Hanse says the first time the entire group got together, on a cold winter day at a brick-oven pizzeria just down the road, he was struck by everyone’s enthusiasm and command of their respective fields. “John found these people and brought them together,” Hanse says, “and that passion and discussion continued whenever we would have a get-together. There was always a lot of good-natured ribbing. John loved the give and take.”
A couple of years later, when the course finally opened, Mineck missed that level of engagement. “More than anything,” reflects Hanse, “he just loved the process—the thought that went into it, how things were created. And while he was happy and excited once the course was done, I think he was sad because the process was finished.” Jim Wagner, Hanse’s design partner, remembers getting calls from Mineck while working on a subsequent project, the restoration of TPC Boston. “He wanted to come out and have some fun,” Wagner says, “and to him having fun was hopping on equipment and building bunkers.” Sure enough, Mineck joined Wagner at the site, and the designer found a job for him: operating an excavator to collapse the edges of a greenside bunker and give it a more natural look.
I returned to Boston Golf Club last May to see the new clubhouse and to get a feel for how things were going in Mineck’s absence. Ketterson graciously found a place for me in the Member Mixer, a tournament that would be followed by a party to christen the clubhouse.
Despite ominous skies and a passing shower, the sixty-odd players in the field—hale New Englanders who know how to hit and move—made their way around the course in a brisk four hours. Afterward, they paid their caddies and headed to the locker room, which was newly finished and smelled like a cedar closet. They showered, threw on fresh shirts and walked over to the Main House, a cabin-in-the-woods-style clubhouse that many were seeing for the first time.
The building is purposefully modest; it was hominess that Mineck and Ketterson wanted most. They flew around the country visiting other clubs for inspiration, and their favorite was the understated farmhouse-style clubhouse at Chechessee Creek Club in Okatie, South Carolina. Borrowing on that model, the Main House sits unobtrusively on a ridge within a grove of trees. With red cedar siding, a screen porch and a pair of stone chimneys, it looks like a mountain cottage in Vermont. Already small, it’s also divided into a series of intimate spaces: a billiard room, a library, a dining room of seven tables. “If a guy comes in on a winter morning,” Hank Gilpin told me, “he can go into any room and he won’t feel like he’s twenty-five people shy of a comfortable place.” Gilpin oversaw the clubhouse project after Mineck, dissatisfied with how it was taking shape, fired six architects and a seventh quit.
By design, there are no seats at the bar. Instead, a twenty-foot-long table runs along a wall of windows. The richly grained table is a halved log from a curly red oak felled on what became the ninth hole. Gilpin handcrafted eight organically shaped stools to go with it, and they face out onto the par-three eighteenth hole, creating a gallery for players finishing up, just as Mineck wished. “I want a little pressure out here,” he used to say.
Among many clubhouse amenities Mineck planned but never got to enjoy is a rather quirky one that, naturally, he was proud of: an outdoor shower. Hidden for privacy by a rock wall, the shower is formed by blocks of granite, stacked chest-high, that were being discarded by Trinity Church in Boston. Anyone using the shower can see over to the eighteenth green.
In at least one respect, however, the clubhouse and a cottage built on the property haven’t been outfitted entirely to Mineck’s desires: both are furnished with televisions. Mineck disliked TV and would proudly state that he didn’t have a single set in his home in Cohasset. A flat-screen in the Main House was tuned to a Red Sox game on the night of the Member Mixer. The cottage has multiple sets, reflecting, as one staff member quietly told me, the preference of Ketterson, who sometimes stays over in the cottage instead of driving home to his residence in Beacon Hill.
With the Main House and locker room now completed, along with that one cottage (more are planned), Ketterson says Boston Golf Club is attracting national members. He declined to disclose the cost of a national or a regular membership. When I asked him last fall whether the economic slowdown had affected the club, he said that despite hard times membership was continuing to grow. Current members include a cross- section of New England’s athletic and business elite. In addition to Faxon, an honorary member and frequent visitor, the list includes Sean McDonough, the ABC/ESPN sportscaster and son of legendary Globe sportswriter Will McDonough, and Seth Waugh, CEO of Deutsche Bank Americas.
During the evening at the Member Mixer, no speeches or toasts were made in Mineck’s honor, but his name came up often in conversation. Before going out to play that day, Carl Klumpp, a founding member who had met Mineck when they both worked for Gillette, rubbed a green Boston Golf Club cap that Mineck had been wearing at the time of his fatal accident. Klumpp keeps it in his locker and performs the ritual before every round. Once the dining room had filled and members began spilling into the library, Klumpp took in the scene and smiled. “John,” he told me, “would have been thrilled.”