Feature Interview with Ed Oden
June 2019

1. What prompted you to found perrymaxwellarchive.com? What do you hope to accomplish with it?

Honestly, it all started with this thread on GolfClubAtlas.com… https://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,49744.msg1126766.html#msg1126766.  I had been intrigued by Maxwell for a while since his architectural roots were in Oklahoma, where I was born and a good chunk of my extended family still remains.  I’d been living in North Carolina for over fifteen years at the time and for some unknown reason felt a pull to reconnect with my home state.  So I decided to combine a trip to visit my ailing father with a tour of Maxwell courses in Oklahoma and Kansas.  That week is among the most cherished memories of my life.  One on one time with my Dad mixed with day trips to visit Maxwell courses.

The GCA thread was the end product of that trip.  I knew that I wanted to do something more substantive than a photo tour, but had no idea exactly what I wanted to say.  The initial post thankfully took me forever to write.  It forced me to give meaningful thought to what I had seen and what it meant.  At the time, I was not confident about my analysis.  But looking back on it now with eight years of hindsight, there isn’t much I would change.

In any event, I received a lot of positive feedback from that thread and my interest in Maxwell had been peaked.  So I started thinking that someone should start a Perry Maxwell society since there wasn’t one at the time.  My first step was to reach out to Chris Clouser.  I can say with complete confidence that the Perry Maxwell Archive would not exist if Chris had not been so gracious with his time and, more importantly, in providing me with his files on Maxwell.  In truth, my vision at that point was nothing more than creating a website, which I thought would be a fun project.  But I thought I needed to do a little research following up on what Chris had sent me.  I will never forget the very first night I started digging in online search engines and was blown away to almost immediately find a course designed by Maxwell (Neosho Golf and Country Club in Neosho, Missouri) that hadn’t previously been mentioned by Chris, Cornish and Whitten in “The Architects of Golf” or in any of the other usual sources for golf course attribution.  Within a few more days I found another and then another.  I was hooked.  My focus quickly changed from the creation of a society to research and the creation of a timeline of Maxwell’s life and work.

The Perry Maxwell Archive is the conduit for sharing the fruits of my research and those of others who have contributed along the way.  If there is one thing I’ve learned over the last eight years, it’s that you never know the whole story and there is always something new to discover.  The beauty of a website is its flexibility to evolve as more and more information becomes available, whereas a book can become outdated very quickly.  The Perry Maxwell Archive is intended to be a collaborative effort.  My hope is that the Perry Maxwell Archive will constantly evolve and grow as interested individuals and clubs contribute content that adds to our collective understanding of Maxwell.

2. You started collecting information in 2011 and the site went live March, 2019. Along the way, what three pieces of information did you discover that most surprised you?

The discovery of Maxwell’s involvement at Ekwanok was undoubtedly one of the biggest highlights of my research.  In 2013 I stumbled across a 1939 article that, based on the headline, was supposed to be about Prairie Dunes, but actually devoted more space to Ekwanok than anything else.  According to that article, Maxwell had spent the previous week at Ekwanok “revamping some of the outmoded greens and making them blend into the landscape.”  After pulling myself up off the floor, I sent the article to you and you put me in touch with Bruce Hepner, Ekwanok’s consulting architect.  Bruce did some digging but didn’t turn up anything.  Then a few months later I found a second article from 1940 mentioning that Maxwell had remodeled Ekwanok where the national intercollegiate golf tournament was being played.  At that point I was convinced that Maxwell had in fact worked at Ekwanok since I now had two articles which essentially bookended the beginning and end of his involvement.  So I decided to call the Manchester, Vermont historical society to see if they might be of help.  Fortunately for me, the woman I spoke to at the historical society knew Chip Stokes, who is the current historian at Ekwanok and the son of the author of the club’s history book.  I sent Chip the two articles and we spoke a couple of times.  He was skeptical but promised to look into it.  A year passed and I hadn’t heard anything from Chip and, frankly, assumed I likely never would.  So it was a great surprise when Chip called to say that he had found Maxwell’s original November, 1938 “rerouting” plan for Ekwanok.  It is a truly beautiful piece of art unlike any other routing plan I have seen of a Maxwell course.  The copy I have hanging on my wall is one of my favorite possessions:

While it is clear that Ekwanok never fully implemented Maxwell’s rerouting plan, I am equally confident that he did work on the course in advance of the 1940 intercollegiate championship, most likely renovating the greens.

I also wasn’t prepared for the sheer pace at which Maxwell worked and lived.  He was always on the go.  Constantly traveling; at one point Maxwell estimated that he was driving 100 miles a day on average.  His energy was boundless and he rarely sat idle. Maxwell wasn’t content if he wasn’t learning something new, expanding his mind, serving his community or creating something special – motivated more by a desire for personal growth than recognition.

Which leads me to the last thing that surprised me.  Other than a few minor complaints about things that didn’t turn out quite as expected on specific design jobs, there are virtually no negative reports about Maxwell.  No character flaws, sordid affairs, shady deals or lapses of judgment.  Maxwell seems to have been almost universally respected and admired.  With one glaring exception – here is the Greensboro Record’s November 25, 1940 account of a bizarre incident while Maxwell was in town working on the Gillespie Park golf course:

“A brief lecture on the respect for authority which is inculcated by military training was given in municipal-county court Monday by Judge E. Earle Rives in disposing of a case in which the defendant was charged with failing to obey a traffic officer while in the line of duty.

 The defendant was Perry Maxwell, of Ardmore, Okla., who is in the city temporarily to supervise construction of the municipal golf course in Gillespie park.

 Maxwell contended that the incident on East Market street, near the bus station, Sunday night was a ‘misunderstanding’ between him and the police sergeant.  However, the latter testifies that the defendant continued the double-parking position of his car so long and acted himself in such a defiant manner that it was necessary for the officer to draw his gun and threaten to shoot down a tire if Maxwell allegedly started to drive off with the officer on the running board.

 The defendant denied this, swearing that, contrary to the sergeant’s statement, he did not allow his machine to stand in the street after two other cars had moved.  Maxwell claimed that he only followed the example set by drivers of the other two automobiles.

 After hearing the conflicting statements from the witness stand, Judge Rives asked the defendant if he had ever had military training.  There was a negative answer and then Judge Rives said that army training is one of the most effective agencies for instilling respect for authority.

 Judge Rives continued prayer for judgment on payment of the costs.”

It doesn’t sound like Maxwell was on the Christmas card list for Greensboro law enforcement and judiciary in 1940!

3. Chris Clouser and you have done more to shine the light on Maxwell than anyone else. In reading your site and perusing the compilation of information, you are obviously extremely knowledgeable on Maxwell yet the path that you have taken is to list facts that can be supported. That is to say, you offer few opinions on the material you have gathered even though the last eight years have made you an expert. What made you select this manner of presentation?

For the most part, I think the various societies bearing the names of ODG golf course architects have been great.  But I worry that they occasionally sacrifice historical accuracy for advocacy and promotion of their “guy.”  I’m not interested in walking that tightrope.  So it is extremely important to me that the Perry Maxwell Archive be an unbiased resource.  While I certainly have my own opinions about things, to the maximum extent possible, I want the website and, in particular, the Maxwell timeline to be factually based reflections of the applicable source materials and not an interpretation of those materials.  Rather, I think readers should judge merit for themselves.  That’s why, wherever possible, the source materials are linked to timeline entries so that readers can view them and draw their own conclusions regarding the relevance, reliability and impact of the information provided.  Clearly identified editorial notes are included in the timeline in an effort to provide additional context or information where appropriate, but otherwise I’ll save my personal opinions and interpretation for a beer at the nineteenth hole or venues like GolfClubAtlas.com.

4. You make the point early on that unlike Ross, Thomas, Tillinghast, etc., nothing exists from Maxwell in his own words on architecture. Why is that? He was a learned man, so that isn’t it. What about his correspondence to the various clubs? Where is that?!

While Maxwell never wrote a book or authored any articles on golf course design like many of his contemporaries, there are a few places where we get glimpses of his architectural philosophy.  The most notable is a profile in the February, 1935 edition of The American Golfer magazine, which directly quotes Maxwell on a variety of topics:

“Leave the earth where you find it, – and the tee where it lies.”

 “It is my theory that nature must precede the architect, in laying out of links.  It is futile to attempt the transformation of wholly inadequate acres into an adequate course.  Invariably the result is the inauguration of an earthquake.  The site of a golf course should be there, not brought there.  A featureless site cannot possibly be economically redeemed.  Many an acre of magnificent land has been utterly destroyed by the steam shovel, throwing up its billows of earth, biting out traps and bunkers, transposing landmarks that are contemporaries of Genesis.”

“We can’t blame the engineers, surveyors, landscape experts and axmen for carrying out the design in the blueprints, most of which come into existence at the instigation of amateurs with a passion for remodeling the masterpieces of nature.  A golf course that invades a hundred or more acres, and is actually visible in its garish intrusion from several points of observation, is an abhorrent spectacle.  The less of man’s handiwork the better a course.”

 “I have since made golf architecture my life work, having built several along the lines of Ardmore, never, at any time attempting a piece of property devoid of natural features.”

 “Far too many [bunkers] exist in our land.  Oakmont, Pittsburgh, where the National Open will be played this year, has two hundred.  Other courses famed everywhere average one hundred and fifty.  From twenty to twenty-five, plus the natural obstacles are ample for any course.  Millions of dollars annually are wasted in devastating the earth; in obstructing the flow of the rainfall; in creating impossible conditions.”

 “You will never see it [Dornick Hills] until you play each of its eighteen holes, for the very simple reason that it does not obtrude and is not an eyesore.  Not a square foot of earth that could be left in its natural state has been removed.  No pimples or hummocks of alterations falsify its beauty.  There are but six artificial bunkers, the rest are natural, and all the driving tees are within a few steps of the putting greens.  To date no man has played Ardmore in par, yet my daughter, still in her ‘teens, has broken 100 on it.

Terrific nuggets which only serve to whet the appetite for more.  Clearly Maxwell had a way with words and was eminently capable of delivering a thoughtful treatise on golf course design.  I can’t answer why he didn’t do so with any degree of certainty.  Maxwell was humble and unassuming by nature and wasn’t a public self-promoter.  On the other hand, he was without question a master networker who had the uncanny ability to connect with people across a seemingly endless socioeconomic spectrum – from frontier farmers to oil wildcatters, the world of high finance, Northeastern blue bloods, intellectuals and academics and a certain British doctor turned golf architect.  Maxwell was equally comfortable in all settings and wildly successful at putting others at ease notwithstanding any cultural, educational, economic or social differences.  My sense is that he just preferred personal interaction to mass media.  Perhaps the absence of any publication on golf architecture is reflective of that tendency.  If so, I am hopeful that the flip side of that same tendency is that there is still much to be learned from Maxwell’s interaction with individual clubs and courses.  My focus to date has been skewed toward mining available public sources in order to get a baseline for the timeline.  For the most part, information in the possession of clubs and other private sources is largely untapped.  The next step is to build bridges to those private sources in an effort to add to the information and materials collected in the Perry Maxwell Archive.  I would like to think that this Feature Interview is a part of that process and will help raise awareness about the Perry Maxwell Archive among clubs, their historians and other interested persons and trigger the discovery of new and additional information.

5. You write, ‘Maxwell reads “The Ideal Golf Links” by H.J. Whigham about the National Golf Links of America in the May, 1909 issue of Scribner’s Magazine.’ And a year later he goes to NGLA and meets C.B. Macdonald. Throughout the ensuing decades, he made incessant train trips to the Northeast. Is that where he learned what constituted good golf?

Maxwell’s entry into golf is so comically farfetched it’s hard to believe.  His hobby at the time was tennis and his wife didn’t like the toll playing tennis in the Oklahoma summer heat took on him.  She was the one who found Whigham’s article and gave it to Maxwell with the idea that golf might be a better pastime for his health.  Maxwell hadn’t even seen a golf course to that point, much less played the game.  His wife was actually the inspiration for thinking about whether their property in Ardmore could be adapted for golf.

Most sane people with a grain of common sense would give the idea nothing more than a passing thought before tossing it onto the scrap heap.  But not Maxwell, he dives in head first with a mixture of the frontier spirit endemic to Oklahomans and the broader American conviction of the early 20th century that anything was possible.  To his credit, Maxwell realized that he needed to see what was out there.  After visiting as many courses as he could in the South, he then headed east and marched into the office of then USGA president Robert C. Watson.  Maxwell told Watson that he was “a seeker after knowledge and would like the privilege of visiting a few of the eastern golf courses, having no social connections or acquaintances in the east.”  Watson, who was a founding member at NGLA, provided Maxwell with a letter of introduction to at least a dozen of the most prominent clubs in the Northeast.  This is presumably when Maxwell first met C.B. Macdonald.

Maxwell’s initial inquisitiveness was almost certainly born from a virtual vacuum of understanding of golf course design and construction.  But that inquisitiveness never left him as he continued to tour courses in the U.S. and the U.K. throughout his career.

6. In 1914, ‘Maxwell goes to Wright and Ditson’s sporting goods store in Boston, where Francis Ouimet worked.  Ouimet helps Maxwell buy his first set of golf clubs and they become good friends.’ What kind of a player was Maxwell, given that he didn’t have his first set of clubs until he was 35 years old? Did he play much?

Maxwell didn’t just buy one set for himself, he actually bought 10 sets and brought them back to Ardmore as enticements to get the locals to join Dornick Hills.  There were only two residents that had ever played the game and Maxwell wasn’t one of them!  So I think it’s safe to say that the standard of play was extremely low at the time.  Everyone in Ardmore was essentially starting from scratch, including Maxwell.  That being said, it appears that he picked up the game quickly (he was a decent enough athlete to figure in statewide tennis competitions) and was initially one of the better players in Ardmore.  He regularly played in and occasionally won club tournaments at Dornick Hills and tied the amateur course record with a 37 in 1916.  He competed in and won early round matches in both the 1917 and 1923 Oklahoma state golf championships.  While I doubt Maxwell would have ever described himself as a good player, he was at least competitive within the context of play in an area new to the game of golf, particularly early on.  However, it seems his frequency and level of play dropped as his architectural career took off.  There are very few reports of him playing after the mid-1920s other than at grand opening ceremonies for courses he worked on.

7. Is it accurate to say that there are several references to Maxwell going to Scotland but you have only been able to corroborate that he went once? What U.K. courses do you know for sure that he saw?

That is correct.  To date, the only U.K. trip that I have been able to conclusively verify was in the Fall of 1923.  We know that Maxwell, along with his sister and brother-in-law, arrived in Liverpool on September 23rd and departed from Southport on October 20th.  According to the September 9, 1923 Daily Oklahoman, Maxwell’s intention was “to study links and manners of the game as played by the originators of the sport.”  Piecing various accounts together, it appears that, at a minimum, Maxwell went to St. Andrews, Rye and Westward Ho!, met with MacKenzie, most likely in St. Andrews, and visited his ancestral home in Anstruther, Scotland on this trip.  There are also pictures of Alwoodley and North Berwick in a portfolio of photographs believed to have been taken by Maxwell on his 1923 trip, so he probably visited those courses too.  In all likelihood he saw many others in the month he spent in Scotland and England, but we may never know for sure exactly which courses he toured.  Perhaps interested persons in the U.K. can check their club records for evidence that Maxwell was a visitor or guest in September or October of 1923?

There is also ample evidence that Maxwell crossed the pond on other occasions as well.  We just don’t know exactly when.  A November 10, 1920 report in the Daily Ardmoreite suggests Maxwell might go to Edinburgh in June of 1921 as part of a delegation attending an International Rotary meeting.  And the September 23, 1935 Lawrence Journal-World reported that Maxwell “has made two trips to Scotland and England.”  Most compelling, the only detailed interview with Maxwell known to exist, his February, 1935 profile in The American Golfer magazine, quotes Maxwell as saying he took “Frequent trips to Scotland.”  I’m hopeful that evidence will eventually be uncovered to pin down the dates of his other trips to the U.K.

8. ‘Maxwell designs Arkansas City Country Club in Arkansas City, Kansas, where he earns $500 for his first professional design fee.’ That’s after he had built Dornick Hills and Twin Hills. Press Maxwell went to Philips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts and then Dartmouth and his daughter went to Wesley. He enjoyed a comfortable life by all accounts but how did he pay for it?!

I don’t know that Maxwell was ever extremely wealthy, but he certainly did live a comfortable life.  His grandfather was a Kentucky farmer and landowner.  Maxwell’s father, James, was a small town doctor and his Uncle, Pressley, was a successful businessman in Paducah, in part through proceeds of the sale of the family farm.  Pressley eventually invested in a Texas property that struck oil, making a small fortune that Pressley used to support the broader Maxwell family for several generations.  So Maxwell had the benefit of family money to some degree.

Perhaps as important as family money, however, were family connections.  Uncle Pressley was also an investor in Marion Bank in Marion, Kentucky.  Maxwell had originally enrolled at the University of Kentucky before transferring to Stetson for health reasons – he had tuberculosis and the family thought a change of climate might do him well.  Unfortunately, his health did not improve and, after dropping out of school and travelling in search of a place that might help assuage his health issues, Maxwell returned to Kentucky and started working at his Uncle’s bank in 1899 at the age of 20.  A few years later, Pressley used some of his Texas oil money to buy an interest in Ardmore National Bank, whose president was Lee Cruce, a fellow Kentuckian and Maxwell family friend who had relocated to Ardmore in the early 1890s and would later become the second governor of the State of Oklahoma.  Through his Uncle’s connections and his relationship with Cruce, Maxwell took a job at the bank upon moving his family to Ardmore in 1903.

Ardmore of the early 20th century was a mercantile hub born of cotton and oil.  By all accounts, Maxwell became a successful and influential businessman in his own right, no doubt assisted by his position at the bank and proximity to Cruce.  He had strong ties to the booming oil industry and was deeply involved in both the Ardmore and Oklahoma Chambers of Commerce.  While family connections may have provided Maxwell with an entrée into the business world, he built a wide network of wealthy oilmen, land barons and industrialists that furthered his career as a banker and, later, as a golf course architect.

So it’s clear that Maxwell had achieved some level of wealth by the time he left the banking business.  At least enough to buy several hundred acres of farmland in Ardmore for Dornick Hills and the land for Twin Hills (which he owned, designed, built and operated prior to selling in 1926), sacrifice a successful banking career to become a golf course architect despite being a single parent to young children after his first wife died, and send his kids to private schools in the Northeast.  And while some of his fees may seem shockingly low by today’s standards ($500 in 1925 would be about $7,200 in 2019), unlike most of his peers, Maxwell stayed busy throughout the Depression and World War II.  At the time of his death, Maxwell’s estate was valued at $750,000, which equates to more than $7,100,000 in today’s dollars.

9. You found some blockbuster quotes from the Daily Oklahoman in 1926 after Dr. Alister MacKenzie visited Twin Hills with Maxwell.  MacKenzie “was favorably impressed with the Twin Hills course” and says it “would rank with those on Long Island which were built by Charles MacDonald.”One was Mackenzie declares that Twin Hills is “Better than the three American courses I have been hearing about all my life, The Links, The Lido and Garden City.” Also, “Mr. Maxwell speaks of my ability to make a good fairway or develop a worthy green, but I wish to tell you that in laying out a golf course and to give it everything that the science and art of golf demand, Mr. Maxwell is not second to anyone I know.” Wow! What did you think of Twin Hills when you saw it in 2011?

Twin Hills is one of the most underrated and under the radar courses I have seen.  It is almost an afterthought in Maxwell circles, much less broader discussions about golf course architecture.  But, as I mentioned in my GCA thread on Maxwell, the two courses I kept coming back to for examples of what I experienced in Maxwell’s work were Dornick Hills and Twin Hills.  You can pretty much find everything you would want to know about Maxwell’s tendencies and quality golf course design at Twin Hills.  Great piece of property.  Terrific routing utilizing the natural features of the land.  A paucity of bunkers.  Fantastic greens.  It’s all there, albeit sometimes hidden beneath the effects of time.  I would love to see what a restoration could do for Twin Hills.  I think it would be an absolute gem.  For example, take a look at these images of the original bunkering at Twin Hills:

Maxwell is all too often wrongly associated with a flash-faced saucer bunker style.  However, much of his bunkering, particularly in the early stages of his career, had a very natural, rough-hewn appearance.  Twin Hills is a perfect example.  Some who see these photos assume they reflect either MacKenzie’s handiwork or his influence on Maxwell.  But Twin Hills predated MacKenzie’s first trip to the U.S. and his partnership with Maxwell by at least 2 years.  I can’t rule out that MacKenzie influenced Maxwell’s bunker style during his visit to the U.K. in 1923, where the two initially met.  But I think it is more likely that Maxwell was just generally captivated by the links bunkering he saw on that trip more than by MacKenzie’s work specifically.  In any event, historical photos of Maxwell’s bunkering at Twin Hills and other courses dispels the commonly held view of a more modern bunker style.

10. Mohawk Park is an example whereby Maxwell had only been given credit for its greens whereby your research indicates he did the original layout. Are there other instances whereby history has shortchanged his involvement?

Absolutely, there are many.  The most comprehensive previous lists of courses Maxwell designed, co-designed or remodeled are in Clouser’s book “The Midwest Associate”, “The Architects of Golf” by Cornish and Whitten and an article in the May 23, 1993 Daily Oklahoman.  They are all different to some degree, but none mention the following courses where I (and others who have contributed to the Perry Maxwell Archive) have found evidence of Maxwell’s involvement:

  1. Platt National Park Golf Course, Sulphur, Oklahoma (1917)
  2. Norman Country Club, Norman, Oklahoma (1920)
  3. Rowanis Country Club, Gainesville, Texas (1922)
  4. Pauls Valley Country Club (a/k/a Hill Crest Country Club), Pauls Valley, Oklahoma (1922)
  5. Enid Country Club, Enid, Oklahoma (1922)
  6. Henryetta Country Club, Henryetta, Oklahoma (1923)
  7. Neosho Golf & Country Club, Neosho, Missouri (1923)
  8. Glenwood Golf Course, Ardmore, Oklahoma (1924)
  9. Hickory Hills Country Club, Springfield, Missouri (1925)
  10. Spavinaw Mountain Club, Spavinaw, Oklahoma (1925)
  11. Wilson Golf Club (a/k/a Hill Crest Country Club), Wilson, Oklahoma (1925)
  12. Perry Country Club, Perry, Oklahoma (1925)
  13. Lake View Country Club (n/k/a Rolling Hills Country Club), Paducah, Kentucky (1925)
  14. Noble Hills Municipal Golf Course, Paducah, Kentucky (1927)
  15. Jeffersonville Country Club (a/k/a Northside Country Club), Prather, Indiana (1927) – NLE
  16. Ponca City Country Club, Ponca City, Oklahoma (1928)
  17. Altus Country Club, Altus, Oklahoma (1928)
  18. Hillsdale Municipal Golf Course, Ardmore, Oklahoma (1928)
  19. Unidentified course in Corpus Christi, Texas (1930)
  20. Pine Crest Country Club, Longview, Texas (1931)
  21. Lawrence Country Club, Lawrence, Kansas (1935)
  22. Ekwanok Country Club, Manchester, Vermont (1938)
  23. Pleasant Country Club, Mt. Pleasant, Texas (1939)
  24. Unidentified course in Wichita, Kansas (1939)
  25. Corsicana Country Club, Corsicana, Texas (1941)
  26. Odessa Country Club, Odessa, Texas (1941)
  27. Lawton Country Club, Lawton, Oklahoma (1947)
  28. Unidentified Course in Clinton, Oklahoma (1949)
  29. Riverdale Country Club, Little Rock, Arkansas (1952)
  30. Northwood Club, Dallas, Texas (1952)

Almost certainly a handful of these clubs and courses did not follow through with their plans.  And many will never be considered great by any means.  Regardless, that’s almost a career’s worth of design work that was lost over time.

More prominently, I don’t believe the extent of Maxwell’s role at Augusta National is fully appreciated.  He clearly touched far more of the course than most people realize.  Both Ron Whitten’s work for Golf Digest and Dan Wexler’s In My Opinion piece for Golf Club Atlas have added a tremendous amount of historical detail on Augusta National to the discourse in recent years.  But Maxwell’s contributions can be lost within the broader context of the overall architectural evolution of the course featured in those pieces.  Many only associate Maxwell with moving the 10th green from its original location next to the MacKenzie bunker at the bottom of the valley in the existing fairway to its current location up the hill on the far side.  However, he touched all but a half dozen or so holes on the course, perhaps more, and oversaw the transformation from MacKenzie’s original links-like presentation to “a more modern American conception of proper contours” (more on that later).  Finally, thanks to Chris Clouser, we have a May 27, 1935 letter from Jay Monroe to Maxwell regarding the status of an “experimental bent patch” that Maxwell was working on for Augusta National.  Monroe was a founding member at Augusta, one of the club’s primary financial backers, its treasurer and a confidante of Clifford Roberts.  I’ll go into more detail on the bent patch below, but it is important to note here that this letter establishes that Maxwell’s connection to Augusta National appears to have begun at least by 1935, a full two years earlier than prevailing thought.

The last course I’ll mention is the University of Michigan.  While MacKenzie and Maxwell are given co-design credit for Michigan, conventional wisdom seems to be that it was primarily MacKenzie with an assist from his “Midwest Associate” Maxwell.  But I think there is a strong probability that those roles were actually reversed at Michigan and more like the situations at Melrose and Oklahoma City where Maxwell was given the contract and lead the design and construction of the course.  Admittedly, I can’t conclusively prove that to be the case.  But here is what Maxwell said in the December 5, 1934 New York Times:  “I received a letter from Fielding Yost…  Yost wanted a golf course for the University of Michigan.  Someone took him over the Melrose course and after that he asked me to build the University of Michigan course in Ann Arbor, which I did.”  Several contemporaneous reports support this interpretation with references to Maxwell having been given the contract on Michigan and in various stages of designing and building the course.  Those reports were not in nationally syndicated articles, but rather locally sourced pieces in the Ardmore, Paducah, Ada and Neosho newspapers, places where Maxwell lived, worked and was connected to.  I suspect they originated from Maxwell or someone very close to him, such as Dean Woods.  Maxwell wasn’t one to mislead or exaggerate his accomplishments.  So I believe Maxwell was probably the driving force at Michigan more so than MacKenzie.

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