In 1929 General Electric Co. employees first organized The Patterson Club as a Dining and Social Club with 20 charter members. By the spring of 1930 it had over 100 members and was located at the beautiful Harral homestead at 123 Harrison Street in Bridgeport, CT. The Club's name was derived from Mr. C. E. Patterson, a Vice President and General Manager of the Appliance and Merchandise Department, as he both personally donated $10,000 to assist the Club in its formative years and was a great supporter of the Club internally at G.E. The founders were D.J. Murray, R.B. Elmendorf, Stanley M. Ford, L.C. Gilmore, C.T. Marshall, J.C. Beatty and A.E. Taylor. The Club life was governed by a constitution and by-laws formulated by the members themselves, which ìwere intended to promote the athletic, social and business interest of its members, and encourage social and business contacts between the younger members and those of greater business experience.î The founders' goals were modest at first with a City Club House, but ultimately they wanted to have a Golf and Country Club, similar to the Edison Club in Schenectady, New York.
General Electric Co., for the betterment of their local executives, purchased Quasset Farm, the home of Carlton H. Palmer and Winthrop Palmer, the first female CT State Senator, on December 24, 1945 so that the Club could be expanded to include facilities for golf. The Palmer family trained hunting and jumping horses on the 163-acre tract. The big white barn across the street from the main club entrance was once a horse barn and served as the equipment storage facility for more than 20 years. The original main clubhouse was the Franklin Banks' family farm home, which was located across the road from the current tennis courts. After some modifications, the Clubhouse was opened on June 15, 1946. The original farmhouse remained a major part of the members' clubhouse including numerous renovations and additions to accommodate a growing membership until the fall of 2010.
Under orders from The Patterson Club Committee and by the direction of Robert Trent Jones Sr. (the premier golf architect of his time), Neil Martin, the first greens superintendent, and the golf pro at Patterson built what he was directed to do: a difficult course to score upon. In its construction, workmen cleared 60 acres of woodland and swamps, buried five miles of farm stonewalls, and dug five artificial lakes, which dot the layout. It was determined by the Golf Committee, Robert Trent Jones, and Neil Martin that the golf course should have Scottish rolling types of greens and rolling fairways which ìmake it difficult for the good golfer and just the same for the average golfer.î
The Golf Course was opened on June 28, 1947, which was a beautiful sunny Saturday. The course was very young, having been constructed the previous fall and the Spring weather in 1947 was not kind with cool/cold temperatures and abnormally high rainfall occurring well into June. The fairways were rocky with an abundance of un-mowed areas since casual water was a constant problem. Nevertheless; the opening ceremonies went on. Attending the ribbon cutting ceremony and forming the first official foursome were Charles E. Wilson, President of General Electric, Phillip D. Reed, Chairman of General Electric, and renowned golfers Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen. Jones was under contract with Coca Cola at the time and Sarazen had business connections with General Electric and was a good friend of Neil Martin. Also present in the gallery was the course designer, Robert Trent Jones Sr.
Those members who witnessed the first official foursome stated, all were in awe of Bobby Jones but Sarazen was the clear favorite as he was born in the Fairfield area and was an Assistant Pro at Brooklawn for many years. Jones made par on the first four holes. Sarazen bogeyed the first and fourth. Both men took sixes on the fifth hole. Jones bogeyed the sixth (the original green on the hill) and parred seven, eight and nine. Sarazen parred six through nine. Jones had a 38 on the front and Sarazen shot 39. The quality of golf picked up as Sarazen birdied ten and eleven. After the thirteenth hole Sarazen was two stokes ahead as on thirteen there was a large bunker located in the right mound, which Jones found and made bogey. From the fourteenth hole through the eighteenth, the course was different than it is today. The fourteenth hole then, is now our seventeenth. Jones birdied that fourteenth hole. Both men parred the fifteenth (now our sixteenth) which sported a giant bunker spanning almost the length of the green. At the sixteenth (now our fourteenth), Jones birdied from 40 feet. On the seventeenth (now number fifteen), Jones continued to put on the pressure with a par, while Sarazen bogeyed the hole. The tee on the eighteen was in back of where our number sixteen tee is now. Jones was down in front of the original eighteen green in two, and Sarazen found the rear bunker in three. Jones was down in front of the original eighteen green in two, and Sarazen found the rear bunker in three. Jones did not pitch well, but Sarazen amazed all by holing out of the bunker for a birdie. Jones missed his putt and then their exciting match ended with both carding 74s. It is reported that this was one of the last rounds Bobby Jones every played.
In the ensuing years, many of General Electric's business were transferred out of Bridgeport and the number of employees interested in The Patterson Club membership dropped sharply. To maintain the viability of the Club, membership was extended to so-called "Community members" as early as the late 1940's. By 1967 the community members far outnumbered the General Electric members. Additionally during this period, only one community member was selected as a representative of such members to the Board. This was obviously an untenable arrangement for the long-term viability of the Club. The Officers and Directors of the Club felt that the status of the Club should be reviewed as well as exploring the sale of the Club to its membership.
With appraisals that ranged up to two million dollars for the real estate, some General Electric employees met with the General Electric Chairman, and during the meeting it was agreed that the membership would purchase the property for $400,000. There would be a $100,000 down payment made by the membership and the remaining amount financed by a 25-year mortgage with 4% interest with GE Realty Corporation. In 1968, a benchmark in the Club's history was reached when the real estate, comprising the entire land acreage, buildings, structures, and improvements was purchased from General Electric Co. and the Club achieved status as a member-owned Country Club.
The current Patterson Club's location has seen constant improvements to its facilities since the day it opened. A continually growing membership sought upgrades as families were actively joining and using all aspects of the Club. Several Presidents developed master plans for the Club with most focusing on improving the facilities. Through the period from 1946 through 2005 the membership voted to implement many recommendations from the master plans. From the time of the purchase of the Palmer property and over the next 60 years, the original clubhouse and golf locker room building received many updates and improvements. The Club was growing extensively during this time with very active family participation forcing these buildings and their usages to evolve. All Patterson Boards during this time period were actively trying to improve the Clubhouse and the locker room building in an effort to meet the demands of the members.
There were numerous extensive efforts to improve the golf course including the change of greens, the periodical strengthening and updating of the irrigation system, the reconstruction of bunkers, surrounds, and tees, the dredging of ponds, the constant improvement in drainage, and the construction of the maintenance building in 1979.
There have been many tennis and platform tennis improvements over the years as well. A cow barn for livestock had to be removed to create the early tennis courts. The two original clay courts were constructed from materials on the property with bank gravel, clay and large amounts of cinder ash trucked in from the Bridgeport General Electric plant. These were constructed under the direction of member/GE Engineer, Milton Greenhalgh. In subsequent years, five Har-Tru tennis courts replaced the original two tennis courts and two new courts were added in 1997. The four platform tennis courts have been added over time as the sport gained popularity and they are one of the most actively used facilities the Club. The platform tennis building was updated in the early 2000's to include bathrooms as well as a social area for members to gather.
A pool and associated facilities have been part of the Club since the late 1940's. The pool area has always been at its current location. The pool and the pool house have received several major updates throughout their time (1956, 1970, 1971, 1996 and 2002).
In the late months of 2003, the Board agreed to begin an effort to complete a master plan for each area of the Club and to provide recommendations to the membership for each. In 2006 the membership voted on, approved, and committed to the construction of a new clubhouse which was to be designed by Mark Finlay Associates and located on the old first and tenth tees. This also included a new complete master golf plan from the renowned golf architect Rees Jones, son of Robert Trent Jones. The new clubhouse was completed in 2010, combining both functions of the original clubhouse and locker room buildings. The new building provides expansive and enjoyable social settings for the members and their guests as well as improving on the flow and functionality of club operations. The members celebrated the Grand Opening of the new Clubhouse in May of 2010.
The new master plan for the golf course focused on maintainability, playability and aesthetics. Using Rees Jones' Senior Design associate Greg Muirhead, the Club developed a comprehensive plan to improve the playability of the course for golfers of all levels. Muirhead brought extensive renovation experience to the project design and oversaw the three-year program of tee construction, bunker reconstruction, re-grassing of the greens, re-construction of the sixth and eighteenth greens and the addition of the putting green adjacent to the new clubhouse. Rees's unique design features greatly enhanced the course while seamlessly maintaining Robert Trent Jones Sr.'s original vision and layout.