“DID YOU KNOW”
A former Merion Golf Club locker room employee was runner-up in a major golf championship!
When golf arrived in Philadelphia in the 1890s, Merion Cricket Club in Haverford (later Merion Golf Club), was one of the first clubs to have a golf course. Born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania in 1886, Emmett began working in the Merion locker room as a young man. Whenever possible he would be on the golf course working on his golf game.
By 1908 he was an assistant pro at the club. In 1913, one year after Merion opened its famous East Course, French left Merion to become the professional at the Country Club of York. At York his golf game began to show signs of greatness. In 1919 he finished second to Walter Hagen at the Met Open, lost in the quarter final of PGA Championship to Jim Barnes the winner, finished third at the Shawnee Open and won the Philadelphia Open which was open to all comers. At the end of the year he was ranked eighth in the United States.
French was named to a 12-man team to oppose a team from Great Britain at Gleneagles Golf Club in Scotland in 1921. Hagen made French the captain of the team. The Americans were soundly defeated, but 2-1/2 of the 4-1/2 points the visitors garnered were won by French, who defeated Ted Ray in a singles match.
The 1922 PGA Championship was held at the Oakmont Country Club in August. The field was composed of 64 PGA members who had qualified in their PGA Sections. The first two rounds were 18-holes and the next four were 36 holes. French swept through the first five rounds winning each match by four holes or more. In the final he met Gene Sarazen, a 20-year old professional who had just won the US Open in July. The match was all square on the 27th tee, but Sarazen proceeded to win the next three holes. The match ended on the 33rd hole with Sarazen the victor by 4 & 3. First prize was $500 and a diamond studded medal. French picked up $300 and a gold medal.
Later that year he won the Ohio Open at the Donald Ross designed Youngstown Country Club, with an 18 under par score of 274. It was considered a world record.
French’s golf career would include a second place finish in a Western Open, along with winning a Philadelphia Open and a Pennsylvania Open. He played on another US PGA team in 1926 against the British at Wentworth, England, which was sponsored by Sam Ryder. One year later the first Ryder Cup Match was held.
Arthritis put an early end to French’s career as a tournament player.