A Philadelphia golf club raised $3 million for WWII US War Bonds in one day!

“DID YOU KNOW”
A Philadelphia golf club raised $3 million for WWII U.S. War Bonds in one day!

With the United States fighting World War II on two fronts, the golfers decided to sell War Bonds and raise money for wartime charities. With the Ryder Cup matches canceled in 1939, four Ryder Cup Challenge matches were played in Detroit from 1940 to 1943. Those four years of challenge matches raised $236,521 with the sale of War Bonds and money for the Red Cross. 

In May of 1943 Llanerch Country Club and its professional Marty Lyons hosted an exhibition featuring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. They were paired with Ed Dudley, president of the PGA of America and Jug McSpaden, a member of the wartime Ryder Cup teams. Special trains ran from the city every 15 minutes and 6,000 fans of Hope and Crosby, each paid $1. With rain predicted the exhibition was reduced to nine holes. The Club had lined up 100 policemen and military personnel to keep order, but with the spectators being movie fans and not golfers the marshals could not keep order. Rain turned the golf turned into five holes. The golfers fled to the locker room for dry clothes. Then Hope and Crosby returned to the practice putting green. Hope told jokes and Crosby sang, while at the same time they auctioned off war bonds. Golf balls, scorecards, and sweaters were autographed and along with golf clubs, were sold for war bonds. Mrs. John B. Kelly bought a $5,000 bond in return for a phonograph record signed by Crosby. Thirteen years later her daughter Grace was starring in the movie True Love, with Crosby. In total War Bonds sold that day came to $130,52

In June the Philadelphia PGA, Golf Association of Philadelphia and Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia played an exhibition at Bala Golf Club, which raised $3,000 to buy an ambulance for the Red Cross. The Red Cross suggested, instead of buying an ambulance they should visit the Valley Forge General Hospital to see what might be done there. While visiting the hospital, golf professionals Marty Lyons and Leo Diegel decided to build a nine-hole golf course for the veterans who were being rehabilitated there. Within a year the Philadelphia PGA had another golf course at Fort Dix and putting courses at three other hospitals for wounded veterans.

In October Torresdale-Frankford CC members Henry Hurst and Ollie Troup staged an affair at their club,  to raise money for the Red Cross and the golf course at VFGH. There was an exhibition and a pro-am tournament in the morning. The exhibition featured Craig Wood, Byron Nelson, Vic Ghezzi and Leo Diegel. In the afternoon there was an 18-hole tournament with $2,000 in prize money. The $12,000 proceeds from the day went to the golf course at VFGH and the Red Cross.  

During the summer of 1944, Sonny Fraser, the owner of Atlantic City CC, and Tavistock CC professional Dick Renaghan played a series of exhibitions in southern New Jersey that raised $10,000 for the Red Cross. In October another mixed golfer exhibition was played at Bala GC for VFGH. The proceeds of $1,000 went to VFGH.  

During the years 1944 to 1946 the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper sponsored three PGA Tour tournaments with all proceeds earmarked for wartime charities and the golf course at VFGH. Lancaster CC opened their golf course to the public three Sundays during the summers, with all money collected from the green fees going to the Red Cross.

On the fourth Sunday of June 1944, Philmont Country Club then a jewel of Philadelphia golf with its 36 holes of championship golf, staged an event to sell US War Bonds. Ellis Gimbel of Gimbels Department Store was president of Philmont. A golf exhibition featuring Craig Wood, Bud Lewis, Helen Sigel and Patty Berg was played in the afternoon. Wood was the holder of the US Open title, Lewis the Philadelphia Open holder, Sigel runner-up in the 1941 US Women’s Amateur and Berg one of the countries’ leading women professionals who was stationed with the Marines in Philadelphia. In the evening Ella Fitzgerald entertained the members and guests. Philmont CC, which was predominantly composed of Jewish members, sold $3,000,000 in War Bonds. To purchase a War Bond one paid 75 cents on the dollar. That meant that $2,250,000 had been paid to purchase the bonds, which with inflation equates to $32,979247 in 2020 dollars.  

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