Plus Fours, Hickory Shafts and History
Put Jay Harris in plus fours and a tam and he looks as if he could have just stepped out of the 19th century.
Put a hickory-shafted golf club in his hands and he’s the perfect picture of a throwback to the early days of the game that is now all about graphite and high-tech.
Harris is a 69-year-old former dentist who suffered a little career burnout in 1990 and decided to put some fun in his life. The son of a former club professional had always enjoyed golf, so he decided to get involved with the game.
But instead of going out and purchasing a new set of Pings or Callaways or TaylorMades, he went back to the game’s roots. He got involved with hickory-shafted clubs and was quickly bitten by a bug that won’t turn him loose.
“My dad (Shake Harris) was the pro at Arrowhead Golf Club in Alamance,” he said, “so I was exposed to the game early. I was on the golf team at the University of North Carolina, but I decided that a career in teeth would be more stable than one in golf.”
That decision led to 35 years in a practice in High Point before he retired and moved to Pinehurst in 1999, where he has a home on the seventh fairway of the No. 2 Course.
“I bought a few of the hickory clubs out of curiosity, played in a few of the tournaments in the early ’90s and liked it,” he said. “Now I have about a hundred hickory shaft clubs, much to my wife’s dismay.
“I’ve been very involved since then and have won six or seven tournaments. But the most important thing is the people I’ve met, including Dr. David Hamilton.”
Hamilton, who will be one of the guest speakers at the Golf Collectors Society meeting to be held at Pine Needles and Mid Pines Resorts Nov. 7-9, is one of the world’s foremost authorities on hickory shaft clubs and the history of the game.
“Dr. Hamilton is the guru of golf collectors,” said Harris, who is aiding in publicizing the event. “He’s a fascinating man and has written many articles and books on the subject.
Hamilton, who is from St. Andrews, Scotland, will head a session at the meeting titled “Is Golf Going into Reverse Gear?”
Another expert on the era, Connor Lewis, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, will head a session titled “Walter Hagen and the End of the Hickory Era.”
The Golf History Symposium, which is the 40th annual Meeting & Trade Show of the Golf Collectors Society, will be hosted by the United States Golf Association Museum and features original research by authors and scholars on the game of golf. The symposium is open to the public free of charge.
The Golf Collectors Society Hickory Championship will be played on the Donald Ross-designed Mid Pines course on Nov. 8 with a 12:30 p.m. shotgun start. The golfers will compete with wood-shaft clubs and many of them will dress in traditional attire such as knickers for the men and long skirts for the women.
The annual banquet will follow that Monday night, and the guest speaker will be Rives McBee, a former PGA Tour and Seniors Tour player. McBee shot a second-round 64 at Olympic Country Club in 1966, tying what was both the course and U.S. Open record at that time.
The event’s Trade Show is scheduled for Tuesday and will feature 150 tables of golf artifacts and memorabilia, including antique golf clubs, bags, balls, books, documents, ceramics, silver, sculpture, jewelry, medals, trophies, art, photos and ephemera available for sale or trade.
The public is also invited to attend the Trade Show from 9-a.m. to 5 p.m.
There are almost 1,200 members of the Golf Collectors Society, representing 15 countries. For information on the GCS, visit the website at www.golfcollectors.com.
Harris said, “We’d like for people who are interested in the hickory shaft era or in how the game was played in its early stages — or just have a curiosity about it — to come out and see what it’s all about.”
Contact Howard Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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