OAKLAND — Looking out over the emerald green contoured fairways at the Waterville Country Club today, it’s difficult to visualize what the course looked like when it opened 100 years ago, in October of 1916, when there was virtually no mechanized equipment to to maintain the original nine holes.

We do know this newspaper chronicled the opening and nearly 1,000 people showed up to commemorate it. The first to tee off was Francis Ouimet, the country’s best known golfer and winner of the 1913 U.S. Open. Boston attorney William Noble, who laid out the original course, was in the first group to tee off along with state champion C.B. Erswell of Brunswick, who scored a hole in one that day on the sixth hole.

The club went through bankruptcy in the 1930s, survived another financial scare in the 1940s, lost its original clubhouse in a fire in 1977 and has emerged as one of the state’s gems, consistently rated among the top 10 courses in the state.

The club is holding a centennial celebration this week, beginning today with an Old 9 tournament and trivia night and concluding with a Centennial Tourney on Saturday. Ladies Day will be held Thursday and a Best Dressed event, chronicaling golf clothing styles over the past 100 years, will be held Friday. The number 1916 runs prominently through the events, with both Thursday’s lobster bake and Friday’s pig roast costing $19.16 per person. Guest fees this week will also be $19.16.

Rounds are up this year, according to head pro Don Roberts, who came to Waterville in 1998.

“We did 3,200 rounds in June last year and 4,100 this year,” Roberts said. “And our membership is up 10 percent. There’s a younger group in now. I think it’s pretty diverse.”

The golf course remains the main attraction.

“It never was a club for rich people,” Richard “Pete” Moss said.

Moss has written three books on golf, including Golf and the American Country Club, as well as a short history of the Waterville Country Club. He was a member at Waterville for 15 years and currently lives in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

He chronicled the club’s financial problems as well as its architectural progress.

For awhile they had two boards of directors,” Moss said. “It wasn’t resolved for several years. It’s a miracle the club survived.”

Although several professional people are members of the semi-private club, Moss said there have been many laborers, teachers and office workers who have joined the club over the years. Membership originally cost $25 a year with women and children allowed to play for free. It remains a good bargain today at $1525 for a single, $1196 for those under age 38 and $750 for those under 29.

“If you play golf 50-60 times a year it’s really a good deal,” Moss said.

The course was redesigned in 1938 by Orrin E. Smith, who worked several years for renowned architect Donald Ross. It underwent another redesign by Geoffrey Cornish and expanded to 18 holes in 1967. Moss, who has spoken to Cornish on a few occasions, said the architect doubted little was done to the original land.

“It lays pretty natural on the land,” Moss said. “I don’t think anyone plowed it up. The course is laid out on hard clay and big rocks. Every once in a while a rock will push itself up in a fairway.”

The par 70 course measures 6,301 yards and its layout is fairly unusual in that both par 5s are on the front nine and there are four par 3s, two short and two long.

Small greens and contoured fairways add to the course difficulty. Cornish disciple Brian Silva recommended contoured mowing patterns which don’t delineate fairways and rough in a straight line as many courses do. This adds to eye appeal, makes driving more difficult and reduces the amount of fairways that need to be maintained.

Members had just approved $25,000 in improvements for the original clubhouse before it burned down June 24, 1977. Being a Saturday morning, members still stuck to their regular tees times. As Moss said, Waterville Country Club is all about the golf and through the years it has produced some great competitors, led by six-time Maine Amateur champion Dick Diversi who also recorded three second-place finishes. Oren Shiro became the oldest winner of the tournament at his home club of Waterville at age 59 in 1979. The club hosted the Maine Open in 1918, the first of 10 Maine Amateurs in 1920 and the New England Amateur in 2000.

Ouimet, who shot 79 on opening day, was the first of a long line of luminaries who have tested the course, including Gene Sarazen, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson.

Much has changed since Nathanial Barrow made two land purchases totaling 155 acres in Oakland early in 1916, The original intent, to build a golf course and clubhouse for central Maine families to spend their leisure time, remains the same.

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