Portland Golf Club tees off in centennial celebration of organization's rich history

by: TIMES PHOTO: JOHN LARIVIERE - Eloise Larson tees off on the first tee during the two-hole scramble held for members on Sunday.Ed Ellis grew up at the Portland Golf Club. It’s where he learned to swim. And how to be a gentleman. And where he learned about people. And, of course, it’s where he learned to golf.

When his parents became members in 1952, the club was a mere 38-years-old, but was rapidly advancing even in its short life. It was already on its second course, third clubhouse and had hosted

numerous tournaments, including the 1931 Western Amateur, 1946 PGA and 1947 Ryder Cup, among many others.

This year, the club celebrates its 100th birthday and kicked off centennial festivities with a members-only event on Sunday, April 27. For Mark Fraser, club president and a third generation member, it’s who belongs to the club who make the organization what it TIMES PHOTO: JOHN LARIVIERE - A 1914 Moon Motor Car was on display in front of the Portland Golf Club clubhouse. The car's vintage is the same year the Portland Golf Club opened 100 years ago.

“It’s the members. That may sound trite, but PGC was formed 100 years ago by 36 rugged, self-determined individuals who thought that way out in the country we needed to have a golf club,” he said. “I think PGC has continued to be that club. It’s the club of self-made people.”

A lot about the club at 5900 S.W. Scholls Ferry Road and the surrounding Raleigh Hills neighborhood has changed in the past century since its inception, and much of the celebration was aimed at preserving the club’s rich history.

“I think what’s happening as everything progresses, (is) we get younger members, newer members, who don’t know the history … think by being able to tell that story, we can continue the tradition,” said Ellis, chairman for the club’s 100-year anniversary and former club president.

The walls of the newly remodeled clubhouse ooze with a past that’s riddled not only with prestige and brushes with fame, but a hometown charm that arrives only from a modest beginning. Grainy black-and-white photographs of old clubhouses and early members peek out from behind trophies in cases filled with replicas won from major tournaments held on the course. Antique clubs hang in shadow boxes around the corner from art on loan from member Jordan TIMES PHOTO: JOHN LARIVIERE - Diane Fraser raises her arm as she celebrates a solid tee shot down the middle of the fairway on the ninth hole during the two-hole scramble, where members dressed in period clothing and used hickory shaft clubs.

While the remodel opened up and re-decorated the interior, the exterior of the club looks very much like it did when it was built in 1928. Two clubhouses were predecessors to the current building. The first, an old farmhouse, which was located behind what is now the seventh tee, burned down in 1915. Its replacement came in 1916 and resided very near the current spot, but was vacated once membership outgrew the facility.

The course itself started with nine holes before upgrading to 18 in 1918. The original greens were described by an early club member as “about 25 feet square, oiled and sanded and flat as a billiard table,” according to a history of the club put together for the 1982 U.S. Senior Open Championships.

Although the grass is much more lush and manicured these days, the greens are still cut from the original landscape. No dirt was moved or added; no hills adjusted or tamed. In part, this attributes to the intense technicalities that come with playing this course. It’s not long by 18-hole standards, coming in at about 6,425 yards. However, its span is made up for with the necessary strategy and know-how needed to successfully complete the course. It’s the kind of course where players might use every club in the bag, and probably will if they know what they’re TIMES PHOTO: JOHN LARIVIERE - Portland Golf Club members gather for a group photo on the first tee prior to the beginning of a two-hole scramble on Sunday.

“Golf can be a humiliating game,” said Fraser. “Everybody can be miserable at their own level.”

At the highest level, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Annika Sorenstam and Kathy Whitworth are just a few of the pros who graced the course with their skill. Many of their photos hang in the clubhouse with information about the tournaments they participated in.

According to Ellis, it’s elements like these that help make the club and course so special and why learning the history is so important.

“I think by being able to celebrate the 100th anniversary and do what we’re doing with the 100th anniversary, it’s going to continue the tradition with the members coming in now and members coming in 50 years from now, when I’m long gone,” he said.

In the last 10 decades, Portland Golf Club has evolved and shifted with the world around it. Today, with its roughly 650-person membership, it continues to be a staple of the community and a home base for many members.

“There are people who golf more than me, and people who certainly golf better, but what (Portland Golf Club) means to me is a place where friends and family can feel comfortable with each other,” said Fraser. “It’s about friendship, it’s about fun, and it’s about golf. Maybe in that order, to me.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JOHN LARIVIERE - Portland Golf Club President Mark Fraser speaks to club members as part of the club's 100th-year anniversary celebration and clock dedication on Sunday.

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