William Sperry Beinecke
Benefactor of the Yale Golf Course
A passion for the game, a lifelong commitment to the University, and the great success of The Sperry and Hutchinson Company (S & H Green Stamps) have led William S. “Bill” Beinecke (Class of 1936) to be the principal benefactor of the Yale Golf Course for more than a half century.
Bill Beinecke attended Westminster School and Phillips Academy before he came to Yale. Although he had his first golf lesson at age eleven at Baltusrol, he really learned to play golf at the Madison Golf Club in Madison, New Jersey and the Morris County Golf Club in Convent, New Jersey. At Yale he played quite a bit of recreational golf, although, as a student, he was unaware that the varsity golf team won intercollegiate championships in 1933 and 1936. After graduation he went to Columbia Law School and graduated in 1940. In 1941 he joined the US Navy and served in the destroyer fleets of both the Atlantic and Pacific theatres. He was involved in nine Pacific battles, was awarded the Bronze Star, and was discharged as a lieutenant commander in 1945. Even during the war he found a few opportunities to play golf. After the war he helped found the law firm of Casey, Beinecke and Chase in New York City. In 1952, Beinecke joined The Sperry and Hutchinson Company, co-founded by his great-uncle Thomas Sperry, as its general counsel. He became president in 1960, and later, chairman. He retired in 1980.
Beinecke has played golf all over the world with many fascinating people. One of his most memorable rounds was at the Cotton Bay Club on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. There, he and his friend John T. (Jack) Connor played with Jess Sweetser and Watts Gunn, who had played together on the Walker Cup team. Gunn was a friend of Bobby Jones and a fellow member of the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. Jones persuaded Gunn to go to the Amateur Championship with him at Oakmont in 1925. They ended up meeting in the finals, the only time this has happened between two members of the same club. (Jones won.) Bill Beinecke and his son, John, and, later, his grandson, Barrett, have played many times in the Father and Son Golf Association championship. Now in his 90s, Bill Beinecke still plays some golf at Baltusrol, at Eastward Ho! (in Chatham on Cape Cod), at Gulf Stream (in Delray Beach, Florida), and at Yale.
For all of Bill Beinecke’s success in business, his greatest recognition has come from his philanthropy and community service work in the fields of education, the arts, environmental preservation, and equal opportunity. The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale, given by the generation before Bill, is a world-renowned collection and scholarly center, and the Beinecke name is on several endowed academic chairs. Beinecke was awarded an honorary LLD degree in 1986, and both he and his daughter, Frances, have served as Fellows of the Yale Corporation.
At the golf course, however, one must search to find the Beinecke name, although the stamp of his generosity is everywhere. On the left of the first tee is a small bronze plaque commemorating his 1968 gift of the course’s first, in-ground, irrigation system. Then-president, Kingman Brewster, thought the money should have been spent for academic purposes, but Beinecke insisted that it be used to improve the course. It was an enormous boon to the health of the course, although it was dedicated quite modestly by a round of golf that Beinecke played with Ellis Knowles, his son Jimmy, and several others. One may also notice a small plaque at the entrance to the golf cart storage building that acknowledges Beinecke’s 1972 gift of this building, designed by architect Herbert Newman, and additional funds for carts and cart paths. The present clubhouse was dedicated in 1984 as a gift from Bill Beinecke’s Prospect Hill Foundation. It too was designed by Herb Newman and replaced the remodeled and enlarged “shack” that Beinecke remembered affectionately from his undergraduate days at the course. The original double-facing fireplace was retained from the earlier structure, and an oil painting of William S. Beinecke ’36 hangs over the fireplace in the entrance hall. The Beinecke name is most prominently visible in the main hall, where the winners of the annual William S. Beinecke Alumni-Member Guest Invitational Golf Tournament are displayed. This event was started in 1975 by David Paterson to honor Beinecke’s many contributions to Yale golf and remains one of the highpoints of the annual calendar. Fittingly, in 2003, Bill’s son, John Beinecke, and his partner, Chuck Lobdell, were the low gross winners.