Al Mengert served as director of golf at 10 of the most prestigious golf clubs in America but the time he spent at Oakland Hills Country Club stands alone.
“My most treasured memories are from Oakland Hills,” said Mengert, a man whose achievements covered every facet of the game.
From player to teacher to administrator and everything in between, Mengert excelled. He won the Michigan PGA Professional Championship and Michigan Senior Open twice each and he won the Michigan Senior PGA three times. His playing accomplishments include winning the U.S. National Junior Championship in 1946 and 1947. He defeated the great Gene Littler in the final in ‘47. Not long afterward, Mengert won the U.S. Armed Services championship and one later, in 1952, he was ranked the No. 1 amateur in the United States.
Mengert’s many contributions to golf including being the founder and developer of the innovative Legend Trail Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. He continued the long list of distinguished club professionals at Oakland Hills. The legendary Walter Hagen was the first and the list includes Al Watrous, a Ryder Cup player in the early days of the competition, and Mike Souchak. Mengert followed Souchak as head professional after Souchak’s departure in 1973. Mengert remained 12 years. Mengert was that rare professional who could play as well as he taught, and he was exceptional in both.
A native of Spokane, Washington, he served in the Washington Air National Guard and U.S. Air Force in the early 1950s at the same time he was producing some of the significant victories early in his career. He also won state open titles in New Jersey (three), Washington State (four), Idaho (two) and Arizona, Missouri and Ohio once each, and won titles in 10 PGA sections around the country. He turned professional in 1952 and his first job was as an assistant club professional at Winged Foot where Masters champion Claude Harmon was the head professional.
His best finish in a major golf championship – he played in 27 of them – came at the 1958 Masters Tournament. After three rounds, he was tied for fourth, two shots off the lead and finished tied for ninth. With six holes to play he was tied for the lead with eventual champion Arnold Palmer, who charged on to win. Mengert played in eight Masters, and in his first was the only active military man to ever play in a Masters.
Mengert was also the first-round leader with a 67 at the 1966 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. He stayed in the top seven into the final round and finished in a tie for 26th place.
“I led the world for one day,” Mengert said.
Al passed away April 6, 2021, fittingly during a Masters Tournament week.
Year inducted: 2019