A Brief History of Ozaukee Country Club
Golf was an established part of the local sporting scene when the eight men who would form Ozaukee Country Club first met in Milwaukee on October 22, 1920. To form this new venture, they were charged with preparing the Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, site selection and naming the club. Herman J. Esser, Dr. J.P. Carmichael, Walter Schroeder, P.W. Jessering, A.M Kailing, B.A Leinberg, C.J. Kallmeyer and George Kiewert brought their ideas and resources to bear on the first Club meeting.
Three parcels of land in Mequon totaling 156 acres were purchased in January 1921 for $55,400 and Ozaukee Country Club was incorporated on April 1, 1921. The name was selected because of the club’s location in Ozaukee County. Langford and Moreau, well-known landscape architects with golf courses in the Midwest and South to their credit, were commissioned by the group to turn the land into a course that would be challenging and aesthetically pleasing. The course was designed links-style, with open fairways and plenty of visibility and unusually large, undulating greens, of which Billy Sixty, a local sportswriter, wrote “makes putting no easy matter.” Even then, Ozaukee’s greens were making news.
Concurrently, Bentley & Son began construction of the clubhouse. The first nine holes and the clubhouse opened in July 1922. By August 1922, the 18-hole, par 70 course was complete. Construction costs for the course and the clubhouse came to approximately $93,000 and $84,000, respectively. With the purchase of the necessary equipment, furniture and fixtures, the total cost of Ozaukee Country Club amounted to about $300,000. Herman Esser, a well-known architect whose work is still visible in Milwaukee (the original Pfister Hotel, the Milwaukee City Hall and the former Gimbels’s Department Store were his designs) served as the Club’s first President. His wife, Elizabeth, chaired the Women’s Committee.
Throughout the 1920’s, the membership enjoyed golf, dances in the large formal ballroom, Christmas parties, costume balls and member-produced theatrical shows, marred only by a kitchen fire in October 1924 that did an estimated $20,000 damage.
A highlight of the first decade was the hosting of the Western Open (then considered a “Major”) in 1929. Gene Sarazen, Walter Hagen, Bobby Cruikshank and others played they tourney, which was won by Tommy Armour. He established what was then an all-time low of 273 for 72 holes. A cherished piece of history, the Ticket Booth, now stands proudly, welcoming all to the 1st teeing area.
By 1930, a full membership of 289 was in place but the long-term effects of the “Crash of 29” started trickling down to Milwaukee, leading to the lean years of the depression and World War II. In receivership in the mid 1930’s, Ozaukee was managed by the Milwaukee Athletic Club on a cooperative arrangement until it was reorganized in 1937 with a membership of 200. The Club survived the depression and the World War II years, but few would say it thrived. Dues in 1939 were $80 a year.
In the 1950’s, membership was increased to 250 and the 33-year-old clubhouse underwent its first renovation. The newly renovated clubhouse opened on May 21, 1955 and was followed by the construction of a swimming pool in 1957. During the 1960’s, golfing membership remained stable, pool memberships were added and the Club held its own. The Club was closed for another remodeling in 1965-66. In 1969, The Milwaukee Curling Club made a proposal to come to Ozaukee Country Club and a formal agreement was signed in 1970 that led to the construction of the curling facility and a substantial change to Club wintertime operations. The Milwaukee Curling Club made Ozaukee CC it’s home for over 40 years.
During the 1970’s and early 1980’s, relative stability and serenity prevailed at the Club. Those conditions changed by the mid 1980’s when it became apparent that the clubhouse was starting to crumble. A $2 million renovation plan was approved by the membership in 1987 and Bentley & Son, the original clubhouse builder, was selected as the general contractor. The clubhouse was closed in late 1988 and the interior literally disappeared with only the original exterior facade remaining in place. Reopening in May 1989, the renovation, with a final cost of about $3 million, was a smashing success with the unique marriage of a decades-old tradition and modern, user-friendly facilities. In May 1997, the Club celebrated its 75th Anniversary with a series of special events and parties. The 75th is celebrated in the historical look at ¾ of a century a book published for the occasion, “For the Love of the Game.”
Throughout the 1990’s and into the new millennium, the club’s membership was booming and usage of the facilities was at an all-time high. The need for another update became the focus of planning in 2002; construction began in January 2003 and in five months, the renovation was complete. The Grand Opening Gala celebrated the glorious, new Clubhouse as the premier destination of Milwaukee’s North shore. The most recent renovation brought the club up to date with the most current high-quality facility and service standards as well as offering an expanded golf wing and new, state-of-the-art locker rooms for both men and women. The new Pro Shop was relocated to overview the 1st and 10th tees.
Five beautiful stone bridges have been erected, generously donated by our members and dedicated, adding even more beauty to the course over the past 2 decades. Each was built by our own Grounds and Maintenance crews, truly works of art that will last well into our 2nd century and beyond.
In 2010, for the 2nd time in history, ice, freezing and Mother Nature did her best to our pool complex. The deck and walls cracked and rose out of the ground, demanding immediate and extensive rebuilding. In 2011 Ozaukee Country Club opened our newly developed Aquatics Center. Features include two heated pools, cabanas, an outdoor bar and a large deck to accommodate a variety of activities. The large pool offers a diving well, lap swimming and pool basketball. The wading pool features splash pad style entertainment with a water mushroom and slide.
In 2020, a capital plan monikered “2020 Vision” was put in place to once again enhance the membership of golfers, pool and dining members… and children! The patio was expanded to the north with another outdoor bar and covered dining area. A new maintenance facility was built next to the #3 teeing area. The Kidz Klub was upgraded with new mechanicals and amenities for our youngest members. The old Curling Club building was razed in the process to create green space on the South Lawn.
In 2014, the Club hosted the WSGA State Amateur, and in 2022 the WPGA State Open. Ozaukee has hosted The State Am 5 times along with other WSGA championships. We’ve hosted a number of US Open Qualifiers as well, always presenting the best in course preparation and tee to green challenges for some of the best players in the world.
We celebrated our 100th Anniversary in 2022 with a wide variety of events, highlighting the best of Ozaukee CC now and in our history. Dick Sucher and Jean Sucher were named “Players of the First Century” to cap off a wonderful year in our history. At this writing, each has been crowned OCC Men’s/ Women’s Champion 16 times!
The Jim Cook and Marty Lindsay Shootouts, the John Fricker OZ Shootout, the Jim Schwartfeger Championship, the Pow-Wow, the Spring Step-Aside Scramble, Women’s Field Day, The Otto-Tock Challenge, The Unofficial Opener and Closers, The Jr-Sr Championships, the Best Ball Matches, and of course, our premier OZ Member-Guest. Events that dot each year and mark the passage of time with more fun, more friendships, and more dreams to be made with a club in your hand.
Ozaukee Country Club stands as a remarkable testament to those who created it and to those who would not let it go. It is a love story--love for the land, love for our friends and family and most of all “for the love of the game.” (For the complete history 1922-1997, see the 75th Anniversary Book “for the Love of the Game - A History of the Ozaukee Country Club.”)