On Dec. 22, 1894, delegates from five clubs â€“ St. Andrews Golf Club, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Newport Golf Club, The Country Club (Brookline, Massachusetts), and Chicago Golf Club â€“ met at the Calumet Club in Manhattan to form the Amateur Golf Association of the United States (subsequently to change its name, first to The American Golf Association, then to the United States Golf Association). Less than a month afterwards the Essex Country Club and the Philadelphia Country Club were elected to membership, the sixth and seventh on the roll.
A little more than two years later the Golf Association of Philadelphia was founded. It was Americaâ€™s first regional golf association. Interestingly, once again the Devon Golf Club served as a spur. For it was on this organizationâ€™s course that the first interclub team match in the Philadelphia area was played. On Oct. 15, 1896, a team representing Philadelphia Cricket Club squared off against Devonâ€™s top players. Philadelphia Cricket Club won, 22â€“12. The occasion was so thoroughly enjoyable (even the losers had a grand time!) that the appeal of interclub matches on a broader scale was discussed and embraced. The obvious outgrowth of such thinking was the formation of an association of local golf clubs to organize and administer these competitions.
On Feb. 5, 1897, seven men gathered at the Market Street National Bank for the express purpose of founding the Golf Association of Philadelphia. Representing the Belmont Golf Association (soon to be reorganized into the Aronimink Golf Club) were Milton C. Work and Dr. Henry Toulmin. From Merion Cricket Club came Rodman E. Griscom and Walter E. Stephenson. Philadelphia Country Clubâ€™s delegates were George D. Fowle and Isaac T. Starr. Samuel Y. Heebner alone represented Philadelphia Cricket Club, Alan H. Harris being unavoidably absent.
The objective of the fledgling association was simplicity itself: to promote interest in the game of golf and to regulate all competitions between member clubs. In order to join the Association, a club had to be formally organized, have at least nine holes of golf for its exclusive use, and belong to the United States Golf Association. At the outset four clubs - the four founding clubs - were named Associate Members of the Golf Association of Philadelphia. Most clubs which would follow were accepted into the association as Allied Members. The difference was significant: Associate Member clubs had the right to be represented at the annual meeting by two delegates, each with one vote. Allied Members, on the other hand, could send only one delegate to the meeting and he has no vote. Moreover, the Associationâ€™s three officers - president, vice- president, and secretary-treasurer-could be elected from the rosters of Associate Member clubs. The same was true of the other two members of the Executive Committee.
The annual dues were $25 for Associate Member clubs, $10 for Allied Members, the bargain rate doubtless a reflection of the latter categoryâ€™s powerless position in the scheme of things. With the passing of the years, this distinction between the two classes of membership would blur and finally, with a revision of the by-laws, be eliminated.
At an organizational meeting two months later, on April 5, 1897, George D. Fowle, Philadelphia Country Club, was elected the first president of the Golf Association of Philadelphia. Dr. Henry Toulmin, Belmont, was elected vice president, and Alan Harris, of the Cricket Club, secretary-treasurer. Named to join these three on the then five-man Executive Committee (it would become a seven-member body in 1901) were Samuel Heebner, of the Cricket Club, and Louis A. Biddle, of the Country Club and Merion.
Once the officers and Executive Committee were in place, little time was lost in launching the first interclub team matches. That year the Associationâ€™s four founding clubs each fielded two teams, six players per team, for a total of 48 players in the "league." Matches were played in both spring and fall. When the final tally for the year was in, Merionâ€™s 1st team and the Cricket Clubâ€™s 2nd team were the winners.
The only other competition in the Golf Associationâ€™s first season was what was then called the Individual Championship Tournament, today known as the Philadelphia Amateur Championship.