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Yale benefactor
Interviewed on November 11, 2004

Interview (1 hr 10 mins)

William S. Beinecke graduated from the Yale class of 1936 and from Columbia Law school in 1940. He served in the US Navy from 1941-45 as an officer on destroyers in nine Pacific battles.

Mr. Beinecke learned to play golf at Baltusrol, and he played “quite a bit” of recreational golf while he was a student. However, he said that he wasn’t aware that the varsity team was winning national championships. At the time, the clubhouse was a “shack” with food service and a hot dog stand in the parking lot where the cart barn is today. He played JV football, which was coached by Gerald Ford (then a student in the Law School). During WWII, he played golf at Pearl Harbor in 1945 on the day of FDR’s funeral at the course where “Light Horse” Harry Cooper was the pro.

Mr. Beinecke became a major benefactor of Yale golf and its course. In 1965 he made a significant donation for an complete in-ground watering system. At the dedication, he played with Ellis Knowles, the 1907 US Amateur runner-up and intercollegiate champion. He also gave further funds for the acquisition of carts and the laying of cart paths. Widdy Neale once drove him down the precipitous hill path from the thirteenth-hole tee box, an experience that led Beinecke to help arrange a land swap with the water company to allow the safer present route. Then in 1979, he and his Prospect Hill Foundation made the donation for constructing the present Prospect Hill clubhouse. Back in the 1940’s, the “shack” that Beinecke remembered from his college years had been expanded to include a locker room and lunch counter. The Prospect Hill clubhouse was specifically designed around the fireplace from the original “shack.”

While on the board of trustees he was a defender of the course, but “never heard any talk of selling the course.” During the summer he plays at Eastward Ho in Chatham on Cape Cod where a portrait of Jess Sweetser hangs in the bar room. He played with Jess Sweetser and Watts Gunn in the 1960’s at the Cotton Bay Club on the island of Aleuthria. Sweetser was reprimanded by Gunn for his coarse language, saying “think of Bob up there in Atlanta not able to play golf anymore.” Watts Gunn and Bob Jones had been boyhood friends, and when they played in the final of the 1925 US Amateur it was the only time that members of the same club (East Lake) had done so. Now Beinecke plays in Father-Son Golf Association tournaments, and the Beineckes have twice been the three-generation champions. Dave Paterson started W. S. Beinecke Alumni Guest Tournament in his honor in the 1980’s.