As a child in the early 1960s, Rob Galbraith remembers making regular trips to Rochester, New York, home to his great-grandfather, John R. Williams, a pioneering physician in the area.
The most memorable part of these visits was seeing botany, a byproduct of Williams’ amateur hobby. In the backyard were hundreds of new-born oak, elm and maple saplings. Inside the house, dozens of acorns were planted in coffee cans filled with soil that were propped against window sills and shelves. Numerous trees sprouted within nurseries on the site.
“They were growing everywhere,” Galbraith, now 63, recalled in a recent interview. “Everywhere.”
Dr. Williams has been growing trees this way since the 1920s. But he had one goal. That’s transforming the grounds of nearby Oak Hill Country Club from a barren patch of overworked farmland into a lush golf course landscaped with towering hardwoods, shrubs and other lush vegetation. .
Dr. Williams, along with other club members who offered their help, did not stop planting until tens of thousands of trees had been planted over 40 years. He once joked that how many new saplings he transferred to the club stopped counting past the first 40,000.
Oak Hill’s giant facelift has worked. By the late 1940s, the club, with his 36 holes designed by noted course architect Donald J. Ross, was nationally acclaimed and hosted his first major golf tournament. As the course’s reputation has grown over the decades since, three U.S. Opens, the Ryder Cup, and several other high-profile events have flourished at this western New York location. Oak Hill hosts the 4th annual PGA Championship this week.
Dr. Williams’s club’s continued dedication to tree farming also blossoms into this week’s storyline. This is because a recent renovation of the site removed hundreds of old trees for agricultural, competitive and aesthetic reasons. Though the appearance of some holes has been changed and controversial, Dr. Williams’ influence on the landmark golf course of the 20th century can be traced not only to the fairways, but to the thousands that adorn the perimeter and social areas of the 355 course. It’s still there among the beautiful trees. acres of land.
Commonly referred to as the club’s patron saint, Dr. Williams was a frequent visitor to the club in work overalls and muddy boots during tree planting and planted oak trees on Oak Hill.
Dr. Williams Died in 1965 at the age of 91. Not long after, during a service in his honor at the club, her granddaughter Susan R. A tree…”
Susan R. Williams evoked that memory in the preface to a book prepared for the Williams family many years ago, adding another fascinating anecdote to her grandfather’s legend. He diligently searched the world for acorns from the famous oak trees to plant in Oak Hill.
“Our family trips often included a detour to a particular tree in search of acorns for Grandpa,” she wrote. These included obtaining acorns from England in Sherwood Forest, Shakespeare’s oak trees in Stratford-on-Avon, and the oak trees planted in George Washington’s mansion in Mount Vernon, Virginia. It was And it wasn’t just the families that were recruited for the international harvest.
“When military personnel left Rochester to go around the world, they knew they would send the acorns back to Dr. Williams,” Galbraith said. “Schoolchildren on vacation did the same and took some home.”
He added, “The community was much smaller back then, and I don’t know how he did it, but he was very good at spreading the word that he was collecting acorns.”
It wasn’t a bad thing that Dr. Williams was one of Rochester’s most prominent citizens, but for good reason.
Raised in Canada, Dr. Williams’ family arrived in Rochester when he was a teenager. Galbraith, the first direct descendant of Dr. Williams to join Oakhill Country Club, said his great-grandfather became a teacher and later graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School. As medical director of Rochester Hospital, Dr. Williams became nationally known for his work in blood analysis, and in 1916 he founded the Institute, which became a leader in the study of metabolic diseases, primarily diabetes.
Six years later, Dr. Williams was recognized as the first physician in the United States to administer insulin to a diabetic. He also surveyed his 7,000 homes in Rochester to investigate the safety of the city’s milk supply and found unsafe and inadequate refrigeration conditions leading to disease. He rewrote refrigeration standards, including those that apply to milk delivery trucks. Some of his guidelines were enacted nationally.
Being active in many civic activities, especially within the city’s museum community, it seemed natural for Dr. Williams to help the community. After Oak His Hill moved from his original downtown location to the Rochester suburb of Pittsford in 1926, he planted trees in hopes of improving the sprawling but sleepy land on which the golf course sits. began to study science extensively.
Dr. Williams approached the project altruistically, but not necessarily for personal gain.
“The most interesting thing about Dr. Williams is that he wasn’t actually a golfer,” says Sal Maiorana, a longtime Rochester sportswriter who chronicled Oak Hill’s history in his 2013 book. Told. “He joined the club specifically for social purposes. But he was fascinated by trees and spent countless hours trying to understand everything about trees, consulting arborists around the world.” He knows he can help the club and the Board of Oak Hill has recognized him for the job.”
But were 40,000 trees planted? What does that mean from a practical point of view?
“There are a lot of trees, but I’ve always heard it’s actually 50,000,” Galbraith said with a laugh. “But he lived to be 91, so he did it consistently over a long period of time, and he had people help him plant trees.”
He added, “Looking at everything he’s done in his life, he was one of those people who set their hearts on something and just do it.”
Dr. Williams’ affinity for trees led to another permanent contribution to the club’s grounds. It is the ‘Hill of Fame’, a living tribute to the most notable contributors to golf. Beginning in 1956, Dr. Williams built a ledge adjacent to his 13th hole on the club’s East Course to install copper plaques commemorating golfing luminaries such as Ben Hogan, Annika Sorenstam, Lee Trevino and Nancy Lopez. Start selecting trees. The unveiling of each plaque includes a ceremony. So far, 45 amateur golfers and administrators have been commended. Dr. Williams liked to say that trees are a much better surviving legacy than gravestones in cemeteries.
In the early 1990s, Northern Red Oak saplings grown in the Oak Hill nursery were transplanted onto the manicured lawn between Rochester’s former Genesee Hospital (now a medical facility) and an adjacent parking lot. . The tree has since sprouted more than eight meters high, providing shade to sidewalks used by health care workers and visitors.
The choice of where to plant this particular seedling was not accidental. It was once the property of Dr. Williams, who lived and practiced there, and wandered into the lush, youthful backyard.
over and over and over again.