Joseph Dey, the Executive Director of the United States Golf Association, couldn’t believe his eyes when he visited Oak Hill in 1948 to see if the East Course was worthy of hosting the 1949 U.S. Amateur.
"Where have you been for 20 years?” Dey asked rhetorically. “There's nothing like this in the whole country.”
Needless to say, Dey and his USGA brethren happily marched into Rochester the following summer, and following renowned amateur Charlie Coe’s 11-and-10 championship match rout of Rufus King, USGA President Fielding Wallace said "It is my considered opinion that this was one of the most successful, interesting and exciting tournaments ever held."
And so it began, Oak Hill’s unrelenting status - which continues to this day - as one of the most respected and cherished facilities in American golf.
Coe had little resistance in winning his first three matches, then had to go a combined 40 holes in one day to win two matches to reach the semifinals. And then he caught fire again and rolled past Bill Campbell 8-and-7 before inflicting on King the most one-sided championship match defeat in the history of the Amateur.
Charlie Coe, receiving congratulations from revered Oak Hill member Dr. John R. Williams, fashioned one of the most impressive amateur golfing careers in history. Coe won the 1949 Amateur at Oak Hill and the 1958 Amateur at Olympic Club, and lost the 1959 final to Jack Nicklaus. He was a six-time member of the U.S. Walker Cup team, and he established amateur records at the Masters for most starts (19), cuts made (15) and low amateur honors (6) that will likely never be broken. "That's the way I try to look when I swing,” sweet-swinging Byron Nelson once said of Coe’s fluid, effortless motion.
The four men who reached the semifinals of the 1949 U.S. Amateur were, from left, Charlie Coe, Rufus King, future World Golf Hall of Fame inductee Bill Campbell and two-time Amateur champion Willie Turnesa. Others in the field included future Hall of Fame inductees Julius Boros and Joe Carr, and future major tournament winners Dow Finsterwald and Gay Brewer. There was also a 19-year-old kid from Latrobe, Pa. named Arnold Palmer, who lost in the third round to Crawford Rainwater by 4-and-3. Rainwater went on to become a USGA committee man who served as a rules official at the 1989 Open at Oak Hill. Palmer went on to become the King.