Armchair Q&A: USGA on New Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History (Part 1)

Recently I spoke with the USGA’s Dr. Rand Jerris, Director of Museum and Archives, about the new Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History currently under construction at USGA headquarters. Following is the result of our conversation and email exchange.

Armchair Golf: Please update us on the Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History. How is it proceeding?

Dr. Jerris: Work is well underway in Far Hills on the construction of our new facility. Construction crews arrived on site in late December, and have been making excellent progress since.

The project itself comprises two parts: the renovation of Golf House, the Georgian Colonial mansion original designed by John Russell Pope in 1919 that has housed the museum since 1972; and a new addition of some 16,000 square feet. Work on both parts of the job is proceeding simultaneously.

According to the current project schedule, construction should be complete by the end of the year. Then, allowing several months to install the new exhibits and thousands of artifacts, we hope to open the new museum in the early summer of 2008.

Armchair Golf: What will the new Center house?

Dr. Jerris: The Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History will serve as the new home for the USGA Museum and Archives, the nation’s oldest sports museums. Visitors to the museum will still find exhibits on the main floor of Golf House (the Ben Hogan Room, the Bob Jones Room, and a new room dedicated to the life and accomplishments of Arnold Palmer), but the main exhibit gallery comprising more than 5,000 square feet will be located in the new addition.

The new gallery space will also include our Hall of Champions, a beautiful oval rotunda lit by natural light that will showcase the original trophies of the USGA’s 13 national championships.

In addition to the exhibit galleries, the Palmer Center will house our new research center, where historians, researchers, and the general public will be invited to study and work with our world-class research collections.

This includes our library (the largest golf library in the world with more than 20,000 volumes), as well as our photographic archive (with more than half a million photographic images) and film and video archive, with several thousand hours of historic footage dating back to the early decades of the 20th century.

Armchair Golf: How important was the recent acquisition of the Francis Ouimet irons used in the 1913 U.S. Open?

Dr. Jerris: The Ouimet irons are truly one of the most significant acquisitions in the history of the museum. Ouimet’s historic victory over Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in the 1913 U.S. Open was one of the greatest moments in USGA championship history, and one of the greatest moments in American golf history. We knew these clubs existed for more than 20 years, but waited patiently for the right time in hopes we might be able to acquire them from the former owner.

Armchair Golf: Are you working on any other new acquisitions, collections, or displays?

Dr. Jerris: We’re currently working with the families of two other noteworthy USGA champions, and hope we’re able to announce some exciting new acquisitions within the next month or two.

Next time: Conclusion

The Armchair Golfer

Photo of author
Neil Sagebiel

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