Shawnee Inn & Country Club was the birthplace of the PGA of America!

“Did You Know”
Shawnee Inn & Country Club was the birthplace of the PGA of America!

Shawnee Country Club’s owner, Charles Campbell Worthington, was a visionary. Born in 1854, his father H.R. Worthington had developed the first direct-acting steam pump, and was part owner of the Worthington Hydraulic Pump Works. Working under his father, C.C. Worthington contributed hundreds of important developments in pumps and other machines. When his father died in 1880, C.C. Worthington took over management of the company.

On a trip to Scotland, Worthington was introduced to golf. Upon returning home he built a six-hole course on his estate, north of New York City. In 1899 he sold his interest in the pump company and started a company manufacturing automobiles, first steam and later gasoline.

Worthington 1896

Worthington began spending more time at his summer home in the Pocono Mountains at Shawnee on Delaware, Pennsylvania, west of New York City, where he had a rudimentary 9-hole golf course. In 1903 he bought 8,000 acres near his Pennsylvania home on both sides of the Delaware River. There he created a game preserve to protect different forms of wildlife.

In 1910 Worthington hired Albert W. Tillinghast, a friend of his three sons, to build an 18-hole golf course on his property. Tillinghast had never designed a golf course, but he was a good golfer and Worthington saw something in him. That same year Worthington began building a 90-room hotel near the golf holes that were under construction. The hotel, the Buckwood Inn, was later named Shawnee Inn.

Both the golf course and inn opened for business in 1911. One year later Worthington introduced a tournament for the golf professionals, the Shawnee Open. The tournament had a purse of $500 and drew a strong field as it was played three days after the Philadelphia Open and one week before the US Open, which was in Buffalo that year. The US Open purse was $940. 1908 US Open champion Fred McLeod won the tournament. The Worthington family treated the golf professionals like honored guests, which was not the norm at other tournaments. At the closing ceremony Worthington mentioned that the golf professionals should have a national organization.

Worthington sponsored a second Shawnee Open in 1913. One evening during dinner, a letter from Mr. Worthington was read extolling the virtues of the professionals having an organization like the British PGA that would include all the states.

The Shawnee golf course was on land that for many years had been Indian farmland. With miles and miles of land, the Indians did not need to rotate crops. With the soil depleted of nutrients, growing grass was a challenge. In 1914 Worthington hired a St. Andrews trained golf professional/green keeper, Robert White, who had been working in Chicago. During the winters White had been taking agronomy courses at the University of Wisconsin, so he understood what was needed to revitalize the soil.  

During the early years the fairway grass was kept at a proper height by grazing sheep. Worthington even brought in a shepherd from Scotland to tend the flock. In 1914 he created the first commercially successful set of gang mowers for mowing fairways, which were pulled by horses and later tractors. That enterprise would become the Worthington Mower Company, located in nearby Stroudsburg.

Worthington Tractor & Mower x

The professionals who had competed at Shawnee like Gil Nicholls, Alex Smith, and Walter Hagen, along with White heard Worthington’s message and began advancing the idea of a national PGA. In 1916 the PGA of America was formed, with Robert White as its president.  

In the PGA’s monthly magazine “Professional Golfer”, Shawnee was often referred to as the “Cradle of the PGA”.

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