Course Superintendent, 1951-93
Interviewed on September 14, 2005
Interview (1 hr 24 mins)
Harry’s neighbor, John Czenkus, gave him the 1924-26 construction photographs that he took (he is the construction worker in the photo) which are now on display in the clubhouse.
Harry grew up in Hamden and as a youth, Harry caddied at the New Haven Country Club, playing in the Monday caddy tournaments. Drafted in World war II, he served as a German translator for POWs. He met a general from New Hampshire who sent him to Rutgers University to learn skills so that he could maintain the golf course at Fort Dix in New Jersey. After the war, he went to the University of Massachusetts on GI bill to study horticulture. He interviewed at Race Brook Country Club, Woodbridge CC, and Yale for a job of superintendent. He took the Yale position because course was “unreal”. Hired by Bill Perkins, business managed of Athletic Dept. (he had maintained the course as superintendent of the athletic field crews from 1926-45, when he hired Tony Longo) and charged with making “our unique course the most beautiful golf course in the world”. Perkins argued with Harry about proper fertilizer blend of nitrogen, phosphorus and potash. Harry used 24/10/12 and Perkins had used 8/6/2 . Harry called that a “farmer’s blend” and not proper for the course. Harry won the argument; “use any damn thing you want” said Perkins, and he was dead within the year from a heart attach. To respond to the Perkins charge, Harry transplanted mountain laurel from below and behind the 9 th green all over the course (including the cliff in front of 13 th tee by dangling workers by ropes), planted dogwoods along fairways, 1000’s of daffodil bulbs, etc.
When he arrived maintenance “barn” had no electricity, was heated by a wood stove, it burned down in 1966. The clubhouse was a cabin-style building in the present location; one room with nails on walls for clothes, electricity by a generator, and a hot dog stand in the parking lot area. Crew was 2 in winter & 17 in summer. Greens were cut by hand with push mower, fairways every other day and rough once a year. Only greens were watered. Wells below 9 th pumped water to tower near WC Parkway behind 7 th green, then by gravity through above ground cast iron pipes to no more than 5 greens per night, starting with the highest i.e. 10 & 12. Fairways were only green until July using fertilizer and a lot of lime (learned from lime lines at football field etc. kept grass green). Dogwoods that he planted along many fairways have died. Pines that he planted for “protection from stray balls” have been cut down.
He carried out a number of course changes to “make the course more pleasurable… for the average golfer.” He filled the bunkers on holes two, ten, (across road from tee 12, 17,18 ( highest hill). He also built up the green on hole three, cut down the right side of the second green, covered 17’s cliff with loam by dredging the pond and lowered the right side of cliff by three feet.
When he arrived, Joe “Porky” Sullivan was the golf pro and coach, as well as “the only coach he ever saw giving lessons on the course to team players.” He was often behind the fourth green “pitching ball after ball.”
Perkins died just a year after Harry was hired, so Widdy Neal became his business manager for the remainder of Harry’s term. Widdy not interested in beauty, just the playability of the course. Because money was tight, “the university did not understand what they had here.” It wasn’t until the Beinecke gift in 1969-70? that the fairways were finally irrigated.
His daughter carved stumps around the course; the only one left is a German leprechaun to the right of the fourteenth fairway which she did for his birthday.
He saw Gary Player and Ken Venturi play here, though the best he has seen is Bill Lee.
The original greens were built by piling up rocks taken from fairway areas and covering them with layers of sand and swamp muck.