The Oakland Open

The Oakland Open golf tournament was held from 1937 through 1944, with no tourney held in 1943 due to the war. The first Open was held at Claremont Country Club and was won by Sam Snead. The remaining events were held in January at Sequoyah and were tightly contested, well-played matches — and not without historical significance. If Ben Hogan had not taken 5th place prize money ($285) in the 1938 tournament he had vowed to hang up his spikes.

Sam Snead’s Oakland Open victory was his first open win as a professional and vaulted him into the national spotlight. He went on to a total of 185 career first place finishes, including seven major championships. First prize was $1,250.

Harry Cooper, a veteran British professional, came from four shots back on the last day, finishing with an eagle on the final hole to win by one stroke over local Castlewood Country Club player Bart Cavanaugh. Cooper won $1,200 with an aggregate 275. Ben Hogan finished 5th, six strokes back. (Hogan’s name was not mentioned in the Oakland Tribune feature.) Snead finished tied for 13th.

Called the most successful money tournament ever staged on the Pacific coast, the 1939 contest was won by Ryder Cup team member Dick Metz in an 18 hole playoff with Dutch Harrison. Both men had shot tournament record 274s in regulation. The unsubstantiated rumor was that the two men were shooting for the works, winner take all. First prize was $1,200.

1941 Ryder Cupper Jimmy Demaret, a crooner from Houston, shot 281 to take a one stroke victory over Ben Hogan, Horton Smith and Clayton Heafner. Heafner had a two stroke lead going into the final round but took a 7 on the 16th hole. (Two spectators were injured on the 12th hole; one, falling into a ditch, broke his arm while the other lit himself on fire while lighting a cigarette.)

Ben Hogan was the current Vardon Trophy holder, but it was Kansas City mudder Leonard Dodson who emerged victorious in a rain soaked three-way playoff. (The third player was Dutch Harrison, who lost his second Sequoyah playoff.) Dodson shot 71 in the playoff to beat Hogan’s 74. Dodson won $1,200, Hogan $750.

Winner Byron Nelson, U.S. Open and P.G.A. champion, had been playing the winter California circuit for 10 years without a victory. His 274 (67-69-69-69) tied the tournament record and led to a five stroke win. Hogan, by now the crowd favorite, tied for 5th. First prize was $1,000.

Sgt. Jim Ferrier, Camp Roberts artilleryman and three-time Australian champion, walked off the 18th green with a three under 277, a one stroke victory, and marching orders in his pocket. (He was allowed to play in the Richmond Open the following week before reporting for training and European duty.) He finished six strokes ahead of Nelson and eight ahead of Snead.

The tournament was a benefit for War Bonds.

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