40th Western Open
Medinah’s First Western Open
July 21-23, 1939
When the Western Golf Association announced that Medinah Country Club would host their 40th Western Open Championship, the CDGA decided that it would postpone the Chicago Open for one year in order to give their full support to the event at Medinah. At that time, the Western Open was considered by many to be second only to the National Open in importance.
The field of 303 competitors played on Course No.1 and No.3, alternating 18 holes on both courses for the first two days. Then the low 50 professionals and 22 low scoring amateurs played Course No.3 on the final day. Ralph Guldahl had won the Western for the preceding three years, and in a practice round on Course No.3, he shot a 69, two below par.
Byron Nelson had just won the National Open, but only a week before the Western at Medinah, he was runner-up to Henry Picard for the PGA title.
On day one of the Western, Dick Metz, head professional at Mill Road Farm in Lake Forest, Illinois, set the pace with a record round of 67 on Course No.3. He was among the only players to break par, along with Byron Nelson, Lloyd Mangrum, Harry Adams, and Jimmy Hines. Nelson’s 68 was on Course No.1 par 70. Metz hung onto his lead during the second day of play, but Lloyd Mangrum and Byron Nelson who were only one and two strokes away were challenging him.
Despite the fact that Nelson was not in the lead until the final rounds, he had played outstanding golf during the entire event. On the final day, Nelson came from behind to win his first Western Open. As one sports writer put it, "While all of his rivals were playing boy scout in the woods, water and sand of Medinah’s Course No.3, the cool, nerveless, Nelson hewed to the fairway and delivered." He shot 52 pars, 11 birdies, and 9 bogies to win with a 281, 2 under par. Lloyd Mangrum was second and Henry Picard was third. Wilfred Wehrle was top amateur.
Over 11,000 spectators filled the galleries during the tournament, and ten correspondents reported the event with 150,000 words over the Western Union wires. In addition to the events at Medinah, in 1939 the wires were also humming with the news of the beginning of the war in Europe, and Time magazine named Josef Stalin, Man of the Year.
Medinah Course No. 1
Medinah Course No. 3
Overall Par: 283
Overall Purse: $3,000
Won by Byron Nelson: 68 72 70 71 = 281