OAKLAND -- Years ago -- presumably in the early weeks of 1960 -- some Sequoyah Country Club members gathered in the Oakland facility's Skybar to discuss a little sports. And a lot of business.
At the time, the fledgling American Football League, jolted by its Minneapolis group's defection to the established National Football League, suddenly found itself in dire need of an eighth franchise in preparation for its inaugural season. The discussion at Sequoyah led to the founding of that team. Originally known as the Oakland Señors, the partners -- led by Wayne Valley and Ed McGah -- wisely changed the team's nickname to "Raiders" before the first kickoff.
From these humble beginnings at Sequoyah, the Raiders went on to become one of the country's most heralded sports franchises. But their founding is just one of many anecdotes involving the Sequoyah Country Club, which celebrates its centennial this year.
"There's a lot of East Bay history here," said Jim Zelinski, who handles public relations for the private nonprofit club nestled in the Oakland hills.
Golf historians will note, for instance, that Sequoyah once was a regular stop on the PGA Tour. The great Babe Didrikson Zaharias once played there, too. And the late Frances Cary Whyte, a graduate of Alameda High School and Cal, was an outstanding amateur golfer, one of the few in the country to win her club championship at least once in each of six decades.
Indeed, much has happened -- and continues to happen -- at Sequoyah. The club features tennis courts and swimming pools. It's a great place for banquets and wedding receptions. But its biggest claim to fame remains its golf course.
"We've had PGA, USGA and Northern California Golf Association events here," said Sequoyah General Manager Tom Schunn. "We also have collegiate, high school and junior golf."
Last year, for instance, the USGA held a mid-amateur qualifying tournament for players 25 and older at Sequoyah. The USGA held a women's amateur qualifier at the club on July 11. Exciting as these events might be, there is much more to Sequoyah than might meet the eye.
"We hold many golf tournaments, and they tend to be fundraisers for charity," Schunn said. "Most of the private schools in Oakland have their auctions or galas at the club. And we've been the site for Bishop O'Dowd and its (boys) golf team for many years. We also host Head-Royce on occasion, and the Cal men and Cal women on occasion. It's our gesture to accommodate them."
And the young golfers can gain inspiration from the greatness that has gone before them. From 1937 to 1942 and, after a year off, again in 1944, the Oakland Open was a stop on the PGA Tour, with golf's top luminaries of their day making their way to the city. Sam Snead won the 1937 tournament, which took place at the Claremont Country Club. But Sequoyah served as host thereafter, with such notables as Jimmy Demaret winning in 1940 and Byron Nelson in 1942.
Ben Hogan, perhaps best known for recovering from a near-fatal 1949 traffic accident to win the 1950 U.S. Open, resurrected a foundering career at the 1938 Oakland Open with a sixth-place finish that earned him $285. Currently, the club's greatest source of pride is its relationship with the surrounding community.
"Whereas other clubs have fallen by the wayside, Sequoyah has a visionary business outlook and a diverse membership," Zelinski said. "There's a great junior golf program that allows students to hone their skills. (The club) reinvented itself during the recession. Its community involvement is relatively uncommon (among private golf clubs)."
Founded on Oct. 3, 1913, Sequoyah kicked off its centennial celebration last fall with its Hickory Club Tournament. Recalling golf as it was 100 years before, competitors dressed in attire from that period while competing with hickory clubs and replica balls from the era.
Sequoyah held its Centennial Wine Festival and Car Show on June 29. And when the actual centennial rolls around in October, the club will hold its centennial gala dinner and will celebrate the release of a book detailing the club's history.
From 1913 to the Oakland Open to the founding of the Raiders to the community outreach of the present day, Sequoyah has had much to celebrate in its 100 years and counting.
"When you drive up that hill, it's an absolutely exquisite setting," Zelinski said. "Wonderful membership, but there's no pretense. It's absolutely wonderful."
More information on the Sequoyah Country Club and its centennial can be found at www.sequoyahcc.com.