The Glen Head Story

An address by Irving L. Spanier on the occasion of Founder’s BalI, July 2, 1983

Fellow Members of the Glen Head Family,

Our House Committee and Board have asked that I report to our newer members upon a part of the history of Glen Head. Although I have done so before, I regard it as a privilege to do so again.

Glen Head began in the early 20’s when members of the Creek Club decided that they no longer wanted women golfers, most of whom were their wives, intruding on their private domain. They assembled 176 acres and built Women’s National Golf & Tennis Club, a renowned golf course for women, with 22 tennis courts, among them 11 of the finest grass courts in the world. When we took over, we used all but two for parking and putting, and we had a good deal of trouble persuading the 21 man Board that at least two should be preserved because some day tennis might be “in”.

Women’s National existed actively until the 30’s. Then the Depression caught up with it and the Creek Club Trustees, holders of the mortgage, foreclosed.

The Club was administered by Manufacturers Trust Co. during the early 40’s through the war years but did not function as a golf club. It served as a private dining club for an exclusive Nassau County high society membership, and was operated by a Mr. Coles as the Penguin Club. He maintained 14 rooms upstairs for the convenience and pleasure of its members.

During the early 40’s a small group of us from Great Neck were releasing our energies playing ball as members of the Great Neck Temple team. Soon after the war ended we joined Soundview Country Club in Great Neck Estates. The owners were operating it as a semi- public course until it was ready for development. We played there during 1945, 6 and 7, and that’s where golf began for most of us, except for Arthur Guterman, who had grown up with the game, Buster Paltrow, who grew up caddying in Bayside, and I, who had begun to play occasionally in the mid-30’s with college peers.

Our golf professional at Soundview was Fred Grieve, a quiet gentleman who was anxious to keep us involved in the game. Development of Soundview was about to begin in 1947 and we decided to look elsewhere.

We learned that Engineers Country Club was available and seven of us got together in someone’s basement, I think it was Leo Hausman’s. I know lrv Patron and Alvin Schwartz were there. We put up $1,000 checks as a deposit based upon a price of $375,000, but overnight Pocahontas Coal Co. raised the ante by $75,000 and we refused to deal further with them.

Then along came the Bethpage golfers, essentially from Brooklyn and Queens: Sid Onkeles, Jack Orloff, Sam Pines, Joe Siegel, Dr. Irvin Siegel, Sid Kornblum, Sol Burns, Paul Calick, Sid Gilison, the Lipsteins and the Winkelman families. They were joined by Soundview members and Great Neckers, Charlie Maimed, Dave Salzberg, Carl Blum,Eli Elias, Mickey Goldman, Julie Samuels, Harry Derman (who was Elaine’s father), andmany others from elsewhere, including Louis Detkin (and Gil and Paul), Dave Goodman, Julie Mittelman and Emil Levitt and Arnold. Among them all was Hy Agar, a broker who had begun discussions with Manufacturers Trust Co. concerning Women’s National.

To put it briefly, we wanted a golf course. Members came from all walks of life, from Manhattan, Great Neck, from Nassau—north and south shores—from Brooklyn and Queens. Many meetings were held at Soundview. Danny Gold guided the negotiations and during June 1947, Jay Gilman, Charlie Howard and I concluded an agreement with the Creek Club representatives for the purchase.

$350,000 sounded like a lot of money, but we were able to obtain terms. $50,000 was to be retained by the bank to be drawn upon by us in connection with required reconstruction of a locker facility. The only lockers available were 30 or 40, and they were maintained in the basement of the rambling old farm house we were acquiring.

The actual price, $300,000, was to be paid at the rate of $20,000 a year for 3 years, without interest, all of it towards reduction of the mortgage, and the balance was to be paid for over 10 years in the sum of $15,000 each year, consisting of principal and interest at 3%.

Old clubhouse

The biggest problem we had stemmed from the bank’s resistance to our demand that, in the event of a fire, all insurance proceeds could be applied by us to reconstruction— and not used to satisfy the mortgage. From my point of view that was a must, and considering the age and condition of our Clubhouse, you would have appreciated our concern. I should say that in 1954, on a Saturday dance night, we caught fire, and those proceeds enabled us to rebuild for the first time. I wasn’t at the Club that evening but I do remember receiving a call at home at about 9:30 PM asking what they should do about the fire, and I said, “Let it burn”.

Included in our purchase were furnishings, desks, lamps, books, paintings, old china, etc., a good deal of which had been given to the Club or left on the premises by its members. Some of it withstood a raid, because just prior to the closing a few of the society ladies came in and removed what we had come to expect as our furnishings. We were unable to recoup, however, because the contract permitted former members to repossess their belongings and we had no way of determining where to draw the line.

Imagine our further dismay when, two days before the date set for the closing in the middle of October 1947, I received a phone call that Guinea Woods Road was going to pass North and South through the center of the course and the precise middle of our present locker room site. It took Abe Farber two days to get that road moved out so that it swings the way it does away from our golf course. After that was attended to, title was closed and our energies were diverted towards play to begin during April 1948.

Those of you who come to Glen Head through the back way are undoubtedly familiar with Scudder’s Lane. Judge Scudder was a famous Nassau resident and a horseman. He had an old easement permitting him the right to traverse our course from west of the railroad tracks through the row of trees behind the green of the 7th hole, through a gate in the fence along the left side of our first hole, and across the Rose property down to Glen Cove Road. Nunzio Ciampi’s father, the greens keeper, furnished us with an affidavit as a result of which I was able to satisfy the title company that the easement had long been abandoned, and they were persuaded to insure title without exception on that score.

Upon signing the contract we had the foresight to order a survey to outline what we were acquiring. As a result, we established some clear boundary lines which were also insured by the title company. This served us well later on when disputes arose with neighbors who claimed we were intruding, particularly on the property on the North. Because their surveyor (who turned out to be the same surveyor as the one we used) furnished them with slightly different angles and lines, with the title company defending us, we were able to withstand litigation and retain our borders, including the men’s tee on our 16th hole.

When we began play (and I recall that cold windy day, and that Ben Alpert and Herb Merin were part of my foursome), our first hole was straight away at about 340 yards; the 3rd hole was a 4 par which ended among traps at the top of the hill; our 16th was played only from the ladies’ tee; and we had no substitute hole. Remember, this had been a women’s course and contained approximately 80 more sand traps than we have today. A few were added, but as many as possible were eliminated to facilitate play and maintenance.

During the Fall of 1947 and through the Spring of 1948 we scrounged for membership and came up with about 176 in our first year, all of whom were required to pay $500 for their real estate stock certificates and membership certificates. Our two entities were the brain child of Ben Alpert, who served on the first Board and Finance Committee. In the middle of the 50’s we acquired the 32 acre Rose property at a price of $165,000 and at about the same time surrendered our real estate corporation stock certificates, retaining only the membership certificates. This, by the way, removed the claim of two classes of equal membership and, to a large extent, reduced friction which had retarded agreement for the best interests of the Club.

In connection with the Rose purchase, we permitted Mrs. Rose to retain her residence for the balance of her life (she was then 82 years of age) provided that she continues to pay taxes on her property. She lived for two or three more years, during which we used the range, re- directed the first green, and planned our new maintenance area.

Perhaps you will have some interest if I relate a few more of my recollections; for instance:

The treasure we became aware of soon after taking title when Jamaica Water Supply Company offered us $25,000 for our well behind the 13th tee with only a right of access, to help furnish water to the City of Glen Cove;

The struggle by Sam Pines for an allowance of $1,000 for the purchase and planting of the two rows of maples lining our first and sixth holes;

George Bayer hitting the traps surrounding the original first green from the upper tee. At that time it was straight away on a line with the second tee. It was only after the Rose property purchase that we removed the left-hand fence and placed the first hole where it now ends;

Requesting our waitresses and their families to vote in opposition to the School Board’s Referendum to permit the condemnation of the Rose property, succeeding in defeating it, and thereupon enabling us to come to an understanding with Mrs. Rose on the promise she could live out her life in her home.

The sale of 10 acres behind and along our third tee to provide the funds to construct this Dining Area, beginning our construction the day following our Labor Day weekend and enjoying the luxury of it the following Memorial Day with a tumultuous Formal Dinner Dance;

The initial budgets of the Club, particularly because we were able to project taxes, including those of the City of Glen Cove within which a portion of our property lies, in the total amount of $4,800. I should observe that today our taxes total over $150,000; and

In addition to those already mentioned, the many devoted contributors to the maturity, tradition and reputation of our Club, Irv Rosman, Henry Kroll, Larry Unger, Bill Bagley, Ben Kobre, Manny and Joe Miller, Lou and Willie Kay, Morrie Redleaf, Pete Reiss, Henry Sudakoff, and so many more return to memory.

No story of Glen Head would be complete or appropriate without discussing and expressing the appreciation earned by our staff who, too, are members of our Glen Head family: Nunzio Ciampi, who has been with us since childhood; Bernie Heaney, who first grew with us under Mr. Ellis and now for years as our ever-present manager; Joe Graham, who came to us out of school and who, with his family, mature under concern for our course; Tony Dunko, John Malesky, Marguerite, Charlie Sadera, Ray Krug and Sal Anzalone, and I think of Etta and Helen and Mary and Maria and Sally, and so many others here and gone, who have devoted lifetimes in our service. Surely something good has been occurring over the years for so many people to have been with us for so long. Our appreciation for their contribution to our comfort and pleasure must be unbounded.

And to the Founders, the people who struggled to make it work, to find the members and funds to sustain us, who met night after night to establish committees, rules, regulations, procedures, and to make it all a cohesive fraternity—to them must go the thanks of the membership, both new as well as old. You will recognize these Founders, not only by the jackets they receive tonight, but also because they are the members you will observe picking up cigar butts and wrappers, repairing ball marks on our greens, and replacing divots on the course, doing so because of their pride in and love for what we have.

They enjoyed the work, were rewarded by their participation, and now by the recognition of the membership. In behalf of the Founders, for the pleasure they have received, I express the hope that those who carry on will learn, if they have not by now, to appreciate what the Club has furnished to us, and will furnish to them and their families, as we have.

Thank you for the opportunity to tell you a little about Glen Head.

July 2, 1983
Irving L. Spanier