The 1910 Philadelphia Open had the smallest but strongest field!

The 1910 Philadelphia Open had the smallest but strongest field!

The Philadelphia Open, which is still being played, had its smallest but strongest field in 1910. Hosted by the Philadelphia Cricket Club in August 1910, the US Open had been at that same venue two months earlier. The US Open was 72 holes in two days and the Philadelphia Open was 36 holes in one day.

First played in 1903 and called the Open Championship of Philadelphia, it was sponsored by the Golf Association of Philadelphia. The tournament was open to professionals and amateurs from Golf Association of Philadelphia clubs and other USGA member clubs.

The tournament was played on the second Monday of August. The entry fee was $5, and the GAP added $100 to the purse. There were only 12 entries: 10 professionals and 2 amateurs. With it being August some leading professionals from outside Philadelphia were in New England playing exhibitions and others may have decided that one day of 36 holes in the mid-August heat was not enticing. Also, in 1910 the $5 entry fee was equivalent to $156 today and the caddy fee added a few more dollars to the expense of participating.

Though small in numbers, many that entered were or would soon be the leading playing professionals in the country.

The Western Open was a major championship at that time. In total, 6 of the 10 professionals in the 1910 Philadelphia Open won 6 US Opens, 5 Western Opens and had 6 second place finishes in major tournaments along with winning 4 Philadelphia Opens and 1 Pennsylvania Open.        

Willie Anderson, host pro, won 4 US Opens, won 4 Western Opens, 1 Western Open RU.
Johnny McDermott, Merchantville Field Club, won 2 US Opens, won 1 Western Open,
       1 US Open RU, and won 3 Philadelphia Opens.
Gil Nicholls, Wilmington CC, was RU in 2 US Opens and won 1 Philadelphia Open.
Emmett French, Merion Cricket Club (Merion GC), was RU in the 1922 PGA Championship.
Jack Burke, Sr., Aronimink GC, tied for 2nd at the 1920 US Open.
James R. Thomson, Philadelphia Country Club, won the 1913 Pennsylvania Open.

The American Golfer magazine gave the tournament nearly a full page of coverage, written by Albert W. Tillinghast under the pen name “Hazard”. A member of the Philadelphia Cricket Club, Tillinghast was still a few years away from the start of his golf course architecture career.

McDermott (Sheppard) 1

Tillinghast wrote that the tournament was an “unqualified success”. “The going was even more remarkable than that in the National event which was decided over the same course” (just two months earlier). (In June, Johnny McDermott had ended up in a three-way tie in the US Open, losing to Alex Smith in an 18-hole playoff.) “Young McDermott again demonstrated that he is a natural player of astonishing ability. His morning round of 74 was followed by one in the afternoon, which was two strokes better, and his total of 146 just nosed out Willie Anderson (74-73), the home pro, by a single stroke. Anderson’s 5 on the home hole in the morning proved his undoing and a six on the eleventh, in both rounds, was really quite inexcusable.” (Par was 73)

Tillinghast continued, “Whether he (McDermott) will show to the same advantage over a longer route remains to be seen, but I am rather inclined to think that he will prove a hard nut to crack anywhere. He is only a youth, and it is to be hoped that his phenomenal success in each of the two Open events at the Cricket Club, may not chance to spoil a brilliant golfing future.”

With the entry fees and the added money coming to $160, McDermott collected $80. Four professionals won money, with the purse being divided: 50, 25, 15 and 10 percent.

Two months later (October 25, 1910) Willie Anderson died at the age of 31. The Philadelphia City Archives gave the cause of death as epilepsy.

2 thoughts on “The 1910 Philadelphia Open had the smallest but strongest field!

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  1. Thanks,Pete. I was interested to see Johnny McDermitt was from Merchantville Field Club. Dad was the pro there from 1928 until 1944.


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