Fred Brand, a Carnoustie village boy with a rangy build and thick, powerful hands, showed up at his home links one day in 1902 to play the round of his life. The Scottish Open was under way at Carnoustie, and Freddie, straight out of high school, had somehow scrapped his way to the semifinals. Brand's opponent would be the English champion, J. H. Taylor, holder of three British Open titles (and ultimately two more). But Taylor couldn't keep pace with the local boy that day. Brand sent him back home to Surrey and advanced to the finals, where he would lose the medal to another titan of the times, Alexander Herd.
Watching from the gallery as Brand upset Taylor were two brothers from one of Pittsburgh's wealthiest families, Eben and J. F. Byers. They were members of the fledgling Allegheny Country Club, which was relocating to a site that offered superior golf terrain. When the transition was complete, the club would need a full-time professional. Brand's showing against Taylor made a strong enough impression to earn him a job offer from the Byers brothers, and he left Scotland the next year to become one of Pittsburgh's first Carnoustie-bred golf pros.
There would be others. Not long after Brand's arrival in 1903, Steel City clubs would employ a dozen or more transplants from Carnoustie, which for its small size produced an astounding number of emigrant pros, club makers and greenskeepers to nurture the game's expansion. Carnoustie's golf diaspora is confirmed by a roadside plaque in the village, filled with the logos and crests of golf organizations its sons helped establish. These span the globe, from North America to Australia, South Africa and other far-flung ports.
But of all U.S. cities, Pittsburgh was the most significant and enduring terminus of the Carnoustie exodus. And this year, for the first time since Ben Hogan's three-major-victory campaign of 1953, the U.S. and British Opens will be staged, respectively, at Oakmont and Carnoustie, providing an ideal opportunity to examine the historical ties that bind the two clubs.
At Oakmont, the Carnoustie connection began in 1905 with Peter Robertson, the club's first pro, who arrived in the Steel City not long after Fred Brand. Robertson was a keen competitor who during his tenure would vie with the club founder's son, W. C. Fownes, over the honor of who held the Oakmont course record. (A club history shows that Robertson's sixty-nine stood up for several years against W. C.'s seventy.) Robertson played in all seven U.S. Opens during his time at Oakmont, which ended in 1912. His brothers Davie and Willie had followed him over from Carnoustie, and each worked as an Oakmont assistant. Willie is identified as the club-making specialist, a common division of labor in pro shops.
When Peter Robertson left for a job in Fall River, Massachusetts, Oakmont founder H. C. Fownes, himself of Scots descent, hired Tom Anderson from North Berwick. But two years later Fownes went back to the Carnoustie well and brought in Macdonald Smith, a first-rank player who didn't last in the job, and then Charlie Rowe, who did.
Although Fred Brand's club-pro career in greater Pittsburgh never included a stop at Oakmont, his two sons were fixtures there. Graduates of Penn State and tournament golfers themselves, the brothers joined Oakmont after college and military service and contributed vigorously to the club's high profile in American golf. The younger brother, Jack, who died this year at age eighty-seven, was chair or cochair at Oakmont for two U.S. Opens as well as the 1969 U.S. Amateur and the 1978 PGA Championship. His older brother, Fred Jr., a USGA Executive Committee member, received the 1997 Bob Jones Award for distinguished service. He passed away the following year.