Celebrating 100 Years
The history of Latrobe Country Club spans a century and it bears the stamps of many prominent citizens of the Greater Latrobe community, none of more significance than those of Milfred J. (Deacon) Palmer and his world-famous son, Arnold.
Latrobe Country Club was founded in 1920 by a group of leading industrialists, bankers and professional men of Latrobe, who acquired some 63 acres of the Kennan Farm bordering what was then the national Lincoln Highway (U.S. Route 30) just west of the small community of Youngstown. By the summer of 1921, work was well underway on the golf course and clubhouse and among those on the job was a teenager by the name of Deke Palmer. He worked with employees of Latrobe Electric Steel Company in the construction of the club in those years immediately after World War I.
From that hilly plot of ground, much of it covered with shale and briars, emerged within the next two or three years a short but imaginative nine-hole course. During the next two decades, the club made slow but steady progress despite the tough economic times. Small additional tracts of land were acquired, allowing for revisions which improved the layout of the nine-hole course. Major progress occurred following the formation in 1944 of the Unity Land Company, which became the owner of the property and financed the further acquisition of property and expansion of the clubhouse and other facilities.
Ultimately, by the early 1960s, sufficient land has been acquired to enable plans for an 18-hole course to be drawn. Both Deke and Arnold Palmer contributed heavily to the design of the nine new holes and the revamping of the existing holes to fit the layout. Construction began in 1963 and the new holes and 10 new greens were opened for play the following season on a course that, in layout, was basically as it is today.
The 6,377-yard, par-72 course matured into a beautiful and demanding test of golf, thanks primarily to the diligence and constant care of Deke Palmer, second son Jerry, current superintendent Martin Repko and their experienced grounds crews and the planting of many thousands of pines and other trees over the years on the club's 110 acres.
The progress of course improvement, along with other modernization and expansion of the club's physical plans, was accelerated following Arnold Palmer's purchase of the club in September of 1971. Construction of tennis courts, a halfway house, additional maintenance and cart storage structures and the present mixed grille room, along with refurbishing of much of the clubhouse, inside and out, and the swimming pool/bathhouse were major improvements during and since the early 1970s. The course and structures on the grounds have been constantly upgraded with many of the holes revised, a modern automatic irrigation system installed, permanent cart paths constructed and a practice range created.
Deacon Palmer, who had become the grounds superintendent in 1926 and the golf professional in 1932, remained active until his death at the age of 71 in February 1976, although he retired as golf professional the previous fall. Jerry Palmer had begun to work with his father in 1975 and took over as superintendent when his father passed away. He became the general manager of all of Arnold's Latrobe area properties in 1989, Repko becoming the superintendent at that time. Randy Bisi, an area native and former assistant to 11-year professional Bruce Rearick, succeeded him as head pro in 1996. Matt Pellis, who was the former assistant to Bisi, is the current head pro.
From the very beginning, the club was to be the pulse of the community. A place that friends from all walks of life could gather, compete and enjoy the serenity. We’re proud to continue that legacy today.
When Latrobe Country Club was founded in 1921, the golf course was built on farmland. It’s hard to imagine today, but back then there were very few trees on this relatively open parcel of land. So, Deacon Palmer embarked on a massive tree planting campaign. About 75 percent of the trees found on the course today were planted by Deacon. One of them, a red pine between the first and eighteenth hole, died recently and was in the process of being cut down. Arnold Palmer suggested that the stump be left and converted into a giant carving of his father. His brother, Jerry, hired renown local woodcarver Joe King to transform the 12-foot red pine into a sentimental tribute to their father. King has since been commissioned to construct Arnold Palmer likenesses at popular Palmer courses in Virginia Beach and Roanoke, West Virginia.
When Arnold Palmer was designing the back nine at Latrobe Country Club, he wanted to create something that was innovative, yet reflective of western Pennsylvania’s rich culture and traditions. He found his inspiration in a watery hazard. A picturesque creek cuts comes into play on several challenging holes on the back nine. So instead of building utilitarian rain shelters on this part of the course, Palmer decided to construct covered bridges that could provide protection when storms kicked up. These beautiful, red, covered bridges are so popular that artists and photographers from across the United States now come to Latrobe just to capture their image.