A Chronicle of the Philadelphia Section PGA and Golf in the Philadelphia Area
by Peter C. Trenham
The Leaders & The Legends - 1922 to 1929
Robert Thompson “Bob” Barnett
First Section President
2 time Section Champion
Bob Barnett was the first president of the Philadelphia Section PGA. Barnett was born in Philadelphia in 1893 and began his career as an assistant at the Bala Golf Club in 1914. After serving his apprenticeship at Bala he became the head professional at the Tredyffrin Country Club in Paoli. In early November of 1921 Barnett hosted the Main Line Open at Tredyffrin, which drew a field that was considered by later golf historians to be of PGA Tour quality. Jim Barnes returned to Philadelphia for the tournament and took the top prize of $200. When the professionals met one month later on Friday December 2, Barnett was the unanimous choice to be their president, even though he was just 28 years old. 90 years later he was still the youngest to be elected president. Barnett was known for his whistle. He whistled when he played and he whistled when he wanted the call the meetings to order. All he had to do was whistle and he had the full attention of all the professionals present. That next spring he hosted the Section’s first championship at Tredyffrin and it was also the first Section Championship held by any PGA Section. He was reelected for a second term in January of 1923 but soon after that he resigned from Tredyffrin to become the professional at the Chevy Chase Club near Washington D.C. The Section members wanted Barnett to continue as the president but he declined saying he could not give the office the attention that it required. Even though he was no longer a Section member he was invited to play in the 1923 Section Championship at the Stenton Country Club, which he won. He wasn’t able to defend his title at Linwood Country Club in 1924 due to his father’s death on the evening of the tournament but he returned in 1925 for the Section Championship, which was being played at his former club, Tredyffrin, and won it for a second time. Twenty-three years later, at the age of 50, Barnett finished second in the Middle Atlantic Section Championship. While Barnett was the professional at Chevy Chase he also spent nearly twenty years as the head pro at the Indian Creek Country Club in Miami. At Indian Creek he trained two young professionals who would go on to be leaders in the PGA’s national affairs, Max Elbin and Bill Strausbaugh. Elbin was president of the PGA from 1966 to 1968 and the national award for work in Club Relations was named after Strausbaugh in 1979. One of Barnett’s protégés and assistants at Chevy Chase and Indian Creek was Lew Worsham who would go on to win the 1947 U.S. Open. He also had an assistant at Indian Creek named Buck White, who went on to a very successful career on the PGA Tour. Barnett also served as the president of the Middle Atlantic Section, won their Section Championship and served a term as a Vice President (later renamed District Director) of the PGA of America.
David Scott “Dave” Cuthbert
Section President 1928
2nd 1923 Pennsylvania Open
Dave Cuthbert was born in St. Andrews, Scotland in 1885. He got his start in golf as a caddy at St. Andrews Golf Club and as a young man he worked in Old Tom Morris’ golf shop. He often caddied for Freddie Tait who was one of the greatest amateurs in Great Britain. In 1912 Cuthbert learned from a friend who had worked in America that Huntingdon Valley Country Club was looking for a golf professional, so he set sail at once. He arrived in Philadelphia during a March blizzard with his golf clubs and a suitcase. He then proceeded to seek out the Huntingdon Valley green chairman. Without an appointment he announced that he was David Cuthbert of St. Andrews and he had come all the way from Scotland for the position of golf professional. He was hired and stayed seven years. He relocated to Canada for four years and returned when Ashbourne Country Club opened in 1923. Cuthbert was Ashbourne’s first golf pro and he remained there for fifteen years. That year Cuthbert finished second in the 1923 Pennsylvania Open by one stroke. He served as the Section’s vice president for three years and he was elected as the fourth president of the Section in 1928. He represented the Philadelphia Section as a delegate to the national PGA meeting for three years and he hosted the Section Championship at Ashbourne in 1926. In 1929 he qualified for the PGA Championship. Cuthbert was a member of the committee that organized the first PGA Seniors’ Championship, which was held at the Augusta National Golf Club. His brother Duncan served as the head professional at the Riverton Country Club for several years before moving to the Middle Atlantic PGA Section.
Lewis H. “Lew” Goldbeck
Section President 1929
Lew Goldbeck was born in Pennsylvania in 1897. He began his career as an assistant golf professional at the Huntingdon Valley Country Club under head pro Dave Cuthbert. He then worked as an assistant to Charlie Hoffner at the Philmont Country Club from 1919 through 1925 before moving to the Bala Golf Club as the head professional where he stayed for sixteen years. Goldbeck who was one of the longest drivers among the local pros qualified for the PGA Championship three times and the U.S. Open three times. He tied for 43rd in the 1926 U.S. Open. He had a brother, Bill, who had a very good playing career. Bill who was the professional at the Buck Hill Golf Club and the Wolf Hollow Country Club in the 1920s and Buck Hill again in the 1960s spent most of his years as a pro in the Metropolitan Section. In 1928 Lou Goldbeck was elected first vice president of the Section and the next year he became the fifth president of the Philadelphia PGA. Also he was the second vice president in 1931. In 1929 and 1930 he hosted the Section Championship. Goldbeck represented the Philadelphia Section as a delegate to the national PGA meeting in 1929.
Stanley L. Hern
A Section Founder
Stanley Hern was born in the United States in 1891. As one of the pros responsible for the forming of the Philadelphia Section, in late 1921 he and Bob Barnett put on the Main Line Open that attracted a strong entry from outside the Philadelphia area. Hern was a pro golf salesman for the St. Mungo Manufacturing Company, which was located in Philadelphia. The St. Mungo Company manufactured the Colonel golf ball, which Johnny McDermott used in the playoff when he won the U.S. Open in 1911. Hern was elected Section secretary in 1922 but later that year Jack Jolly, the owner of the St. Mungo Company, moved him to Atlanta to manage their new office.
John Owen “Jack” Hobens
A founder of the PGA
Jack Hobens was born John Owen Hoben at Dunbar, Scotland in 1880. When he was eight years old his family moved to North Berwick where he learned to play golf as a caddy at the West Links Golf Club. Hobens turned pro at the age of 15 and worked as one of the licensed golf professionals at West Links. Four independent golf clubs totaling more than 1,200 members used the West Links golf course and there were ten professionals working at that 18-hole course. He was a golf professional for more than 50 years. When he married he changed his name to Hobens. Hobens immigrated to the United States in 1899. In 1909 he hosted the U.S. Open at the Englewood Golf Club and in 1910 he was the president of the Eastern Professional Golfers’ Association, which was a forerunner to the PGA of America. When the PGA of America was founded in 1916 he was a member of its first Executive Committee. He was also one of three golf professionals who wrote the PGA’s first constitution and by-laws. He was the professional at Huntingdon Valley Country Club in the early 1920s when the Philadelphia Section was formed. At that time he was a member of the PGA of America redistricting committee that created the Philadelphia Section and its boundaries. In 1907 he became the first player to make a hole-in-one in a U.S. Open when he aced the 10th hole at the Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Chestnut Hill course. In 1908 he won the Metropolitan Open and he was second in the 1906 Western Open. Both were considered major tournaments at the time. During World War I he toured the country with Bobby Jones staging benefit golf matches for the Red Cross. In those days it was a common practice for the golf professional to visit a wealthy member’s summer home and teach golf to the family for a month or more. Hobens traveled to the home of Dwight Morrow in Maine on several occasions. When Morrow’s daughter Anne later married Charles Lindbergh, Hobens would visit the Lindbergh home to instruct the family members. He had two brothers who worked in the United States as golf professionals and kept the Hoben name. One of his brothers, Bob Hoben, was the first golf professional at the Shawnee Inn and Country Club in 1911.
Joseph “Joe” Seka, Jr.
2nd Section President
Joe Seka was born in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia in 1893 and grew up caddying at the Philadelphia Cricket Club and the Stenton Country Club. He turned pro in 1909 and began his apprenticeship at the Whitemarsh Valley Country Club under James G. Campbell. The next year he worked for Willie Anderson at the Philadelphia Cricket Club. When Anderson died Seka moved over to the Philadelphia Country Club under James R. Thomson. From there he moved back to the Cricket Club to work for Alex Duncan who had followed Anderson when he died. In 1914 Seka moved into his first head professional position as the pro at the Stenton Country Club. While at Stenton he was in the military service during World War I. He next served as the professional at the Cedarbrook Country Club for thirty years with time out for a five year hitch as the pro at the Philmont Country Club from 1929 to 1933. While he was holding down the head pro jobs he also owned Seka’s Driving Range, which he operated for more than 30 years. His son Bob who was also a golf professional assisted him at the driving range. Later Bob had his own driving range at a different location, which was called Seka’s Driving Range also. Joe Seka was always one of the best-dressed pros in the Section. At Cedarbrook Seka gave the juniors free golf lessons on Saturday mornings. In early 1923 the Section President Bob Barnett left the Section and Seka was elected to take his place, becoming the Section’s second president. The next year Seka qualified for the 1924 PGA Championship held in French Lick, Indiana. In 1944 he donated a set of woods that he had made to a Red Cross charity match played at the Philadelphia Country Club. Various items were auctioned off with the winning bidder on each item receiving a war bond of equal value. When Seka’s woods were auctioned they brought the top price of the day, $5,000. As the professional at Cedarbrook he hosted the 1946 Section Championship and the 1947 Inquirer Invitation, a PGA Tour event.
John D. “Jack” “Jock” Campbell
Won 3 Philadelphia Opens
1926 Section Champion
Born in Scotland in 1878 Campbell was one of seven brothers who became golf professionals. They grew up alongside the Royal Troon Golf Club, which was next to the Prestwick Golf Club and there were three other golf courses nearby. Campbell and his brothers caddied at Royal Troon and learned to play golf there. In 1898 the Campbell boys began immigrating to the United States from their native Scotland. By the 1920s six of the brothers were working as golf professionals in the states. Jack Campbell arrived in the U.S.A. in 1900 and his first employment in the United States was as an assistant to his brother Alex “Nipper” Campbell at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. In 1903 he finished sixth in the U.S. Open just before moving to Philadelphia to become the professional at the Huntingdon Valley Country Club where he stayed three years. He then moved over to the Overbrook Golf Club for four years and from there he went to North Jersey for three years. In 1912 he returned to Philadelphia as the professional at the Old York Road Country Club where he stayed until retiring in 1945. As the professional at old York Road he tutored Helen Stetson who won the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1926. He also had an early influence of the game of the outstanding international golfer Billy Hyndman who grew up next to Old York Road and caddied there. Jack’s son Robert “Buzz” won the Section Championship in 1935. Campbell won the first two Philadelphia Opens in 1903 and 1904, finished second two years later, and two years after that he won again. In the first Philadelphia Section Championship Campbell finished second losing in a playoff. Four years later at the age of 48, 23 years after his first Philadelphia Open victory, he won the Section Championship. The first two years the Philadelphia Section was in business he served as the vice president and tournament chairman. His brother Andy was the professional at The Springhaven Club for thirty-four years and as one of the leading players in the Section he finished seventh in the 1909 U.S. Open.
Joseph “Joe” Coble
1927 Section Champion
1924 U.S. Public Links Champion
A native of Italy, Joe Coble was born in 1897. He arrived in the United States when he was seven and started caddying at the Baltusrol Golf Club when he was ten. He only caddied a few years but that was enough to get him interested in the game. At that time if a person worked as a caddy after the age of 16 he was deemed to be a golf professional by the USGA. As a young man Coble worked as a waiter in a restaurant and each morning he was one of the first golfers on the course. He served two years in the United States Army during World War I. After that he moved to Philadelphia because he had heard great things about its public golf course, Cobbs Creek Golf Club. He honed his game by playing at Cobbs Creek each morning before work. In 1923 he made the semi-finals of the National Public Links Championship and the next year he won the tournament at Dayton, Ohio. In the finals he defeated Hank Decker, who later worked as an assistant professional at the Philadelphia Country Club. After winning the public links championship in 1924 Coble turned pro and worked at Cobbs Creek as an assistant where he learned the art of club making under the professional, Horace Gamble. In 1926 he went to the Philmont Country Club as the assistant to Charles Hoffner. When Hoffner moved to the Ocean City Golf Club later that year Coble became the head pro at Philmont. With a staff of five golf professionals, Philmont was one of the elite professional positions in the country. The next year he won the Philadelphia Section Championship, making a hole-in-one and breaking the course record at the Concord Country Club on the way to winning the title. He qualified for the national PGA Championship three times. In 1929 Philmont brought in Joe Seka as the head professional and later Leo Diegel succeeded Seka. Coble stayed on at Philmont and worked for both Seka and Diegel as the teaching pro through 1936. He left Philmont in 1937 to be the head professional at the Glendale Golf Club.
Patrick J. “Pat” “Smilin Irishman” Doyle
Co-champion Philly Open
Won twice on PGA Tour
Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1890 Pat Doyle turned pro in 1908. He was runner-up in the Irish Professional Championship in 1912. Doyle arrived in America in 1913 to work as a professional at
the Myopia Hunt Club near Boston. That year he finished 10th in the U.S. Open. He was the
professional at the Linwood Country Club in 1928. As the professional at Linwood he made it
through the on site qualifying for the 1928 PGA Championship. Doyle had qualified for the match
play at the PGA Championship on four earlier occasions. His best finish was in 1926 when he won
two matches to reach the quarterfinal round. Before coming to the Philadelphia Section he tied for
first in the 1918 Philadelphia Open and was declared co-champion. During his playing career that spanned the period from 1916 to the late twenties he won once, finished second four times and
third four times on what would now be considered the PGA Tour. Doyle qualified for the U.S. Open
James E. “Jim” Edmundson, Sr.
Winner of first two Irish Opens
Won 1923 Pennsylvania Open
Section President 1930
Born in Portrush, Ireland in 1886 Jim Edmundson
was one of the founders of the Philadelphia Section PGA. He was the head
professional at the North Hills Country Club from 1921 to 1930 and the Hi-Top
Golf Club after that. Hi-Top had been the Aronimink Golf Club’s course in Drexel
Hill before they moved to Newtown Square in 1928. Edmundson won the first two
Irish Professional Championships in 1907 and 1908 and the next three years he
finished second. The first Irish Professional Championship was held at the Royal
Portrush Golf Club where he was employed as the playing professional from 1905
to 1910. After that Edmundson was the professional at the Bromborough Golf Club
in England from 1911 to 1917. In 1908 he finished eleventh in the British Open.
As the professional at Bromborough he instructed Gladys Ravenscroft who won the
British Ladies Championship in 1912 and the United States Women’s Amateur
Championship in 1913. Edmundson served in the artillery division of the British
army seeing action in France for two years during World War I. In 1921 he came
to the states to visit his younger brother John who was the professional at the
Llanerch Country Club. In 1923 he added the Pennsylvania Open to his other
titles. That year he also finished second in the Philadelphia Open and he
finished second in the Philadelphia Section Championship in 1926. He served the
Section as an officer for three years and became its sixth president in 1930.
His brother John was also the professional at the Lansdowne Country Club and
Cobbs Creek Golf Club and he was also a very successful tournament player.
Harry H. Hampton
2 wins on PGA Tour
Harry Hampton was born in Scotland in 1888. He came to the Philadelphia Section as the assistant to Clarence Hackney at the Atlantic City Country Club in 1927. He had beaten Hackney in the quarterfinals of the PGA Championship in 1920. He had two victories on the PGA Tour, finished second five times and made the semifinals at the 1920 PGA Championship. A solid ball striker his putting was hampered by very poor vision in one eye.
Charles H. “Charlie” Hoffner
Section Champion 1922
Won Philadelphia Open 1922
Won Pennsylvania Open 1919
Pre Ryder Cup Team 1921
Charlie Hoffner was born in 1896 in Philadelphia near the future site of the Bala Golf Club. At age 16 he was an assistant pro and caddy master at Bala Golf Club. Two years later he went to the Atlantic City Country Club as Johnny McDermott’s assistant. Hoffner served as the head professional at six clubs. He was the head professional at the Woodbury Country Club, Philmont Country Club, Ocean City Golf Club, Pitman Golf Club, Melrose Country Club, and Earlington Park Golf Club. Hoffner and his two brothers who were also accomplished golfers learned to play as caddies at the Bala Golf Club. His brother George became a member at Bala and was one of Philadelphia’s top amateurs. His other brother Robert, who was the club champion at Philmont several times and a member there for 20 years, worked in the Philadelphia Section as a pro-golf salesman well into his 80s. In 1922 Hoffner won the first Section Championship and later that year he won the Philadelphia Open after having been the runner-up on three other occasions. He won the Pennsylvania Open once and finished second twice. For more than three decades he was a leading player in the Philadelphia area professional tournaments. After being retired from competition Hoffner showed up for the 1947 Wood Memorial tournament at age 51 with some woods and a putter, but no irons. He borrowed a set of irons. Early in the round his driver broke so he drove with his brassie and shot a 68, which won the tournament by two strokes. The next year he won the Wood Memorial again. He finished second, losing a playoff to Walter Hagen, in the 1916 Met Open, which was considered a major at that time. In 1921 he was selected to a team of professionals from the United States that traveled to Scotland to oppose a team of professionals from Great Britain. This team competition was a forerunner to the Ryder Cup.
Champion of Wales 1912
Runner Up twice
Born in Hoylake, England in 1890 Hughes won the championship of Wales in 1912 and was the runner-up in 1913 and 1920. He was the professional at the Lancaster Country Club from 1922 to 1933 and he played well in several U.S. Opens during that time. In 1921 Hughes laid out a second nine holes for the Coatesville Country Club.
William Michael “Bill” “Whitey” Leach, Sr.
RU 1930 Miami Open
Sixth 1928 U.S. Open
Won 1927 Central PA Open
Won 4 East Falls Opens
Bill Leach was born in 1894 and grew up in the East Falls section of
Philadelphia. He was introduced to golf as a caddy at the Philadelphia Country
Club. He was one of 48 boys from East Falls who were caddies and became golf
professionals. Leach did his apprenticeship in the Mid-West under another East
Falls graduate. Jack Burke, Sr. He then spent two years in the U.S. Army serving
most of his time overseas. When World War I ended he returned to the
Philadelphia area as the professional at the Merchantville Country Club where he
spent 1919 to 1921. He moved from there to the Overbrook Golf Club and settled
in as the professional for 33 years, 1922 to 1954. When the Philadelphia Section
was formed in late 1921 Leach was a member of the organizing committee. He
didn’t win any of the big tournaments in the Philadelphia Section but he was
usually in contention. On the national scene he came close to victory on two
occasions. In the 1928 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields Leach trailed the leader,
Bobby Jones, by two strokes with one round to play. In the last round he shot an
80 for a 299 total and ended in a tie for sixth, five strokes out of a tie for
first place. In 1930 Leach finished second to Gene Sarazen in the Miami Open. In
the last round he shot a 72 to pick up four shots on Sarazen and he finished
just one stroke short of tying Sarazen. Playing against a strong international
field in the Shawnee Open he finished fifth in 1920 and eighth in 1926. Leach
played in six U.S. Opens and qualified for the PGA Championship five times. He
finished second in the Philadelphia Section championship and he won the Central
Pennsylvania Open in 1927. Leach also won the first East Falls Open in 1920 and
he went on to win the tournament three more times. His brothers James and Jack
were golf professionals in the Philadelphia Section as well, serving the
Tavistock Country Club for many years.