Sunday, March 21, 2010

On HIstorical Assumptions

Having participated in many discussions about the historical Jesus recently, I was particularly struck by an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal concerning the identity of the designer of a golf course on Long Island titled Lost in History: A Golf Whodunit.

It seems that a real estate developer named Zucker bought the North Shore Country Club outside of New York City after its membership fell upon hard times. (At least ten families had invested with Bernie Madoff.). All the members agreed that the golf course which opened in 1916 had been the work of a famous designer named Tillinghast. However, after closing on the purchase, Zucker began to hear rumors that someone else had been the designer.

The source of those rumors was the biographer of two other famous course designers named MacDonald and Raynor. Several years earlier an acquaintance had suggested that he take a look at the North Shore course because it seemed to have a lot of features that were characteristic of MacDonald and Raynor’s work. The author agreed and subsequently called in another expert who concluded that the course did not bear any evidence of Tillinghast’s handiwork.

A careful search of the club’s records turned up evidence of payments to Raynor as well as a letter thanking both MacDonald and Raynor for their contribution. There was no evidence of Tillinghast’s involvement in designing the course and Tillinghast never listed it among his credits. Nevertheless, an official history of golf clubs in the New York area reported that Tillinghast had been paid $75,000 to design the course.

In 1916, Tillinghast was at the height of his fame and Raynor was just starting out. Nevertheless, Raynor subsequently designed many famous courses so Zucker was not too put out to find out the truth. Still it struck him as odd.
"I'm amazed how all the most knowledgeable people in golf, for so many years, made the assumption that because everyone else said Tillinghast was involved, that it must be true, even with no background evidence," Mr. Zucker said.

1 comment:

  1. Impressive. "A careful search of the club’s records," will find a Jewish Ribi Yehoshua. The "official history," is Jzeus. The pertinent documentation is at Hope you are looking for more than just a conversation piece.