, according to his niece, Phyllis Boros, learned the game “by jumping over the stone and rock waist-high walls at the long-gone Greenfield Hill County Club and playing a few holes every day after school and chores.”
The four brothers later played often at Fairchild Wheeler, where Julius and brother Ernie – who also became a pro—won several one- and two-day events as young men. When he was 29, Julius Boros abandoned his accounting job in the Hartford area and became a pro. In 1952, he won his first PGA event, the prestigious U.S. Open at the Northwood Club in Dallas, with a 281 score, four strokes ahead of runner-up Ed “Porky” Oliver and five in front of the illustrious Ben Hogan. The winning purse? A modest $4,000. Boros, who was voted PGA Golfer of the Year in 1952 and 1963, went on to become one of the great over-40 golfers in history, capturing the 1963 U.S. Open at age 43 and the 1968 PGA Championship at 48.
To gain the 1963 Open title and the top prize of $17,500 at Brookline, Massachusetts, Boros defeated another golf immortal, Arnold Palmer, and Jacky Cupit in an 18-hole playoff. They had tied for the lead with 293 scores. In the PGA championship, played in the scorching heat of San Antonio, Texas, he was a one-stroke winner over Palmer and New Zealander Bob Charles. First prize was a more substantial $25,000. One of Boros’ seven children, Guy, joined the PGA tour and won the Greater Vancouver Open in 1996.
Gene Sarazen, although born and raised in Harrison, New York, had strong ties to the Brooklawn Country Club. At age 16, he was hired there as an apprentice club-maker and assistant pro. One of Brooklawn’s most influential members, Archer Wheeler, befriended the young man, and Sarazen dedicated his autobiography to him. “Gene set the Brooklawn course record with a 63 score in 1938,” points out club historian Athan Crist, “and he did that without the clubs and the balls they use today. The ball today probably goes 40 percent farther than it did in his day.”
The man who was born Eugenio Saraceni, although a diminutive 5-foot-5½, became one of the world’s foremost golfers in the 1920s and 1930s, and the first of only five to win golf’s four major championships. The others? Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
Places You'll Play
Fairchild Wheeler Golf Course
2390 Easton Tpke.
203-373-5911 ext. 18
Club pro: Stephen Roach
Red course: par 72, 6,568 yards; Black course: par 71, 6,559 yards
H. Smith Richardson Golf Course
2425 Morehouse Hwy.
203-255-7356 ext. 2
Club pro: Jim Alexander
Course: par 72, 6,676 yards
Carl Dickman Par 3
70 Old Dam Rd.
The Brooklawn County Club
500 Algonquin Rd.
203-334-5116 or 203-334-9033
Club pro: Jim Fatsi
LPGA teaching pro: Megin O’Donnell-Kelly
Course: par 71, 6,617 yards
Country Club of Fairfield
936 Sasco Hill Rd.
Club pro: Dave Renzulli
Course: par 70, 6,358 yards
The Patterson Club
1118 Cross Hwy.
Club pro: Christopher Kenney
Teaching pro: Michael Bulger
Course: par 71, 6,795 yards