Tualatin Country Club marks centennial
Celebrating 100 years of community involvement and inclusion
While country clubs are often thought of as elitist, Tualatin Country Club was established in 1912 in response to the exclusionary nature of other recreation retreats.
One hundred years ago, a group of Portland-area Jewish professionals, who had been barred from membership at other clubs, purchased 100 acres of land from the Sweek family, creating a golfing oasis and, for a time, a weekend getaway.
Tualatins two main railroads made this an accessible spot for city-dwelling families, and TCCs list of members included big names in business that are still recognizable today Julius Meier of Meier and Frank, as well as the Tonkin family, now known for its chain of car dealerships.
Back then, said Tualatin Heritage Center co-president Larry McClure, a log cabin-style hotel that has since burned down provided accommodations to members and their families. Activities were generally men-only, but wives of members could entertain themselves with slot machines that gave a 75 percent return to the club.
During its centennial this year, the club will be celebrating a proud history that has benefitted far more than its official members. When membership opened up to non-Jewish residents in the early 1960s, the country club had already established itself not only as an integral employer, but as a meeting place for the community.
Caddies dream big
For one, Tualatin County Club launched the careers of many area youth. Take Nellie Wesch, the daughter of local farmers, who spent her high school years in the 1910s working as a caddy. As McClure explained, it wasnt uncommon for young women to tote golf bags while their brothers were needed on the farms. Nellie showed uncommon ambition as she often carried three bags at a time in an attempt to triple the 75 cents per bag she made. Her strong work ethic was not lost on club members, specifically Julius Meier, who would later become the 20th governor of Oregon in 1931. When he discovered Nellies family lacked the means to send her to college, Meier passed the hat around the club, and with a handful of other members, raised the $500 needed to send Nellie to what was then Oregon Agricultural College. She graduated with a degree in business education and returned to Tigard, where she married a farmer and became a beloved teacher.
Many of Nellies students are now members of the Tualatin Historical Society, said McClure. They attribute their success in their careers to her, he said, adding that she taught accounting, typing and bookkeeping from the 1950s through the 1970s at Tigard High School.
And then theres Curtis Tigard, who celebrated his own centennial in 2009. Tigard, now 103, was one of the five first non-Jewish members to join the club. He had spent his teenage years caddying and catching moles on the greens a skill he honed on his familys farm at a time when, he said, the county used to pay 10 cents for every moles nose you sent in to them. Now, Tigard is known for having caught more than 700 of the creatures since he began trapping at the club.
He recalls being treated very well when he became a member, and said the club became something of a second home to him. Until a recent injury set him back, the 103-year-old continued to golf on the greens on a weekly basis.
Sod experiments and clean lakes
Of course, a lot has changed at the club in the century since it opened. A large renovation in 1991 modernized the golf course, and members now opt to swim in the clubs pool, rather than the Tualatin River as they had in the past, said McClure. The club now caps its membership at 450 people by necessity.
The leadership of the historic club have also become actively involved in conservation efforts. For example, the lakes on the green serves for more than just decoration.
This is all water that comes from Tualatin Clean Water Services, McClure said. Its all recycled. Its not potable, not drinkable, but the country club buys its water from there, so theyre not wasting water we would normally use. And they dont have to take it out of the river, so that saves the river flow.
And much of the golf course pulls double duty as a testing ground where both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Oregon grass seed industry tries out new strains of sod.
Although most of the club is restricted for non-members, General Manager Greg McMurray said both Tigard and Tualatin high school golf teams use Tualatin Country Club as their home course.
McMurray, who has been with TCC for the past 15 years, described the club as having a cooperative relationship with conservation organizations like Pacific Habitat Services and Tualatin Riverkeepers. In addition, TCC is Audubon Certified, which requires meeting stringent standards in environmental planning, chemical use, wetland management and water conservation and water quality management. Specifically, this has required TCC to manage drainage in their irrigation system and to monitor run-off.
So how does a country club celebrate an entire century? McMurray said there has been an ongoing schedule of events, including a centennial golf tournament last November in which players were encouraged to dress in period-appropriate garb.
One of the more grandiose ways the club leaders have chosen to mark 100 years is with the addition of a time piece.
We put a large centennial clock out front, said McMurray. Thats the one item we added that will commemorate the centennial for the next hundred years.