Founded by a small group of Memphis business leaders in 1913, Colonial Country Club has long been regarded as one of the premier private clubs in the Mid-South region.
Colonial has been located at its current site since 1972, when the club purchased over 385 acres to develop the sprawling facility our members enjoy today that includes an 18-hole championship golf course and pro shop, a massive 35,000 square foot clubhouse with multiple dining venues, an Olympic-size swimming pool, six tennis courts, a snack bar and dressing facility.
The club has also been the site of some truly landmark occasions in the game of golf. Read on to learn more about Colonial's rich history.
PGA Tour's FedEx St. Jude Classic
A significant part of the club’s rich history and tradition are its close ties to the PGA Tour. Beginning in 1958, Colonial hosted what was then known as “The Memphis Open,” which began with a purse of just $20,000.
Over time, that event grew into what is known as the FedEx St. Jude Classic, and became a mainstay on the annual PGA Tour schedule. During its historic run as host of the event, Colonial produced a list of champions that includes some of the game’s all-time greats including Gary Player, Lee Trevino, and Jack Nicklaus.
During it's run at Colonial, the tournament also yielded some of the game's truly memorable moments including President Ford's hole-in-one, and the first sub-60 round in PGA Tour history.
"The Shot Heard Round the World" - President Ford's Hole-in-One
Few presidents in American history have displayed as much passion for the game of golf as Gerald Ford. Although he was not considered a great golfer (Mr. Ford was known to hit the occasional spectator during Pro-Am rounds!), his love for the game was enduring and he was known to ask professional golfers for tips to improve his swing.
President Ford's persistence finally paid off during the 1977 Danny Thomas Memphis Classic Pro-Am, when he made his first career hole-in-one on hole #5 with a 5-iron from 157 yards out. The shot immediately made national news, and came to be known as the "Shot Heard Round the World". It's widely beleived that Mr. Ford is one of only three presidents (Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower are the others) to have acheived the rare feat!
Al Geiberger Sets PGA Tour Record With "59"
Just two days after President Ford's ace, another landmark occasion took place at Colonial. On June 10, 1977, Al Geiberger became the first golfer in the history of the PGA Tour to break "60", when he fired a 59 in the second round of the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic at Colonial en route to a 3-stroke win over Gary Player.
Adding to the mystique of this incredible feat Geiberger also hit an incredible 14/14 fairways and 18/18 greens in regulation, and needed just 23 putts on what was then considered among the most difficult tracks on tour.
The "59 Club" has grown in recent years to include Chip Beck, David Duval, Paul Goydos, Stuart Appleby, Jim Furyk, Justin Thomas and Adam Hadwin, but Colonial Country Club will always have the distinction of being the site of the first sub-60 round in PGA history.
Curtis Person, Sr. - "Mr. Colonial"
Long-time member and former club president, Curtis Person, Sr. is considered one of the most important and influential figures in the history of golf in the state of Tennessee. As an amateur player, Mr. Person was perhaps the most accomplished senior player of his era. In 1968 and 1969, Person played 72 matches in major senior championships, winning 69 of these and losing two in extra holes. At one point, he held the distinction of accomplishing the "Grand Slam" in senior golf by winning the US Senior Amateur, the North & South Senior, the USGA Senior Championship, the Southern Golf Association championship and the Southern Senior Golf Association championship in one season.
Mr. Person was also responsible for promoting the game at all levels, and was a driving force behind securing a PGA Tour stop for the city of Memphis. He was twice elected chairman of the PGA of America's Advisory Board, and was widely respected by such golf luminaries as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
Mr. Person died in 1997 at the age of 87. He was a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, Tennessee Golf Hall of Fame, Southern Golf Association Hall of Fame, Senior Golf Association Hall of Fame, Memphis Park Commission Hall of Fame and the American Seniors Golf Association Hall of Honor. During his illustrious career, Mr. Person won an astounding 149 golf tournaments.