Baltusrol – Venue for KPMG Women’s PGA named in honour of murdered Dutch farmer.

Bernie McGuire

A view of the clubhouse at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey. (Photo by Darren Carroll/PGA of America)

The reason for the naming of a new golf course is not all that difficult to fathom.

Golf courses are mostly named in honour of their location, such as Irish gems Ballybunion, Old Head and Ballyliffin while there’s Long Reef in my beloved Sydney, as well as other ‘Down Under’ courses such as the famed Royal Melbourne and the stunning New South Wales club.

My home course at Crail in Scotland boasts two courses – the Balcomie Links and the Craighead Links but not named after the village. In fact, the Tom Morris designed Balcomie is named after Balcomie Castle that overlooks the course at golf’s seventh oldest club while the Craighead Links was built, 25-years ago this week in fact, on land that was known as Craighead Farm.


It may come as a shock that Baltusrol in New Jersey, host to this week’s $US9m KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, was named after a 62-year-old Dutch farmer who lived on the property and was savagely murdered in 1831.

Boltus Roll was attacked, tortured and killed by two strangers on the night of February 22nd, some 192-years ago and his gravestone lies in the Presbyterian Churchyard in nearby Westfield, New Jersey, located just four miles from this week’s host venue. (See photograph below & note spelling of his name).

Roll’s wife, who was alone in the house with him at the time, testified at the trial of one of the accused that she and her husband had retired early. about midnight she was awakened by a pounding on the door. When admission was refused the door burst open. “Two men entered; one a large man, the other a small man. They seized Roll, drew him from the bed, slatted him about the room and dragged him to the door.”

Later, the large man came to the stairs and told her to remain in her room, but when he went out she followed. She saw two men tying Baltus. The snow was very deep, but they threw him in a puddle of icy water. He twice called to her. After that, “he did not make any noise and I thought he was dead.” She slipped out of the door and wandered aimlessly into the woods through the snow.

It rained all night and she was exhausted when morning came. Returning to the house, she saw Baltus lying in a snowbank, bound hand and foot, and lifeless. She did not go in for fear the murderers were still there, but went to the home of a neighbour, Jesse Cahoon. When he heard her story, he summoned Brook Sayre (her husband’s cousin) and Joseph Cain, who lived down the road. They thought Mrs. Roll had lost her mind, but returned with her to the house.

It was as she had said. Inside was great confusion. The news spread throughout the country. It was the crime of the century. The metropolitan dailies gave full details. Suspicion at once settled upon Peter B. Davis and Lycidias Baldwin, ne’er-do-wells, who had been seen frequently in the locality. Davis was known to be desperately in need of cash and to have sought an accomplice to go with him to a place where they could “get a thousand dollars.” Roll was supposed to have kept a considerable sum of money hidden somewhere in his house. (Photograph below shows Roll’s house in the shadow of opulent-looking Baltusrol clubhouse) 


When Baldwin heard that the police had arrested Davis, he fled to Morristown and committed suicide in a room at the tavern. Davis was tried at a special session of the Court of Oyer and Terminer, in Newark, before Chief Justice Ewing. Although the evidence pointed strongly to his guilt, he was acquitted, because some of the most damaging testimony was ruled out as “illegal.” During the trial, however, he admitted forgery and was afterwards arraigned before court on four indictments, to three of which he plead guilty. He was sentenced to eight years on each count, and died in prison.

In the 1890’s area residents purchased the property and built a golf course on it naming the club ‘Baltusrol’ but also given the large hill behind the clubhouse had been called Baltusrol Mountain.

The murdered man’s cottage is still standing, a short distance beyond the hill where the eighth and eleventh holes are situated.

* See below

Baltusrol Club…

The Baltusrol Golf Club, lying about 20 miles from New York, was founded 128 years ago in 1895 by Louis Keller.

In 1985, Baltusrol became the first club to have hosted both the U.S. Open and Women’s U.S. Open on two different courses. Both courses were originally designed by A. W. Tillinghast in 1918. The club has been the site of seven U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships.

In 2005, the club was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 2014, it was further designated a National Historic Landmark in recognition of its importance to Tillinghast’s career as a course designer.

* New York Times, November 17, 1901, p. 14. In a column named “Consuls and Navy Jacks: Odd Bits of Life by the Sea-Going Hobo.”

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