Thursday, May 10, 2001

Kidwell built some of area's top courses


Illness takes architect who designed Hueston Woods, Blue Ash

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        If you're golfing this weekend, hit one in honor of late architect Jack Kidwell. Kidwell, who died last month, had as much impact on public golf in the Tristate as anybody.

        Kidwell, a Columbus native who mentored Michael Hurdzan and later worked for him, made perhaps his first great mark in these parts with his design of Hueston Woods (1969) and, a decade later, with Blue Ash — two courses that remain in Golf Plus' top 15 Tristate public golf courses.

        “Jack always considered Hueston one of his favorites,” Hurdzan said. “It was a giant of a golf course, very important to him, and one of the first for the state park system. It fit the place so well.

        “And Blue Ash is a helluva course. Since they've gone in and softened the steepness of the greens a little bit, it's going to remain one of people's favorite courses for a long time.”

        More recently, Hurdzan and Kidwell designed Lassing Pointe, Vineyard and Fox Run at Kenton County, which are in Golf Plus' top five.

        Kidwell, 83, was to have been feted this weekend along with fellow architectural icon Robert Trent Jones Sr. in Columbus, where the American Society of Golf Architects (of which Kidwell was president in 1980) is holding its annual meeting. But Kidwell died April 28 after a long illness. Jones Sr., who was 93, died last summer.

        “We were hoping Jack could hang on long enough to be at the meeting, but it just wasn't to be,” Hurdzan said. “It would have been a chance for the young architects to get to meet and enjoy one of the greats.”

        The next best way to meet Kidwell is through his courses. And there's a bunch of them in Greater Cincinnati.

        Here are some of his other courses (some are original designs, some revisions, some additions): California, Meadowlinks, Hidden Valley, Shawnee Lookout, Batesville, Grand Oak, Neumann, Reeves, Beckett Ridge, Kenwood, Glenview, A.J. Jolly (Campbell County), Camargo and Cincinnati Country Club.

        Kidwell's courses are defined by their nice, wide landing areas; sizeable hazards observable from the tee and gentle, flowing, sloping greens.

        This weekend's festivities in Columbus will be a memorial to Kidwell and Jones Sr., rather than a testimonial, but they will be no less celebrated.

        The architects will play four courses that are perennial staples in Golf Digest's Top 100 — Muirfield, Scioto, The Golf Club and Double Eagle.

        That would have been high cotton for Kidwell, who grew up during the Great Depression.

        “Jack started as a caddie to help support his family and later won medalist honors in the state high school championship,” Hurdzan said.

        “Somehow he convinced his father — who was involved in real estate and also did some sharecropping — to buy a golf course during the Depression. Jack's question of his father was, "Dad, is there a way to buy a golf course without any money?' His father's answer was, "Yes, by means of a land contract,' and that's what they did. They bought a little nine-hole family course in very bad condition.”

        And that is where young Jack Kidwell learned how to be a greenskeeper, a golf pro and, ultimately, a designer, rebuilding the course hole by hole.

       



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