Three Philadelphia PGA members who were not eligible played in the 1931 PGA!

Three Philadelphia PGA members who were not eligible played in the 1931 PGA!

On the third Monday of August 1931, forty members of the Philadelphia PGA were at The Springhaven Club to try to qualify for the PGA Championship. There was a bit of a quandary though. Six of the professionals had been late paying their PGA dues. One of those in question was the host professional Andy Campbell.

The PGA rule was that $35 of the $50 PGA dues had to be paid by July 15. Campbell and Charlie Hoffner (Ocean City GC) had been two days late paying their dues while Clarence Hackney (Atlantic City CC) and Harry Markel (Berkshire CC) had been 30 days late. Two others; Morrie Talman (Whitemarsh Valley CC) and Howard Slattery (Bucks County CC) had been late paying as well. The PGA had set a precedent by accepting Campbell’s entry but not the other five.

Since the PGA had accepted Campbell’s entry, Herb Jewson (Roxborough CC), secretary of the Philadelphia PGA, allowed the others to play under protest. Jewson said that he would refer the matter to Albert R. Gates, business administrator for the PGA of America. Late in the afternoon a telegram arrived from Gates stating “Should the gentlemen you refer to be certified as qualifiers for the P.G.A. Championship their entries will probably be accepted, but cannot decide definitely until full report from sectional officers”. The officers agreed that since Campbell’s entry had been accepted the others should be also.

Nineteen-year-old George Low, Jr. (Huntingdon Valley CC) led the 36-hole qualifying with a 145. Also qualifying for the seven allotted spots were Ed Dudley (Concord CC), Joe Kirkwood (PGA Tour), Hackney, Hoffner and John Beadle (Paxon Hollow GC). Markel defeated Al Heron (Riverside CC), who he used to work for, in a sudden death playoff to pick up the last spot. Even though Dudley had won twice on the PGA Tour in the past year he had to qualify along with Kirkwood who had been a semifinalist in the PGA the year before.

That night George Sayers (Merion GC) wired Gates to protest allowing Hackney, Hoffner and Markel to be accepted as qualifiers for the PGA Championship. Gates, who was considered the Judge Landis of professional golf, then ruled that Hackney and Markel were not eligible, so Heron was in. With three players, Campbell, Sayers and Marty Lyons (Spring Hill CC) having tied for ninth with 151s, Jewson announced that there would be an 18-hole playoff on Friday for the seventh spot. Campbell then wired the PGA to say that he did not care to play in the PGA Championship.

On Friday Lyons and Sayers played off at Springhaven in an all day rain. At the end of 18 holes they were tied, so out they went for another 18, which Lyons won.

In the third week of September, nine Philadelphia Section members, seven apparent qualifiers plus Hackney and Markel, arrived at the Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford, RI for the PGA Championship. Hackney and Markel along with Hoffner were told that they were not eligible to play in the tournament. Hackney said that he had not been told he had been barred from playing and threatened to sue the PGA. He was seen walking around with important looking papers sticking out of his back pocket. Hackney stated that he was going to get an injunction against the playing of the championship.

When the PGA officers were informed of that they changed their stance. Hackney, Hoffner and Markel were added to the 104 that were there for onsite qualifying and given starting times. They all failed to qualify for the 32-man match play ladder, with Hackney missing by one stroke.

The tournament was won by the darkest of dark horses, Tom Creavy a twenty-year-old. He defeated Denny Shute, who would later win the PGA twice and a British Open, in the final. Two years later Shute was the professional at Llanerch Country Club, near Philadelphia.  

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