Whitemarsh Valley CC hosted a substitute for the 1917 US Open, for charity only!

“DID YOU KNOW”
Whitemarsh Valley CC hosted a substitute for the 1917 US Open, for charity only!

In the early 1900s the USGA would ask the golf professionals where the US Open should be held. The professionals chose Whitemarsh Valley CC for 1917.

In January 1917 at the USGA’s annual meeting in New York, Philadelphia’s Howard W. Perrin was elected president. Perrin was a member at Philadelphia Cricket Club, St. Davids GC, Merion Cricket Club and president of Pine Valley GC. With the US Amateur slated for Oakmont CC and the Women’s Amateur for Shawnee CC, the delegates decided that holding all three of their 1917 championships in the same state would not be proper. With that the US Open was moved to Massachusetts’ Brae Burn CC, which had been the second choice of the professionals. 

In late January 1917 Germany announced a submarine offensive against any ships bringing supplies to its enemies. With that President Woodrow Wilson called for a vote of Congress for war with Germany, which passed decidedly in both houses. On April 6 Wilson declared war on the German government, not the people of Germany. In April the USGA canceled its championships for the year.

On May 21, Perrin announced that a tournament called National Patriotic Open, a substitute for the US Open, would be played at Whitemarsh Valley in June. The tournament would benefit the Red Cross. The New England golfers were not pleased with the shift to Philadelphia, but saying as much would have seemed unpatriotic.

There would be no prize money for the professionals or silver for the amateurs. The entry fee was $5. For the first time in Philadelphia, spectators were charged an admission fee. With no prize money it was thought that the professionals might not enter, but nearly all did.

The 72-hole 3-day tournament began on Wednesday June 20, with 100 players teeing off on what was described in the newspapers as strong winds blowing across the course. Walter Hagen telephoned to say he would be there on Thursday and catch up by playing 36 holes. Former Shawnee professional Alex Cunningham led by two strokes with a two over par 74. Only 16 players broke 80. Jim Barnes, holder of the 1916 PGA Championship title and professional at Whitemarsh Valley, posted an 84. After the score was posted Barnes realized that his scorer had made a mistake and he had actually shot an 83. When the USGA ruled that the score Barnes had signed for had to stand, the professionals made a protest. They said that if Barnes had to be held to the rules, then Hagen should also and not be allowed to arrive late. Hagen did not play. The officials were surprised how serious the professionals were; considering there was no prize money. 

Thursday the wind died down and Pittsburgh’s Allegheny CC professional, Jock Hutchison, took the lead at 149. In Friday’s 36-hole finish, Hutchison put together rounds of 71 and 72. His 292 total won by 7 strokes. Boston’s Tom McNamara, who was national sales manager for Wanamaker’s golf division, finished second at 299.

At that time in a US Open, the top ten professionals would have received checks, so the top ten were presented with framed certificates commemorating the tournament and their showing. In those days the winner of major tournaments would receive a gold medal. The Red Cross came through with a gold medal, which had a red cross in the middle, for Hutchison. With the player’s entry fees and the admission monies, $5,000 was raised for the Red Cross.

Perrin was only president of the USGA that one year. When the US Open resumed in 1919 after WWI, it was played at Brae Burn and the winner was Hagen.

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