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Charles Manson, a judge and a vote that kept the U.S. Open from Los Angeles CC…until now

By John Strege

Los Angeles Country Club has a colorful history that includes its proximity to the Playboy Mansion (adjacent to the 13th green) and Groucho Marx’ failed bid to join, prompting him to famously say, “Why would I want to belong to a club that would have me as a member?”

Its history, too, has included occasional flirtations with the USGA about playing the U.S. Open on its renowned North Course, the latest chapter revealed on Thursday.

Los Angeles North.jpg

The ’54 U.S. Junior Amateur, meanwhile, was played at LACC and was to be a prelude to its hosting the U.S. Amateur in ’56 (and likely the U.S. Open sometime after that). But when a crowd of 3,500 showed up for the Junior Amateur final, the membership recoiled at the thought of crowds traipsing across its course that it withdrew its offer to host the Amateur.

The last time that LACC entertained U.S. Open overtures was 1982. Sandy Tatum, a past president of the USGA and a powerbroker within the organization, grew up playing LACC (his father was a member) and was a strong advocate on behalf of the 1986 Open going there.

Tatum also had an ally in the club president at the time, Judge Charles Older. His Honor was no obscure judge, incidentally. He was the presiding judge in the trial of serial killer Charles Manson in 1971 and was the man who sentenced Manson to death.

Eddie Merrins, then the head pro at nearby Bel-Air Country Club, once said that Older wished to bring the Open to LACC “so [the public] could see that the members of the club weren't so bad after all.”

Two years before Older’s death in 2006, I reached him by phone to ask about the Open discussions. “I don’t think I want to talk about that,” Older said, hewing to the club’s policy of keeping club business private.

Older reportedly was one of four on the LACC board in favor of the club hosting the Open. But five were opposed. End of discussion. Until now.

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