By Bob Arnett
The Casey Country Club, located in eastern Illinois, has long been a favorite venue for Terre Haute divot diggers for more than five decades.
After Gene Verostko, with a 6 under par 29 on one nine, won the first Casey Open in 1951, the tourney routinely has attracted at least 25 to 30 players from Terre Haute each year and sometimes more.
Three Terre Haute professionals, Red Wiley, Bill Holloway and Virgil Morey, respectively served stints as Casey Country Club professionals through the years.
A unique format for the 18 hole tournament allows golfers to play their rounds on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. A total entry of more than 300 players has not been uncommon. With home cooked food in the clubhouse along with liquid refreshments, a good time always has been enjoyed by all participants, male and female.
The nine-hole course consistently has been in pristine condition, and the layout was transformed from an easy nine holes to a much sterner test a few years back. An example would be that 64 was good only for a tie for first place in 1962 whereas a 69 would qualify for a two-stroke win in 1992.
Much of the history surrounding Casey Country Club involves Don Fairfield, a friend of several Terre Haute players. Don took the professional’s job at Casey in 1954. That same year he drove to California and played the winter tour without much luck.
Back in Casey the following year, he won the Lawrenceville Open and finished runner-up in the Vincennes Open. Both tournaments were favorites of many Terre Haute golfers.
In 1955 Fairfield advanced to the quarterfinals of the National PGA Championship, which gave him a year’s exemption on tour along with an invitation to The Masters.
After resigning as C.C.C. pro, in October 1955, Don tied for first in the West Palm Beach Open, but lost to Al Besselink in a playoff.
During the next nine years, Fairfield won the 1956 Pensacola Open, 1960 St. Paul Open and 1963 Oklahoma City Open. He had second place finishes in the Los Angeles Open, Phoenix Open, St. Petersburg Open, Pensacola Open, Orange County Open, Kansas City Open, West Palm Beach and Tournament of Champions. He also garnered a host of third place finishes.
Among his accomplishments are course records of 65 at the rugged Firestone course in Akron, Ohio, and another 65 at the Buick Open. Don’s record 31 on the front side at Firestone stood for 20 years.
In July 1962 he played the original front nine at Casey C. C. with a two on the first hole and then eight successive threes for a nine under par 26.
In 1964 Don moved his family to Palm Desert, California where he accepted the head professional’s position at Elderado Country Club. He retired in June of 1997. Don and his wife, Iris, are parents of two sons, Jim and Jeff. Both are Class PGA Professionals. Jeff was the 1992 Southern California PGA Champion.
We remember Don Fairfield as a dedicated, consummate pro who certainly demonstrated what it took to be successful not only as a club professional, but also as a touring professional.
Gene Verostko who played an exhibition with Fairfield recalls Don was an outstanding player with a great iron game. He was very successful on the professional circuit.
While at Casey, Don hired Roger Van Dyke as an assistant. Van Dyke would go on to play for Eastern Illinois University’s golf team. He also placed third in Terre Haute’s 1961 City tournament.
Later, as a professional, Roger made a hole-in-one while playing in the Buick Open, which earned him a new Buick as his prize. Van Dyke earned his PGA Master Professional certificate in 1988. Along the way he was named Golf Professional of the Year by the Michigan PGA.
The city of Casey as well as the Casey Country Club are indeed fortunate to have had a pair of golf professionals who demonstrated such superior qualities of leadership, knowledge and skill pertaining to their chosen professions.
Casey Open set for June 26-28
The Casey Open will be held on July 26, 27, and 28 this year. Call Casey Country Club (217) 932-2030 for tee times and further information.
Valley golfers breath sigh of relief
Golfers at the former Elks Club breathed collective sighs of relief when they heard that the northside course would not be sold to someone who wanted to construct a housing development on the golf course.
General Manager, Jim Jenkins, has some big plans for the Landing at Fort Harrison.
Tim Clements wasted no time in recording a first at the newly named Landing at Fort Harrison when he sent his second shot, a three wood, directly into the cup for a double eagle on the par 5 first hole. In a round preceding that feat, Clements had scored 68 from regulation tees. Playing partner, Herb McConnell, quipped, “Double eagle and all, I can still beat him sometimes.”
Watch out for Chris Cassell in men’s city
Hats off to South golf coach, Chris Cassell for that superb 71 at Wolf Run in the Indiana Amateur. Wolf Run is one of the most difficult tracks in the U.S. and a 71 is truly spectacular.
Cassell has been firing sub par rounds consistently at Hulman Links according to usually reliable sources. It would appear that he will be a factor in the Terre Haute City Tournament.
It was a lonesome looking three wood with a note attached leaning up against a tree on the seventh hole at The Landing.
The note read, “Sorry things didn’t turn out the way I thought they would. You need to find a new home!”
The unknown, former owner had to be a genteel golfer since many clubs such as this one finish up at the bottom of a pond or in many piece safter a high speed collision with a tree.
Tip of the week
If you want to hit a straight shot, make sure your feet, hips and shoulders are all aligned in the same direction; all parallel to the line of flight you want your shot to follow.
Take special care to see that your shoulders aren’t positioned across your line of flight; an easy position to take at address since your right hand (for right handed players) is lower on the grip than your left. This causes you to cut across the ball and a slice results.
Keep your head down and your shoestrings tied. We’ll be back.