Par: 70 / 71
Reading Country Club History
Reading Country Club was chartered by the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County, Pennsylvania, on June 6, 1922, as a corporation not for profit. The club purchased 237 acres of land, consisting of two farms and four additional tracts of land in Exeter Township. The golf course, consisting of nine holes, was laid out by renowned architect, Alexander Findlay, and opened in 1923. A second nine opened for play in 1926. The present clubhouse was completed in 1931.
In 1937, Byron Nelson was hired as the club's golf professional. He arrived at Reading Country Club in 1937 right after winning the Masters. He told a fellow professional that he used his $1,500 first place check from the Masters to stock the pro shop. That summer he finished 20th in the U.S. Open and played on the first Ryder Cup Team to win on British soil. While in England he finished 5th in the British Open.
Later that year he won $3,000, the largest first prize on the PGA Tour, by beating Henry Picard in the finals of the Belmont Match Play in Massachusetts. He won twice on the PGA Tour in 1938. In June 1939 he won the U.S. Open at the Philadelphia Country Club's Spring Mill Course by defeating Craig Wood and Denny Shute in a three-way play-off. That year he also won the Western Open, the North and South Open, and was runner-up in the PGA Championship. Nelson resigned his position at RCC in late 1939 to become the professional at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.
In 1940, Henry Clay Poe followed Nelson as the professional at RCC. He came from Winged Foot Golf Club where he had been working as Craig Wood's assistant. While playing the US Open play-off with Craig Wood, Nelson mentioned that he would be leaving RCC at the end of the season and they would be in need of a pro. Poe served RCC for 23 years. During World War II he had to leave to work in a defense plant from 1943 through 1944. In 1953, he was elected president of the Philadelphia Section PGA and held the office through 1956 without ever having held any other office in the section.
Poe left RCC in early 1966 to build and manage company golf courses in Alabama for Vanity Fair. While working in Alabama he was elected president of the PGA of America for 1975 and 1976. During his term in office he was instrumental in changing the Ryder Cup matches to include all professionals from Europe instead of just the British Isles and Ireland which turned the matches into one of the world's premier golf events. He was elected to the Philadelphia Section PGA Hall of Fame in 1996.
In July 1949, Reading Country Club hosted the $15,000 Reading Open. Byron Nelson's course record of 65 was broken twice during the first round on Thursday. Sam Snead fired a 63 and Lawson Little came in with a 64. After three rounds it was Snead and Dr. Cary Middlecoff, tied at ten-under-par 200, leading the field by four strokes. Middlecoff, the winner of the U.S. Open that June, holed a side-hill six-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to gain a one stroke lead on Sam Snead. Snead, playing in the last pairing right behind Middlecoff, reached the 72nd green with a chance to force a play-off. With a gallery of 3,500 watching, Snead faced a four-foot side-hill birdie putt for the tie. He missed the putt as the ball rimmed the cup and stopped two inches away giving Middlecoff the victory. Middlecoff, shot under par (Par 70), in every round with scores of 67-68-65-66 for a 266 total received a $2,600 check for his victory.
In September 1953 a Ryder Cup challenge match was played with a two-day competition using the formats that would be played during the matches in England the next month. The challenge team was captained by Jimmy Demaret and was made up of touring pros who had nearly made the team. The Ryder Cup Team, led by playing captain Lloyd Mangrum, defeated the challengers 12 1/2 to 7 1/2. They competed for $15,000 of which $3,000 was set aside for traveling expenses for the team to go to England.
During the history of the club, ownership has changed hands quite a few times. From its original equity-based beginning, the club fell into bankruptcy, and in 1944, 20 businessmen bought it. The club was sold again in 1969 to three men from Philadelphia who were members of The Springhaven Club, Judge Francis J. Catania, John Bosacco and Dale Reese.
They sold the 142 acres that comprised the clubhouse and golf course to the Filippini family in 1979. In 1987 Mimi Filippini sold two-thirds of the club to golf professionals, Robert Thatcher and Joseph Dahl. In 1990 Mr. Filippini sold his remaining one-third to Allentown businessman Larry Beans. In November of 1999 Mr. Beans acquired Mr. Dahl's and Mr. Thatcher's interests in the club.
Exeter Township completed its purchase of the golf course in January 2006 and is now open to the public, providing excellent golfing opportunities and event space to the region.