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Al Mengert, longtime Oakland Hills pro who contended at U.S. Open, Masters, dies at 91

Lifestyle

April 13 - Once the world’s No. 1 amateur golfer, Al Mengert competed in two US Open and one Masters and spent more than a decade as a senior pro at Oakland Hills Country Club.

Mengert died on April 6, the day before his 92nd birthday, in his hometown of Washington, according to The Spokesman Review.

Mengert is a member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, which was inducted in 2019. He won the Michigan PGA Professional Championship twice, the Michigan Senior Open twice, and the Michigan Senior PGA Championship three times.

He became Head Pro at Oakland Hills, Bloomfield Township in 1973 and stayed through 1985. His Michigan Golf Hall of Fame profile calls him “the rare professional who could play as well as he taught, and he was exceptional in both areas “.

“My most precious memories are from Oakland Hills,” said Mengert, who helped the club celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2016.

And he had many precious memories, first as an amateur, and rose to number 1 in the world in 1952 before turning pro. He won the US National Junior Championship for two consecutive years in 1946 and 1947 and defeated the later World Golf Hall of Famer Gene Littler in the 1947 finals.

Mengert won state Open titles in Washington (four), New Jersey (three), Idaho (two) and Arizona, Missouri and Ohio (once each) as an amateur - some of these titles camewhen she served in the Washington Air National Guard and the US Air Force in the early 1950s

He won the Mexican Amateur in 1950 and came second in the US Amateur in 1952. He fell to Jack Westland, 3 and 2, in the 36-hole championship game of Seattle Country Club.

This result came as a surprise and Mengert struggled with flu and dehydration during the game. He didn’t announce that until 60 years later in an interview with the Seattle Times because he didn’t want to compromise his opponent’s performance.

In his amateur final, he beat Ken Venturi and won the Morse Cup at Cypress Point, California.

Mengert turned pro in 1952 and moved to New York’s Winged Foot, one of several iconic clubs he has worked for over the years.

He played part time on the PGA Tour,because the club pro gigs paid more back then, but he was a factor in several major championships. Mengert played in 27 majors, including eight Masters - he was the only active military member to ever compete in the Masters, and his best performance in Augusta came in 1958 when he finished fourth after three rounds and with Arnold Palmer with six holes on Sunday took the lead. Palmer shot a final round 73 to win his first Masters and Mengert shot 76 to finish ninth.

Mengert finished 13th at the 1954 US Open in Baltusrol, New Jersey, and took the lead in the first round at the 1966 Olympic Club in California with 67 points.

“That was probably the high point of his professional career”,Mengert’s son Thomas told the Spokesman Review about the first-round lead at the 66 US Open. “The whole family was there and we went the course with him. I wonder how much time he had to keep his game in shape because he was teaching all the time, but he got the whole field after the first Day led. "

Mengert tied for seventh place in the finals but shot a final 81 and finished 26th in a major won by Billy Casper in an 18-hole playoff against Palmer.

Mengert finished 18th at the 1970 PGA Championship in Southern Hills, Oklahoma.

One of his best years was in 1960 when he so dominated the New Jersey golf scene - led by the Met Open title, whose former champions included greats like Walter Hagen,Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson - he was named the New Jersey Professional Athlete of the Year over New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra. That year he even appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Mengert was also a star football player in high school in Spokane, Washington, and attended Stanford briefly.

Mengert, who was retiring in Arizona and Oregon, was married to the late Donna Jacobson and the couple had four children.

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tpaul@detroitnews.com

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