Monday, September 16, 2019

Island Country Club’s link to golfing history

Meticulously maintained world class golf course. Submitted photos

Meticulously maintained world class golf course. Submitted photos

By Melody Kappauf

Island Country Club has been a well-known and respected fixture on Marco Island and a support to the community since 1966 when it was developed by the Deltona Corporation. The club has a strong foundation for future growth, and boasts of its unique, historical link to the golfing world.

“Champagne” Tony Lema was the Island Country Club’s first resident golf pro. Lema had nineteen professional wins including the 1964 British Open and back to back Buick Opens in 1964 and 1965. He was a member of the 1965 and 1965 Ryder Cup Team and his record (9-1-1) is the best of any player who has played in two or more. Unfortunately, Lema’s life and career were cut short by his untimely death in a plane crash, at the age of 32 in 1966. Following

Back view of the Clubhouse with balconies overlooking grounds.

Back view of the Clubhouse with balconies overlooking grounds.

his death, the club hosted the annual Tony Lema Memorial Golf Tournament from 1967 to 1980. This tournament was attended by many of Hollywood top celebrities and elite players from the golfing world.

Island Country Club was also the home of Gene Sarazen, who made an indelible impact on golf and on Marco Island. Mr. Sarazen, the son of Italian immigrants, loved the game of golf and was committed to becoming the best player the game had ever seen. Nicknamed “The Squire”, his goal was accomplished by having thirty-nine tour victories and winning seven major championships in the 1920s and 1930s, securing his induction into the Golf Hall of Fame in 1974. One of his most notable victories was when he won The Masters in 1935, with “the shot heard ‘round the world”. He had a

Front entry to the Clubhouse.

Front entry to the Clubhouse.

very rare double eagle on hole number 15, a par five, to tie and ultimately win the prestigious tournament. For many years, until his declining health prevented him, he was invited back to The Masters to hit the ceremonial opening tee shot. Mr. Sarazen, known for inventing the modern sand wedge donated many of his trophies and photographs of his life and career to Island Country Club, where they are still proudly on display. In addition to his contributions to the game of golf, Gene and his wife Mary, founded several scholarships and raised money for many charities and institutions, right here on Marco. He was the Island Country Club’s resident golf pro and kept an office at the club, until his death on May 13, 1999 at the age of 97.

In addition to its

Tennis courts for ready play.

Tennis courts for ready play.

many other renowned members, Island Country Club is most proud of its contributions to Marco Island….and beyond. The Club’s members created the Island Country Club Charitable Foundation, which raises and distributes funds to local charities. Since its inception, the Foundation has given away over 1 million dollars. The members also support the Joy of Giving and raise money for needy families during the holidays. The Marco Police Foundation hosts their annual golf tournament at the Island Country Club each year, with much success.

Island Country Club is much more than just a building or a golf course; it is an important part of Marco Island and the surrounding areas. Its members are deeply committed to the community and put their words and beliefs into actions, for they know, that without Marco Island, there would be no Island Country Club.

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