The Golf Course at Black River: the Evolution of a Golden Age Links
Oscar Mueller and Fred Riggin Build Their Dream
by Anthony C Gholz Jr
History of a classic 1920s Golden Age golf course originally designed by Wilfrid Reid, then the pro at the CC of Detroit and later architect of Indianwood, site of the 1930 Western Open. Redesigned later by an Irish immigrant pro, and still later by Indiana Amateur Champion and founding member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, William Diddel. The course was founded by Oscar Mueller, winner of the first automobile race in the US and leader in the Illinois family brass and auto parts business. He was sole owner of the Port Huron, Michigan Mueller Co. having started it with Fred Riggin, another Illinois native, in 1917 as a munitions firm producing shell casings for the U.S. during WWI. In a classic story of ego and early feminism, he decided to build the course when his daughter wasn't allowed to play before noon on Saturday at his local club. The daughter died tragically on her honeymoon and never played the course. The course became the site for many State tournaments including the Michigan Open and four Michigan Amateurs that involved many of the leading pros and Amateurs of the day including major champions Tommy Armour, Denny Shute, Masters winner Horton Smith, native son Walter Burkemo winner of the 1953 PGA, and Michigan's all-time amateur great Chuck Kocsis. Walker Cup team member Kocsis played the course annually in the club's Invitational tournament. When Mueller retired after his only son also died in an automobile accident, Fred Riggin took his place as both the head of the company and golf club. He led the club during its glory days as one of the leading club's in the Detroit District during the post war 40s and 50s. The history of the club is told with drawings and photos going back to 1918 including engineered surveys of the course in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s as well as many historical photos taken of and at the club.
Anthony C Gholz Jr was born in Detroit and moved with his parents to Port Huron, Michigan in 1950. Gholz graduated from Port Huron High School and spent six years at Syracuse University attaining an undergraduate AB as well as Bachelor's and Master's of Architecture degrees. Midway through his Syracuse experience he was a member of the Taliesin fellowship of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. he retired from the active practice of architecture in 2011 after 24 years in association with Gunnar Birkerts in Birmingham, Michigan and 15 years as Director of Architectural Design with DiClemente Siegel Design in Southfield. He resides in Troy, Michigan with his wife Mary. They have two adult children.
One Hundred Fifteen Years of Golf in Port Huron Published September 13, 2015