Ron Cherney Gives Us a Look at His Amazing Golf Memorabilia Collection
Written byCharlie Koones
Photographed byShane O’Donnell
Some men are defined by their passions. Laird Hamilton is a surfer. Eric Clapton is a guitar player. Ron Cherney may be a dentist, husband and father, but make no mistake: Ron Cherney is a golfer.
There are loads of passionate golfers, but Ron takes things to an entirely different level. He’s skilled enough to have won club championships, astute enough to have written books on the subject, and passionate enough to have assembled one of the most notable private golf libraries and memorabilia collections in the country.
Let’s start with his library, which is said by some to be more comprehensive than that of the U.S. Golf Association Museum and Library. A prolific reader and a lifelong student of the game, Ron began collecting golf books some 40 years ago, amassing volumes on the game’s history, instruction, course architecture, tournaments and profiles of the greats.
The collection even includes more than 500 histories of private and public golf clubs around the world. The fact is, Ron probably knows a helluva lot more about most clubs than their members do.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the history of the game. Growing up when Arnold Palmer burst on the scene hooked so many of my generation. They say the smaller the ball, the more books are written about the sport, so there was no lack of golf stuff to read.”
That of course holds true for his own club, the Valley classic El Caballero Country Club, where Cherney has been a member since 1994. His pride and passion for El Cab rings clear as a bell. He recounts the history with ease, covering in detail how the founding members signed a long-term land lease with the family of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs to develop the club back in the ’50s.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the history of the game. Growing up when Arnold Palmer burst on the scene hooked so many of my generation.”
Ron knows the course itself equally as well, having recorded three club championships and an additional three senior club championships. He also qualified for the 2007 U.S. Senior Amateur Championship. To put that in perspective, nearly 3,000 of the best senior golfers in the country attempt to qualify for the Senior Amateur each year; only 156 make it to the tournament. This is some rare golf air.
Ron Cherney’s love for the game dates back to his youth in Toronto. “There was a course near our house called Humber Valley that cost 55 cents to play for unlimited rounds. Our gang of urchins would play 36 or 54 holes many times! I joined Braemar (in Tarzana) in 1991 and started getting decent, playing with some really good golfers. Then I started entering SCGA tournaments and USGA qualifiers. The thing I used to love most about it was probably the competition. But now that I’m in my early 70s, it’s all about the camaraderie, the beautiful walk in the park on some of our great courses and the good-natured ribbing of my pals.”
Back to Ron’s collection, which has grown so extensive over the years that his wife, Lisa Helfend Meyer (an attorney), insisted during a recent home renovation that he build a room just to house it.
In that assemblage are loads of old hickory stick golf clubs, but among Ron’s favorites are those owned by past U.S. Open and Masters champion Ralph Guldahl, with whom he was close. When the late golfer and former club pro at Braemar Country Club was honored by Jack Nicklaus at his Memorial Golf Tournament in Ohio, it was Ron who accepted the award on Guldahl’s behalf.
The Masters, the pinnacle of golf, is well represented in Ron’s collection. While he has over 20 pin flags signed by champions, it’s the scorecards that stand out—cards signed by every Masters champion since the tournament began.
Warm and unfailingly humble, Ron is a pleasant guy to be around. Perhaps that’s one reason for the success of his book, My Favorite Shot. It sounds like a daunting endeavor: Get the greatest golfers in the game to talk about the shots that defined their careers. Good luck with that. But Ron says he simply reached out, and 130 pros agreed to share, including Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Tom Watson. The response Ron received is a testament to his passion. A walk through Ron Cherney’s collection—his books and treasures and his stories—is a reminder that passion can not only propel us, it can define who we are.