Why is the Colonial so quirky from Fort Worth? With the PGA Tour Stop Celebrating 75 Years, we take a look back at the man who started it all
WWith Phil Mickelson coming back and Brooks Koepka pushing for another Major, everyone in golf is focused on the PGA Championship in South Carolina. But by the middle of the week, North Texas will adopt the legendary Colonial Country Club for the Charles Schwab Challenge.
As The Colonial gets the anything but coveted date week after a big week in the calendar (meaning fewer top golfers will be playing the tournament – although world No.2 Justin Thomas has pledged to play and Phil Mickelson as well) , the fact that this is the 75th anniversary of the Fort Worth staple always ensures that there will be plenty of spice. When everything stops this Thursday, May 27, the fun will be back.
Aside from the Fort Worth Rodeo, what locals affectionately call the Colonial is the city’s most enduring and beloved sporting event. It also claims to be the oldest tournament on the PGA Tour. The Colonial Country Club has hosted a Tour event every year since 1946.
Now is the Colonial’s Diamond Jubilee.
The see-and-be-seen evening of spring was usually teeming with fans. Following last year’s empty bleachers due to COVID-19, next week’s event will include limited attendance – mostly club members, their accredited guests, and a few lucky ticket holders. It is usually a scene.
While fashion trends have ranged from bobby socks and saddle oxfords to halters and mini skirts over the years, nothing beats watching a few silly newbies trying to make their way through the course in heels. pointed (not suggested).
PaperCity Fort Worth spoke with Marty Leonard and his sister Madelon Bradshaw about their memories and knowledge of their father Marvin Leonard, the founder of the Colonial Country Club. Marvin Leonard’s tenacity has taken retail merchandising to new heights with his Leonard’s department store. And he forever changed Fort Worth’s place in the sports world.
Marty Leonard was 9 when the PGA’s longest-running event kicked off in 1946. While his sister Madelon was too young to remember that first tournament, she enjoyed watching his growth over the years.
“I think Colonial is very lucky to have Charles Schwab as a sponsor, they did a great job with him,” says Marty Leonard. “It brings millions of dollars and tourism to the city every year. Colonialism has always been a major economic driver in Fort Worth, and of course there is the prestige of it.
“When the PGA chose Colonial to be their first tournament during COVID. . . it was a real compliment and it drew a big pack in 2020 because everyone was so ready to play.
“Dad would be very happy with what happened with the tournament, and he would be very honored to see how it has developed over the past 75 years,” adds Madelon Bradshaw. Marvin Leonard died in 1970 at the age of 69.
Marvin Leonard’s love for golf cannot be overstated. The visionary Fort Worth merchant has built three courses from the ground up – each beginning their life as their own personal journey. First Colonial, then Shady Oaks, and finally its magnificent private 9-hole wonder, Starr Hollow, located on the family-run Tolar Ranch, which has been rated # 1 of the country’s nine holes over the years.
“The doctor told Dad he needed to exercise, so he took up golf and started playing at the old Glen Gardens,” says Marty Leonard. “It was there that he met young Ben Hogan, who was his younger brother.
The two have forged a long-standing friendship. When Hogan donated a copy of his book, Power Golf to Leonard, he wrote it down, “To Marvin Leonard, the best friend I’ve ever had.” If my father had lived, I would like him to be like you. That pretty much sums up their relationship.
“Ben Hogan is so much a part of colonial history – he’s won it five times,” says Marty Leonard. “I think he would have done it no matter what, but dad supported him throughout the tour, as well as when he started his manufacturing company Ben Hogan Golf Equipment.
The Colonial Golf Club was founded 85 years ago in 1936 under the leadership of Marvin Leonard. He was determined to bring curved weed to his hometown of Fort Worth. Despite the fact that the harsher and warmer climate of the city was then considered less than ideal for this strain of grass. Marvin Leonard was largely discouraged from going with curved grass. But he persisted, hiring both John Breemus and Perry Maxwell to help design the now legendary course.
This duo helped Marvin Leonard realize his vision. In the process, they forever changed the way golf is played in Texas. On smooth greens.
You will find curved weed everywhere now, it is much more tolerant of the heat of Texas. But Marvin Leonard was the first to try it anywhere in the Southwest.
Then Marvin Leonard pulled off the ultimate coup, bringing the 45th US Open to Colonial in 1941, proving all opponents wrong. Marvin Leonard effectively sold the club to its members in 1942 and the Colonial Country Club was born.
As fate would have it, the 1941 Open was the last US Open to be played in five long years when World War II broke out.
“Before that, the Open had never taken place below Mason Dixon, and rarely since,” notes Marty Leonard. Although the US Open never returned, the annual tournament known as the Colonial did so in 1946. And here it continues – 75 years later.
“It started out as an invitation, that’s the genesis of it,” says Marty Leonard. “Dad was such a visionary. I think he would be very happy to see how colonialism evolved.
Marty Leonard has kept his father’s love for golf in the family. She now owns and operates Leonard Golf Links, and notes that outdoor gaming has seen a huge increase due to the pandemic.
“Everything has a silver lining,” she says. “I think it’s a good thing to get people on and off their screens.”
“Colonialism is so integral to Fort Worth, and of course it was such a big part of my father’s life and legacy,” says Bradshaw.
Marvin Leonard’s daughters are ready to celebrate this memorable 75th anniversary with the City of Fort Worth, the PGA Tour and the Colonial Country Club. Some things get better with age.