Past Professionals

Over the years, a number of outstanding Golf Professionals have served at Metropolis Country Club. Not only were they outstanding players in their own right, they were also wonderful teachers. They brought to Metropolis a level of professionalism rarely seen in a country club setting.

Paul Runyan, known as “Little Poison,” served as Metropolis’ Head Professional from 1931 to 1943. 

Jack Burke Jr. served the club from 1948 to 1950, when he left the club to go on the Tour full time. He would later win both the Masters and PGA Championships. 

Lighthorse Harry Cooper served as Metropolis' Head Professional from 1953 to 1978.

Gene Borek served as Metropolis' Head Professional from 1980 to 2005.

Ron Philo served as Metropolis' Head Professional in 2006 during which time he won the PGA Professional National Championship (previously called National Club Pro Championship), as well as MET PGA Championship.

  • Paul Runyon
    • Paul Runyon was born on July 12, 1908, in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He learned to play golf as a caddy at the country club across the way from his father’s dairy farm. He was only 5 feet 71/2 inches tall and weighed 132 pounds. His father did not approve of golf, saying that it was frivolous, but Paul said, “Dad, you can whip me if you want but it won’t do you any good, because I’m going over to the golf course and I’m going to become a golf professional.” Generally out-driven by his opponents, he was a masterful iron player and putter. His superb short game and small stature led to his nickname of “Little Poison”.

      By the age of 18, he had become the head Professional at the Concordia Golf and Country Club in Little Rock. A few years later he was Assistant Golf Pro at the Forest Hall Field Club in Bloomfield New Jersey, under Craig Wood. But it was not the right place for him. He wrote,

      “Anyway, it wasn’t the kind of place where I could get the opportunity I got at the Metropolis Country Club in White Plains, New York. I was offered the job as head Pro by Mr. Gerald Rosenberger. One night he had me and my wife come to his house in New York, at 865 Park Avenue, for an interview with the Club Board. Everyone was there in black tie – they had had a dinner and I was very impressed. They agreed to take me on at $7,500 a year guaranteed, and anything I made over that was mine. It was a great break because Metropolis was the highest-grade establishment I had ever worked at. It was the way they ran it. Mr. Edwin Waterman ran the place like a czar. He was President of the Club for the fourteen years I was there, and he guided me into becoming a good golf professional…. He said I wasn’t to call any of the members by their first name until they insisted on it. Mr. Rosenberger was the first to insist on it…. After finishing my very first season at Metropolis, Gerald Rosenberger and seventy of the members put up $50 each – a pot of $3,500 – to send me and my wife on the winter tour. They drew up an agreement that I was to send any checks I won back to them and if there were any profits we would split them 50-50. Anyway, the members of Metropolis put up the $3,500, which was a little more than enough to pay for our whole expense, because you got a train ticket from New York to Florida to Southern California to Northern California back down to Southern California, then through Arizona, Texas, and Louisiana back to Florida and up to New York for $202. There was berthage, of course, that was extra. You paid about $8.00 a night for a berth, but it was overall a very reasonable rate."

      “Well, that first full winter tour I won about $4,700. I figured, pretty nice, made my winter expenses and lived quite well, didn’t have to spend any of the pennies I saved during the summer, and got fifty percent of the purse money I won – another $2,200 or so. When I got back home, nothing was said by the members, and they had a dinner party for me; the whole membership was there and me and wife were wined and dined, and they didn’t take their share of the profits. They gave me my share, plus a nice big check, which I’ve still got, cancelled, for $1,500. They did the same thing the next winter. They didn’t give me any more bonus, but all the profits. But I was pretty well established by now, and beginning to make some money, maybe $14,000 a year, which was darn good in the depths of the Depression.”

      The 1938 PGA Championship was played at the Shawnee Country Club in Shawnee on the Delaware in Pennsylvania. Runyon was a heavy underdog against the favorite, Sam Snead. Snead out-drove Runyon 40 to 50 yards a hole. But Snead’s approach shots were erratic and he had trouble on the greens. In one of the major upsets of all time, Runyon went on to beat Snead by a margin of 8 and 7. Runyon lost only one hole. Snead said, “on the drives, Runyon would be so far behind I’d lose sight of him at times; on second shots, I’d still be far inside him, and then he’d beat me into the hole. He’d sink a shot from behind a bush or chip dead to the cup from a gully or make a pitching iron recovery from a bunker that I’d bet 50 – 1 against.”

      “This isn’t golf, it’s magic,” Snead told Runyon.

      Runyon won 29 PGA Tour events; was the leading money winner in 1933 and 1934; and was later elected to the PGA Hall of Fame. In 1961 and again in 1962 he won the PGA Senior Championship. In 1998, he won the PGA of America Distinguished Service Award.

      Sixty years after his stunning triumph over Snead at the PGA Championship, Runyon, at 90 years of age, shot a 42 for nine holes. Afterwards he said, “I can still have a terrible game and beat my age.” Paul Runyon died at 93 in 2001.
  • Lighthorse Harry Cooper
    • Lighthorse Harry Cooper was born on August 6, 1904 in England, which made him ineligible to play on the United States Ryder Cup Golf Team. When he was ten his family moved to Texas where his father Dick worked as a Golf Professional. Harry learned the game, played as an amateur, and at the age of 18 turned professional. At 23 he played a 72-hole match and beat the famous Walter Hagan only to receive nothing, as the size of the gallery was too small. Hagan got $1300 for the match.

      Cooper was given the name Lighthorse Harry by the well-known writer Damon Runyon as a result of his fast play in winning the first Los Angeles Open in 1926. Damon Runyon took the name from “Lighthorse Harry Lee,” George Washington’s favorite cavalry general and the father of Robert E. Lee. The 1926 Los Angeles Open was golf’s first $10,000 event, with the prize of $3,500 for the winner. Harry Cooper and George Von Elm played the last 18 holes in two and a half hours with 5,000 people in the gallery. “Damon told me,” Cooper often said, “that he needed a horse to keep up with me.”

      Cooper had 31 victories on the PGA Tour in the 1920’s and 1930’s, but never won any of what are now called the “Majors.” However his record of PGA Tour wins places him 13th on the PGA Tour’s career winner’s list.

      Cooper believed that he never got the breaks. In 1927 he was in the clubhouse, believing that he had won the U.S. Open, when Tommy Armour holed a 15- foot putt on the18th hole for a tie. In the 18-hole playoff Cooper was one up when Armour holed a 50-foot birdie putt on the 15th hole. On the short 16th Cooper pushed his 4 iron into one of Oakmont’s famous bunkers. With no sand wedge in those days his bunker shot stopped on a grassy slope below the green. He had a double bogie to Armour’s par. He had lost the match.

      In the 1936 Open at Baltusrol, Cooper walked off the final green as the apparent winner with a then Open record 72 hole score of 284 despite a 73 with bogeys on the 14th, 15th and 18th holes. Half an hour later Tony Manero finished with a 67 for a 282 and the Tournament.

      In the 1936 Masters Lighthorse Harry Cooper led for three rounds, only to lose to Horton Smith by one stroke.

      “Coopy was a great shot maker, one of the best fairway wood players ever with Bobby Jones and Byron Nelson,” Paul Runyon said. “But he thought that everybody else got all the breaks and he never got any. He was the most pessimistic, negative thinker I’ve ever known. Off the course, he was one of the most magnificent human beings in the world.”

      Harry Cooper was the first winner of the Varden Trophy for low stroke average in 1937, and also the leading money winner winning $14,139. That year he won an unbelievable seven Tour events.

      Some of his victories include the 1932 and 1937 Canadian Open; the 1926 and 1937 Los Angeles Open; the Western Open, the Houston Open; and Pebble Beach Open. In 1959 he was elected to the National PGA Hall of Fame. He won 31 Tournaments and was runner up in 28 Tournaments. In 1980 he was awarded the Metropolitan Golf Association Distinguished Service Award for lifelong contribution made to the game of golf. In 1981 he was the winner of the Metropolitan PGA’s Sam Snead Award for Distinguished Lifetime contribution made to the game of golf. In 1988 Golf Magazine Centennial of Golf selected him as one of 100 Heroes from the first century of Golf in America from 1888 to 1988. Also in 1988 he was elected to the Medina Country Club of Chicago’s Hall of Fame.

      On October 7, 1975 at 71 years of age playing at Metropolis Country Club, he shot his age and in addition had a hole in one at the par 3 ninth hole.

      The writer fondly remembers Harry and his lovely wife, Emma. I can see him now, sitting under a tree at the range with his long ball retriever placing balls on the mat for me to hit. He would grab my belt and say, “Turn!” He loved to show off golf tricks such as taking a club and hitting a ball straight up in the air and then catching it. Every year in the fall in those days the Club had a Barn Dance. I remember Harry and Emma spinning their Wheel of Fortune. If you won, you received a golf prize.

      By the way, his nickname rings true. The writer remembers going to Westchester Country Club to walk around following Harry play in a tournament and he was fast, really fast, not at all like professional golfers today.

      Harry Cooper died at White Plains Hospital on October 18, 2000, at the age of 96.
  • Gene Borek
    • Gene Borek, Master PGA golf professional, a gracious, thoughtful gentleman, and student and teacher of the game of golf, came to Metropolis in 1980. Borek was born in 1936 in Yonkers, New York. He was the youngest of eight children. His parents, Anthony and Catherine, came to the United States from Warsaw, Poland and settled near Dunwoodie Country Club. In his spare time Gene played golf. He would take the trolley to the Bronx to play at the Mosholu golf course. He became good enough to become captain of his high school golf team at Sanders High School.

      In 1954 Gene met Jon Voight, the future movie star, and son of the legendary Sunningdale Country Club Golf Pro Elmer “Whitey” Voight. After High School Gene had planned to go to Oswego State with the intention of becoming an industrial arts teacher – but golf got in the way. The head pro of the Upper Montclair Country Club in New Jersey gave him a job in his pro shop. Soon after, in 1955, Elmer Voight hired him as an assistant. “He took me in, and treated me like a son,” said Borek, who spent eight years working under Voight at Sunningdale. They became inseparable, spending five winters together in St. Croix and on the Caribbean Tour.

      In 1963, at 26, Pine Hollow Country Club in Long Island hired him as Head Golf Professional. In 1965 he won the first of his three Long Island PGA Titles. When he won that tournament again in 1969 at Plandome Country Club, his caddy was a young man named Charles Robson. “I was surprised how good he was, he shot 64 and 66,” recalls Robson, who with Borek’s help rose from caddy ranks to become the Executive Director of the Met PGA. “He was a great long iron player, a good driver of the ball. When he was at the top of his game, I would say he was one of the best 100 players in the United States.”

      In 1973 Gene Borek had his dream round at the United States Open at Oakmont Country Club. He was then 36 years old, serving as Head Golf Professional at the Pine Hollow Country Club on Long Island. He made it into the Open as a first alternate because Dave Hill had dropped out that Tuesday, convinced he could not putt Oakmont’s ultra-slick greens.

      On Thursday, Gene, playing in the seventh of his ten U. S. Opens, shot a 77. The next day, playing just to make the cut, Gene played bogey-free golf, holing out from the sand on number 8 for par and sinking six putts for birdies and a course record round of 65. “It was one of those rounds you dream about,” recalled Gene, whose name that day shared the leader-board with the likes of Player, Palmer, Trevino and Weiskopf.

      By Sunday the greens of Oakmont had gotten their revenge. He had rounds of 80 and 75 that left him in 38th place, behind Johnny Miller who had broken Gene’s record by shooting a new course record of 63. Miller never forgot Gene’s fabulous round and has gone out of his way on TV to give him credit for the round. A few days after Gene shot the famous round of 65, his good friend Elmer Voight was killed in a car crash on Central Avenue not far from Sunningdale. Gene, in Chicago for the Western Open, pulled out of the Tournament and rushed home for the funeral.

      Gene Borek has had an amazing career: three Met PGA Titles; twice Met Player of the Year; three Long Island PGA Titles; two Long Island Open Titles; and two Westchester PGA Titles. Twice he was National PGA Stroke-Play Champion.

      Along the way, he earned induction into the Westchester Sports Hall of Fame, received the Horton Smith Award for his contribution to golf education, and earned the title of Master Golf Professional.

      During his career he became very friendly with Carl Lohren and taught with him at his golf school. Gene Borek is not only a consummate Golf Professional and Golf Teacher and Player; he is also a true gentleman. Soft spoken, with a warm but reserved manor, he has a heart of gold. It has been said of him that he is gracious, thoughtful and tough as nails. Professionals from all over the Metropolitan Area have come to Metropolis for lessons and advice. One has only to stand on the range at Metropolis to see him giving lessons to one and all, from beginners to professionals, to know what a great teacher he is.

      Metropolis is blessed to have had this man Gene Borek, not only as its Master Golf Professional but also as a friend to so many of its members.