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PGA Tour: Jemsek Family and Cog Hill Deserving of 2017 U.S. Open

Andy Reistetter@GolfWriter59Analyst IJune 15, 2010

On a recent visit to Chicago, Featured Columnist Andy Reistetter stopped by Cog Hill for a challenging round of golf on the famed Dubsdread course and an enjoyable lunch with Frank Jemsek and his daughter Katherine.

Here are his thoughts about the Jemsek family, their golfing empire and the soon to be known U.S.G.A.'s decision on the site for the 2017 United States Open Championship.

 

I am ashamed to admit I lived in Chicago for 10 years and never played the crowned jewel of the Jemsek familyDubsdread, the No. 4 course at Cog Hill.

 

However I went there the very first weekend after moving to Chicago and witnessed Matt Kuchar's triumph in the 1997 United States Amateur Championship.

 

Right there on Dubsdread's 17th green I saw him close out Stanford's Joel Kribel.

 

NBC Sports' Roger Maltbie swarmed in to interview the 19-year-old Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket.

 

The video of Matt raising the championship trophy over his head in jubilation also captured the mug shot of a smiling yours truly.

 

Kuchar would go on to finish 21st at the Masters and 14th at the U.S. Open the next year with his father Peter on the bag.

 

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All would say the two-time PGA Tour champion did it the right wayby staying in college and finishing his amateur career before turning pro.

 

With patience Kuchar went on to a lucrative though hard-earned professional golfing career.

 

The same can be said for the golf course upon which he won the amateur title and the family behind that golf coursethe Jemseks.

 

Right after the match concluded the winner headed for the media center and I headed into the golf shop to find a commemorative hat and shirt from my introductory experience into Chicago golf.

 

An older man in a gentlemanly fashion was more than eager to help me with my selection.

 

Years later I would realize that man was Joe Jemsek, the recognized "Patriarch of Upscale Daily Fee Public Golfing," the man who brought country club golf to mainstream golfers like me.

 

Image thatthe world's golf media at your feet, it's time to take a bow for hosting one of the premiere USGA national championships and Joe Jemsek is in the pro shop hawking caps and shirts.

 

Joe Jemsek was being Joe Jemsek and doing what he loved to do .

He was very good at was predicting the needs of his golfing customers and fulfilling them better than anyone else.

 

Years later I would introduce myself to him at another Jemsek family gemthe Pine Meadows golf course near Libertyville.

 

While we chatted, Joe watched closely as a young employee cleaned off a table and carelessly threw out a perfectly good scoring pencil with the luncheon waste.

 

Needless to say that young man was held accountable by Joe Jemsek and likely learned a very good life lesson in the ensuing coaching and counseling session.

 

Steady and true to the business, no harder on anyone else than himself and a guy who developed people within his organization to the mutual benefit of allincluding the customer.

 

That was Joe Jemsek!

 

He was a man that never gave up, always turning setbacks into foundations for future success.

 

An accomplished player in his own right, Jemsek did a little bit of everything though he always seemed to know what he wanted in the end.

 

If owning a Texas ranch was important to Byron Nelson, owning a golf course so golfers could golf was important to Joe Jemsek.

 

With the World's Fair coming to Chicago in 1934, Joe was demoted from head professional.

 

The business thinking was that a more prominent and well-known pro could attract and bring in more visiting customers.

 

Unfazed by the treatment, the long-hitting Jemsek entered and won the much publicized long drive contest staged as a promotion for the World's Fair.

 

With an unadulterated Wilson driver he hit one 501 yards —albeit it was from an elevated platform, it was 50 yards longer than any of the other entrants in the strong field.

 

The entrepreneur then built upon that notoriety and became a well-known teaching professional.

 

So well known in Chicago, he was featured on a golf instruction television show that helped promote the game of golf similar to what Arnold Palmer's play on TV accomplished on a national level.

 

As a smart investor he purchased the original Cog Hill one and two golf courses from the last surviving of three Cog brothers.

 

He likely sold to him for his vision and determination rather than to someone who would merely maintain the business.

 

Joe Jemsek expanded the business opening a third course at Cog Hill in 1963 trying to emulate his beloved third Medinah golf course.

 

He believed regular golfers deserved and would pay a premium price to play a championship public golf course with private country club amenities.

 

The architects did not get it exactly right so Jemsek went back to the drawing board, hired Dick Wilson and Joe Lee and produced his "little baby" less than one year later.

 

Setback, movement forward. Turning challenges into successthe Jemsek way.

 

There are countless stories to be told along the way to the present day Cog Hill No. 4 Dubsdread's bid to host the 2017 U.S. Open.

 

Even more stories about Joe sponsoring Patty Berg for her entire career; Raymond Floyd too.

 

Another is about building the largest indoor banquet hall so he could host the largest outings during a time when tents were banned in Chicago due to a food poisoning scare.

 

As a popular teaching professional his days on the course were typically limited to the rainy, windy and colder days when no customers were present. To bet against him in a match in poor weather was ludicrous.

 

Playing golf and gin rummy with Hollywood's biggest stars to the extent of becoming one of Paul Harvey's "the rest of the story."

 

Winning a Florida golf course in a card game then giving it back but retaining the now famous name of Dubsdread.

 

Don't we all dread dubbing the ball?

 

Maybe it was the patriarch Joe who was first to have the dream of hosting a U.S. Open on Dubsdread.

 

However the dream clearly belongs to the family who won the National Golf Foundation's Golf Family of the Year honor in 1991.

 

The Kuchar 1997 U.S. Amateur was supposed to be the well-timed prelude to hosting a U.S. Open.

 

As fate would have it, the 2003 U.S. Open would not go to Dubsdread but to Chicago neighbor Olympia Fields.

 

Another setback, another opportunity to succeedthe Jemsek way.

 

After Joe passed at age 89 in 2002, son Frank took over at the CEO helm.

 

Daughters Katherine and Marla run the visible day-to-day business as president and behind the scenes financial matters, respectively.

 

The youngest, son Joe is a golf course architect.

 

The two next generations of Jemseks have carried on Joe's legacy and then some.

 

Remember when there was no PGA Tour tournament in Chicago in 2008?

 

Remember that for the Jemsek clan setback equals opportunity equals future success.

 

Imagine thatno golf in Chicago in 2008what a shame in one of the country's largest golf markets.

 

Imagine thatan opportunity for a prepared Frank Jemsek to advance the dream of hosting a U.S. Open on Dubsdread.

 

Having already done the due diligence of lining up the "right" golf course architect and the right construction firm he hit the "Easy Go" button.

 

Like his father and his daughters, he would get more value out of a $5 million renovation than anyone ever did.

 

The right golf course architect being none other than the "Open Doctor" Rees Jones.

 

Son Joe opened his own golf course architecture firm and also contributed to No. 4's renovation.

 

Voila, in a year's time a regular PGA Tour stop golf course was transformed into a major contender.

 

A question of poorly draining greens?

 

The answer of individually controlled Sub Air systems on every green means firm and fast conditions for hot June days in Chicago even if thunderstorms come and drench the course with water.

 

A question of the degree of course difficulty?

 

The answer of longer holes, deeper fairway and greenside bunkers, and undulating greens with many difficult hole locations.

 

Believe me even on a rainy early June day those greens were very fast.

 

Believe me those bunkers are deepthe rakes are six feet long and quite Frankly (sorry for the pun) sometimes not long enough.

 

Believe me it is fun to play No. 7 with a new risk/reward pond on the inside of the dog-leg-right hole (of course I bombed my drive and hit the fairway).

 

Believe me Dubsdread has length no mortal amateur golfer can phantom.

 

For the first time in my life I played a course from around 6,500 yards and there were three sets of tees behind me.

 

Narrow the fairways, grow the rough USGA style.

 

With firm and fast conditions, par on Dubsdread would be imaginary by even the best golfers in the world.

 

Dubsdread and the Jemsek family are deserving of hosting the 2017 U.S. Open.

 

When it comes to charity Joe Jemsek never forgot his humble beginnings in the cornstarch lands of Argo in Western Illinois.

 

Starting as a caddie himself and knowing the Evans Caddie Scholarship was the major benefactors of the Western Opens, Joe Jemsek allowed the Western Golf Association to use his Cog Hill facility at no cost.

 

When it comes to pedigree champions on Dubsdread one needs to look no further than Tiger Woods.

 

A five-time winner he has won three Western Opens on Dubsdread plus the only two BMW Championships played there.

 

When it comes to the golf course Dubsdread is all the course you need for a U.S. Open

 

With a legacy of charity, a family that has supported golf forever, experience of running golf tournaments and a ready-to-go major golf course, why wouldn't the USGA host the 2017 U.S. Open at Cog Hill?

 

Rumor has it that the 2017 U.S. Open will go to Erin Hills up in Wisconsin.

 

Located not far from Herb Kohler's Whistling Straits which has the PGA Championship this August and then again in 2015 and the Ryder Cup in 2020.

 

Could Chicago be left out of the foreseeable major championship landscape?

 

Maybe it would not be ironic if the USGA passed over the Jemsek family and Cog Hill once again.

 

Another setback, another opportunitythe Jemsek way.

 

Slow and steady, patiently progressing one way or another.

 

For that is the Jemsek family legacy.

 

Whatever it takes, whenever it happens, it will happen.

 

Until then any golfer can experience elite championship golf at Cog Hill.

 

On the way out of the clubhouse they will feel the warm presence of patriarch Joe Jemsek and see his picture and hear him saying "thanks for playing Cog Hill."

 

Like Kuchar who has grown into success on the PGA TOUR so too has the Jemsek family and their Dubsdread golf course.

 

 

Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer. He follows the PGA Tourvolunteering and working part time for CBS Sports, NBC Sports, and The Golf Channel.

 

He resides in Jacksonville Beach, Florida near the PGA Tour headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.

 

He enjoys pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it. He can be reached through his website www.MrHickoryGolf.net or by e-mailing him to AndyReistetter@gmail.com

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