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Reusse blog: Kidd family's link to Interlachen will live on

  • Blog Post by: Patrick Reusse
  • May 30, 2014 - 5:41 AM

Bill Kidd, the head professional at Interlachen from 1958 to 1993, died this week at age 86. There will be a memorial service for Bill on Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Church of St. Patrick in Edina. Here's a column I wrote in 1993 on the Kidd family's amazing link to Interlachen, the magnicent track in Edina:

THE GOLFERS IN MONIFIETH, Scotland, were of the opinion that the proper way to advance a ball across the links was with a fade. A few miles down the coast, in Carnoustie, the gentlemen were as firm in the opinion that the way to play was with a slight hook.

"My father said this would lead to long hours of discussion, when the men from Monifieth and Carnoustie would get together for a match," Billy Kidd said. And then Billy squinted into the morning sun and smiled, thinking of how wonderful that must have been, a group of turn-of-this-century Scotsmen, sipping a fine malt beverage and debating the merits of the fade and the draw.

This was Friday and Kidd was sitting on the deck above Interlachen golf course. It was mid-morning, but the members and their fortunate guests were just starting to embark on their
journeys across 160 of the most splendid acres on the planet. In this state of wonderful golf courses, Interlachen is the grand, leafy lady, and the Kidds get a giant place in its magnificent
history.

Willie Kidd was born in Monifieth in 1885. His first full-time occupation was as a millwright. "With all that summer daylight in northern Scotland, he was able to get in 36 holes after work," Billy said. "And that's what he did. . . . every day."

Willie Kidd soon discovered that he enjoyed golf more than repairing machinery. Some golfing friends had gone to the United States and returned to Scotland with stories that there was money to be made over here as a golf instructor. Willie was intrigued. He came to the States in 1908 and found a job at a golf course in Charlevois, Mich. He would teach during the day and repair the
hickory-shafted clubs at night. From there, Willie moved to Algonquin golf course in St. Louis.

Interlachen had its official opening in the countryside west of Minneapolis in 1911. Three years later, Interlachen was host to the Western Open. "The Western was considered a major championship at the time," Billy said. "My dad played and he finished second, behind a man named Jim Barnes. He made some contacts while he was here."

In 1920, Interlachen - a Scottish phrase for "between the lakes" - needed a golf pro, and it was able to hire Willie away from Algonquin. "He came to love this place," Billy said.

It was a love that Willie passed along to his only child. Billy
started working at Interlachen as a caddie in 1940, served in World War II, worked in the
pro shop after the war ended, went to a club in Bismarck, N.D., for a couple of years ("We had the only grass greens west of Fargo") and then replaced his father as Interlachen's head pro in 1958.

Should we do the math for you? Willie Kidd became the head pro at Interlachen in 1920. He retired in 1958 and was replaced by Billy Kidd. That means a Kidd has been in charge of the golf business at Interlachen for 74 awaking springs, green summers and golden autumns.

"I've never played a better golf course," Billy Kidd, 66, said Friday, sitting on the deck, overlooking the small lake on No. 9, where Bobby Jones skipped a shot across the water to win the U.S. Open championship in his grand slam year of 1930.

"I played one that was comparable a few years back - the East Course in Palm Beach Gardens [Fla.],’’ Kidd said. “Marvelous. Like this."

Billy's eyes moved across the panorama. Peering to the right, he could see the 10th green, so elevated that it must have been the highest structure in the Twin Cities area until the Foshay Tower came along.

"[Architect] Donald Ross did not have to move dirt to build that green site," Kidd said. "It was 1918, 1919, when he rebuilt the course. The equipment was horse-drawn. They couldn't move the dirt around like the golf architects do today. This is all nature, this layout."

At Interlachen, most any hole could be a player's favorite. Billy Kidd chooses No. 17, the reason being part of Interlachen's architectural history:

Willie Watson was responsible for the original layout, but it was re-routed completely by Ross in 1918-19. When Ross was finished, there was a short par-3 jammed into what is now a wooded area behind the 10th green.

In the early '30s, Willie Kidd designed a change that eliminated the short par-3 and led to two new holes - the dogleg, par-4 16th and the let-it-fly par-3 17th - "across the road." That's
what they call it at Interlachen when you go across the wooden bridge on Interlachen Blvd.

"I like the way Dad laid out the bunkers on 17, showing you the way to the green," Kidd said. "It's a long, tough par-3, but not unreasonable."

Interlachen was scheduled to play host to another Open in 1942. World War II's travel restrictions caused the U.S. Golf Association to cancel. These days, limitations for spectators and traffic have left Interlachen to be host for smaller events, such as the Walker Cup, the amateur competition between the U.S. and Great Britain, on Aug. 18-19.

The Walker Cup is about tradition. So are Interlachen and a Kidd in the pro shop. And with all of this coming together, Billy Kidd has decided to make this his final year in charge of Interlachen's golf business. He will retire on Dec. 31.

"We were in Scotland in 1980 for the 50th anniversary of Bobby Jones' grand slam," Kidd said. "A group played the golf courses - Interlachen and Merion in this country, Royal Liverpool and St. Andrews - where Jones won the four championships. I went to Monifieth to play the course where Dad played, and the man in the pro shop told me, `The legend is that your father drove the green on
the fifth hole.'

"It is a par-4, and I stepped it off at 410 yards. I hit a good drive, and I still had a 5-wood left to the green. My father hit it a long way, even though he wasn't a big man, but driving that green.
. . . with hickory."

No doubt, the Monifiethians still use Willie's legendary drive to prove to the Carnoustians that a fade is preferable to a draw. Bottom of Form

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