The following text is taken from “Golf’s Golden Age,” published in 2005 by the USGA, in partnership with National Geographic, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Bob Jones’s “Grand Slam.” To order the book, and learn more about George Pietzcker’s photography, please visit http://www.usgapubs.com)
A remarkable photographer from St. Louis by the name of George Pietzcker traversed the country documenting the personalities, places, and happenings of the golf world from the early 1910s until the mid 1930s. For almost 30 years, “Photo” Pietzcker was a fixture at every major golf tournament played in America. In the course of these three decades he amassed a collection of golf photographs that by some estimates exceeded 15,000 images.
Born in the small town of Sour Lake, Texas, on January 18, 1885, George Sealy Pietzcker received his formal training at the Illinois College of Photography in Effingham, Illinois, working the 1906 Western Amateur at the Glen Echo Club in St. Louis. Apparently he was quite taken with the game, its colorful players, and rich landscapes, for then and there he decided to specialize in golf photography. For several years his work appeared in Chicago-based “Golfers’ Magazine,” but his reputation quickly spread and soon his images were picked up by all of the major golf periodicals of the day, including “American Golfer” and “Golf Illustrated.”
In 1913 Pietzcker covered the U.S. Open for “Golf,” an early publication of the United States Golf Association, where he captured some of the most indelible images of Francis Ouimet’s historic victory. Soon thereafter he signed on as the official photographer of the USGA. For the next 20 years he provided a visual record of the country’s national championships and champions.
Many of the photographs that Pietzcker created were journalistic in nature, intended simply to document the important events, places, and individuals of the championship golf calendar. Most remarkable among Pietzcker’s works, however, are the photographic portraits he created of notable golfers of his day. These full- and half-length portraits captured the individual character, style, and personality of his subjects more successfully than any golf photographer previously. During the 1920s and 1930s, Pietzcker advertised and sold framed prints of these portraits to individuals and clubs around the country. There is no record of how many sets of these “National Golf Champions” Pietzcker may have distributed. Today they are extremely rare. In the mid-1930s, Pietzcker relocated his studio to Miami Beach, Fla. He attended fewer and fewer championships as the years passed, and his reputation as one of the game’s greatest photographers was slowly forgotten. George Pietzcker passed away in December, 1971, the same month and year as Bob Jones, leaving a rich visual legacy of golf’s Golden Age.
The 12 portraits currently on display in the Museum are all from Pietzcker’s “National Golf Champions” collection, and feature USGA champions such as Walter Travis, Glenna Collett Vare, and Francis Ouimet.