The state lost one of its greatest players in history earlier this month when Al Mengert of Spokane died on April 6, one day short of his 92nd birthday.
Mengert played in nine Masters, contending a couple of times, and once played in the final group on the last day with Sam Snead. He was leading the 1954 U.S. Open after 45 holes and was the first-round leader in the 1966 U.S. Open.
But before that, he played in one of the biggest golf matches in Seattle history. About 9,000 spectators, according to accounts in The Seattle Times, followed Mengert and Everett’s Jack Westland in the 1952 championship match of the U.S. Amateur played at Seattle Golf Club.
Mengert, the top-ranked amateur in the world at age 23, was the heavy favorite against Westland, 47, who went on to become a six-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Mengert led after 27 holes of the 36-hole final, but Westland rallied for a 3-and-2 victory.
For 58 years, Mengert held a secret about that match against Westland. But when the U.S. Amateur was played at Chambers Bay in 2010, the first time the event had been played in Washington since 1952, Mengert was asked about the 1952 final match.
He finally revealed the story: After practicing instead of resting during the break after the first 18 holes, he got very dehydrated on the final 18 holes.
“It’s not like today, where there’s water to drink on the course,” he told The Seattle Times in 2010.
On the final nine holes, Mengert said he couldn’t focus on the ball.
“It was swelling up when I looked down. I just completely ran out of gas,” Mengert said. “It was the worst nine going back to my junior days.”
Mengert was bedridden for more than a week after the defeat and was forced to miss the Canadian Amateur.
“I suffered the mental stress of letting Jack beat me when I wasn’t feeling well enough to play,” Mengert said. “I know if I had water, or had I rested, that I wouldn’t have had that disastrous finish. It’s really a sad story.”
Mengert turned professional later that year, taking a job as an assistant pro at famed Winged Foot Golf Club in New York because at that time the money was better as a club pro than a touring pro.
Mengert became one of the great club-pro players in history and competed in 27 major championships, and in one stretch played in eight consecutive Masters. He beat Sam Snead when paired with him in the final group of the 1958 Masters.
Mengert was tied for first that year with six holes left. Mengert played those holes in 3 over and faded to ninth. Arnold Palmer played them in 2 under and won.
Mengert led the 1954 U.S. Open through 45 holes and was the first-round leader at the U.S. Open in 1966. He was paired in majors with Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Palmer and Gary Player.
“When it was time to go, he picked Masters week,” nephew Mike Mengert told The Spokesman-Review about the timing of his uncle’s death. “He had quite the life and golf career.”
Mengert was the director of golf at some of the nation’s finest golf courses and became renowned as much for his teaching as his playing. Among his students were current coaching gurus Butch Harmon and Jim McLean.
During his tenure at Tacoma Country and Golf Club, he won the Washington Open a record three consecutive times (1963-65). He is in the Pacific Northwest Golf Association Hall of Fame.
Mengert played his final round of golf at age 72, shooting a 66.
Noted Northwest golf instructor J.D. Cline died of cancer April 15, one day before his 72nd birthday. Cline, who had worked with some of the nation’s top golf instructors such as Jim McLean and Jackie Burke Jr., was director of instruction at the Bear Creek Country Club in Woodinville.
* Bellevue’s Ian Siebers set the Duke freshman tournament scoring record earlier this month when he was 13 under at the Stitch Intercollegiate at MacGregor Downs Golf Club in Cary, North Carolina, tying for third place.
Siebers, who played on the U.S. Junior President’s Cup Team in 2019, leads Duke in scoring average (71.24) and has three top-10 finishes and five in the top 20 in seven events.
Freelancer Craig Smith contributed to this notebook.