1899 –A forerunner of today’s Club, the Skaneateles Golf Club was organized with 40 members, and $180 in the treasury. The club’s six-hole course occupied 16 acres of the Joseph Hares farm on the west lake road, across from Clifford Beebe’s Lone Oak estate. (Today, this would be on the west side of West Lake Street, across the road from the Mezzalingua estate and the Skaneateles Country Club.)
1901–Harper’s Official Golf Guide made it official, but the club soon languished and the course was returned to nature.
1912—Theodore Specht was the owner of the Glenside Woolen Mills and on his estate, Hazelhurst (which occupied the site of today’s Athenaeum and all of Lake View Circle), he built his own golf course. In July, the Skaneateles Press noted, “Skaneateles can boast of one of the best possible golf links in this country. They are owned by Theodore W. Specht and laid out on his estate on Skaneateles lake. His daughter, Mrs. John Backus, is one of the best women golfers in Western New York.”
1915—On August 6th, the Syracuse Post-Standard reported on the founding of the Skaneateles Country Club:
“About fifty-two acres of land on the west shore of Skaneateles Lake owned by C.D. Beebe is considered the desirable tract for the new nine-hole course. The property has frontage of several hundred feet on the lake shore and extends back over a variety of grade conditions which tend to make it an almost ideal location for a golf course.
“The land is now covered for the most part by a luxurious growth of timothy hay. With this mowed down in required length and a bit of grading done to make the fair green more desirable, the course could be made an exceptionally good one… Three small streams, a few of the many tributaries to Skaneateles Lake, cross the property and each could be worked into the course, providing natural water hazards, a condition always considered ideal for the true golf course.
“Another advantage is found in a gully at the far end of the lot. A short hole, with the cup in a punch bowl, could be built to cross this obstacle, making it one of the most unique playing possibilities in this vicinity”
1915—October 22nd, The Auburn Citizen (October 22, 1915) reported:
“E. N. Trump of Syracuse was elected president of the Skaneateles Country Club at the first meeting of the Board of Directors which was held in the rooms of the Electric Terminal Building in Syracuse yesterday afternoon.”
1916—The first social function took place on the 4th of July, a picnic on the grounds with the club’s “full quota” of 150 members. Members put up tents for bath houses, amusements and al fresco dining.
Frederick Roosevelt Loney, a summer resident and an architect in New York, designed the clubhouse. In November, Regan Brothers of Solvay broke ground for the 42 by 80-foot clubhouse. The Syracuse newspapers estimated the cost to be between $8,000 and $10,000.
1917—In July, the clubhouse was ready. It was assumed that early members would lend their wives for painting and sewing curtains.
1919—On June 14th, the Club formally opened its season with a dinner, and announced that the links and tennis courts would soon be in fine condition.
“That the erection of the Skaneateles Country Clubhouse was a wise move, is demonstrated by the attendance each day at that delightful lakeside retreat. Every other week a dinner-dance is held and many members and their friends also take advantage of the pleasure offered by the Clubhouse each day, either for formal luncheons or dinner or informal assemblies.”
On July 23rd, the Club hosted a welcome home party for soldiers and sailors returning from the war in Europe. The day included a band concert, sports and a banquet for 150. Prizes included a box of cigars for the winning tug-of-war team (Navy), 10 pairs of silk socks for the winners of the baseball game (Army), a fountain pen for the winner of the potato race, and two pairs of tennis shoes for the winners of the three-legged race.
In August, there was sport of another kind at the clubhouse. The Syracuse Daily Journal noted, “Talk about diving for pearls. Syracuse and Skaneateles society were doing it the other day. A Syracuse woman, who owns one of the six strings of real pearls that are in this city, wore her pearls to a social function at the Skaneateles Country Club, and was on the porch when the string broke and there were pearls rolling almost everywhere. It was some dive. None are reported missing.”
1920—L. Harris Hiscock, an early member, recalled the condition of the course:
“The greens were a small spot of the fairway set apart to be mowed more closely and sprinkled more liberally. This was a great boon to night crawlers, and when you came to putt, you ball went through the worm casts, bumping along much as if you were playing a pin ball machine, except there was no light or bell. But because of this very unusual condition, the club actually had a ‘fifth column,’ those local residents who regularly plied the trade of gathering night crawlers to enhance the glory of the piscatorial arts.
“Beside the tee was a divided standing box, the smaller portion of which contained water and a ball scrubber; the balance contained sand, for then, as in the days of Duke’s mixture and cigarette papers, you made your own, i.e., the tee for your ball.
“To care for this course, which may truthfully be said to be elaborate for those days, there were a couple of hand mowers for the greens, a horse-drawn mower for the fairways, and maybe a shovel or two together with a rake. But really the horse was the best equipped for its tasks; it wore special padded shoes to keep it from sinking its hoof prints into the ground.”
To upgrade the fairways, truckloads of well-rotted manure were brought in, spread by hand, and then “a veritable forest of tree branches” was dragged behind the Club’s new tractor. Real grass began to sprout, along with a bonus crop of mushrooms.
In the clubhouse, tea was served every afternoon and dinner every evening of the season. The bi-weekly dinner dances were much anticipated.
In August, author Harold Porter, known to millions of readers as Holworthy Hall, reserved 22 covers for dinner, scoring the highest guest-count of the week. Porter was a popular contributor to the Saturday Evening Post, and wrote several novels and a collection of golf stories, Dormie One. Earlier that summer, the Porters were joined by Robert Middlemass, Porter’s roommate at Harvard. Between rounds of golf and dinners at the Club, the two men wrote a play, “The Valiant,” which is still performed today.
1922—On August 7th, the Club hosted “an evening of plantation songs and negro spirituals.” Afterwards, the Syracuse Journal reported, “The week has been of unusual social import on account of the unique entertainment provided by Mr. and Mrs. Irving Merrell, Monday evening, when the Tuskegee Institute singers presented an artistic program enjoyed by 150 men and women all appreciative of high-class music.”
1924—The game of mah jongg was en vogue in the clubhouse on Thursday afternoons.
1926—The Syracuse Journal noted, “The Skaneateles Golf Club is having the most active season in the history of the club. The links are now in a beautiful condition. It is said there is a waiting list for membership.”
1927—On August 7th, Francis “Red” Lyons of Syracuse played 173 holes hoping to set a record for continuous play. Lyons and his caddy, Tom Kelly, began at 4:45 a.m. and finished at 7:15 p.m., playing the nine-hole course 18 times, with an extra hole for good measure.
Late in the day, the pair tossed the golf bag, carried just a few clubs, and ran from shot to shot. They took one 30-minute break at noon, but otherwise kept moving and played for just short of 15 hours. Lyons averaged 84 strokes per round.
1928—The Country Club appeared in a brochure, Skaneateles the Beautiful, with photographs by E.L. Clark.
1929—In October, the stock market took a plunge that led to the Great Depression, the shuttering of many Skaneateles summer homes, and a dramatic drop in Club membership.
1930—In August, the Club hosted its first Central New York P.G.A. tournament with 17 professionals playing 36 holes. The Syracuse American reported, “The layout is one of nine holes and is reported to be one of the trickiest in this section.” Wind and frequent showers made the course even more challenging. Roy Jones of Cortland prevailed with a 73-74 – 148, finishing four over par but three shots ahead of brothers Bill and Bob Mitchell of the Onondaga Country Club.
The 1930s were to be a challenging time for the Club, and its leaders were often called upon to pitch in, to “imbue creditors with confidence” and to cajole bankers in order to weather the effects of the Depression. Member Eleanor Pease O’Neil later wrote:
“Many members resigned. A small nucleus of about 75 families remained. So for six long, hard years, the members of the Club pitched in to help. The men mowed greens, weeded, and helped with any heavy work around the clubhouse. The women members painted rooms, porches, redecorated furniture, made drapes, and recruited their boys and girls to paint the locker rooms. Anything and everything needed to keep up the grounds and clubhouse was mainly donated during these years.”
1931—The Club’s champion golfer was Hobart F. Weeks, the fourth member of his family to hold the title – after Lambert (1926), Forrest (1927) and G. Roswell (1928).
Since 1928, the winner’s cup had been known as the Elinor Glyn Trophy, a reference to her popular and steamy novel, Three Weeks.
1932—In August, the First Lady of New York, Eleanor Roosevelt, visited here and hit the high spots. She and a friend arrived on a Saturday afternoon and checked in at the Kan-Ya-To Inn (today’s Sherwood Inn). That evening, the women dined at the Krebs. On Sunday morning, they went for a swim at the Country Club before returning to Albany.
1933—Significantly for the Club’s future, and perhaps prompted by the economic pressures of the day, the Skaneateles Sailing Club joined with the golfers. The Club listed its first Commodore, Howard Stagg.
In July, the golf course record for women was broken twice in two weeks. Mrs. Harold Dyke of Cazenovia shot an 86 during the Syracuse District Women’s Golf Association tournament, and the following Sunday, Mrs. Harry (Bertha) McNally shot an 85.
In August, Eleanor Pease won the women’s handicap golf tournament. Eleanor was the daughter of the man who invented the cap on the milk bottle, John A. Pease of Netherland Dairy, a Club member in the 1920s who furnished and planted many of the course’s original trees.
1935—In August, the regatta of the Central New York Yacht Racing Association (CNYYRA) was held at the Club for first time. Three hundred sailors attended and 92 boats were at anchor. The Auburn Citizen-Advertiser noted, “The 10 classes will pass over the starting line directly in front of the docks of the Skaneateles Country Club at intervals of five minutes. Even the most experienced sailor recognizes the thrills and perils that will be encountered with such a large fleet of boats in a three-mile triangular course.”
One spectator was actress Bette Davis, who watched from the steps of the Kan-Ya-To Inn, where she had just had lunch. She told her companions she was delighted by the sight of so many sails.
1936—The Club became an official member of the CNYYRA. It was also a summer of refurbishment. On July 1, the newspaper noted, “Yesterday morning, the cottagers turned out – men, women and children – and worked on the renovation of the clubhouse, the men painting, the women sewing and the youngsters making themselves generally useful.”
1937—The sailors of the Club held a carnival and an “informal dance,” the proceeds going to pay for a 24-foot motor launch for use during the Saturday afternoon boat races. In June, the Club hosted Comet and Mower Interlake races for clubs from Buffalo, Owasco and North Hatley, Quebec.
1938—In June, a “circus dance” opened the season. Posters on loan from a circus publicity department decorated the club and a floor show was presented during the evening.
On the links, Robert J. Meredith, of Brighton, N.Y., set a Club record for most strokes on one hole, carding “a neat 18” on #5; it was reported that he had to rest for 30 minutes before moving on to the sixth.
On the water, the Club hosted the National Championship Comet Regatta with more than 45 boats drawn from chartered Comet fleets. Designed in 1932 by C. Lowndes Johnson, the Comet was already an enormously popular boat. John S. Barnes, chairman of the regatta committee (and one of the principals of the Skaneateles Boat Co. which eventually built more than 1,000 Comets), noted, “The competition is getting rough.”
There was also competition in the clubhouse, as the Club hosted a contract bridge tournament. A team from Scranton, Pennsylvania, won the top prize of $15 with a score of 242 1/2 points.
In October, the Club became part of nautical history. John and George Barnes had been in discussions with naval architects Rod and Olin Stephens and talked about the idea of a boat that would provide room for a family, be as simple to make as a Comet, and provide the high performance of a one-design class racer. That boat became the Lightning, and Lightning #1 was launched at the Skaneateles Country Club. Soon after, John and George Barnes formed the Lightning Class Association and the Club was granted the charter for Lightning Fleet #1.
1939—Dick Govern (Hamilton College ’36) came to the Club as its professional. He later cheerfully admitted that although he valued his Hamilton education highly, he had done nothing with it but play golf.
John Barnes, representing the Skaneateles Country Club, won the national Lightning championship at the Bay Head Yacht Club, New Jersey.
In July, the Club hosted “Turnabout Is Fair Play” day, in which golfers competed in sailing races and sailors competed on the golf course.
The directors reluctantly raised the price of Manhattans from 25 cents to 30 cents. Members complained. But the National Defense Program of 1940 was about to stimulate the economy and prove favorable to the financial condition of the Club.
1940—In June, the opening dinner dance was an “Art Depreciation Ball,” and the walls were decorated with amateur art works of the members; 250 attended. The Children’s Program began, led by Art Hyatt, who would lead the program for the next 31 years. In September, in spite of its own financial pressures, the Club hosted a benefit party for the war relief fund of the American Red Cross.
During the summers of 1940 and 1941, Chester “Chet” Coats was the steward of the Club. (In 1945, Coats purchased the Kan-Ya-To Inn and renamed it the Sherwood Inn, becoming a part of village history.)
It was Chester Coats who first hired Spiegle Willcox to provide music for Club dances. Newell “Spiegle” Willcox was a trombonist who played with many jazz greats. In 1927, he left the New York music scene to assume responsibility for his father’s coal business in Cortland, but he continued to play on the weekends. (In 1975, he was rediscovered, which led to European tours, a guest spot on the Tonight Show and appearances at jazz festivals in Europe and the U.S.)
1941—In September, the Club hosted the Third Annual National Lightning Class sailing regatta, with 25 Lightnings competing.
On December 7th, the attack on Pearl Harbor thrust the United States into World War II and Americans faced a new world of shortages and rationing. For a time, the golf course became a hay field because there was no gasoline for the mowers or help available for “non-essentials.” During the war, the Club coped with gas rationing by using hay wagons to carry members to the dinner dances.
1942—In August, the American Legion built an observation post which overlooked the golf course from the neighboring Edward Andrews farm. Up in the tower, observers were “scanning the skies day and night on the lookout for possible enemy planes.” Among the 186 local volunteers who staffed the tower was Mrs. Jonathan Wainwright, wife of the American general being held as a POW by the Japanese. One news account noted that on sunny days the Skaneateles tower was protected by “a gay parasol.”
1944—In August, the Club hosted a “one club” golf tournament; Fred Martin was the winner, with Dr. Arthur C. Rauscher and William Teahan tied for second. The news report failed to mention which club each man chose to play with.
“Potluck” by Gil Elvgren
A financial improvisation of the 1940s involved slot machines from the Mills Bell Company of Chicago. One member cited them as “the bulwark of our financial income.” At first there were nickel, dime and quarter slot machines. A second quarter slot machine was added in 1946. When the colder months came, the machines were sent to the basement of the National Bank & Trust Co. on Genesee Street, for a winter’s nap. (Concerned about the machines’ legality, the Club disposed of them in 1953.)
1945—George Bowen teed up a ball on the Club course and drove it across the lake. The fact that it was winter and the ball bounced and skittered across the ice for most of its trip did not diminish Mr. Bowen’s satisfaction.
In warmer weather that summer, George Barnes, brother of John Barnes, the former champion, won the 1945 Lightning class sailing championship at the Riverside Yacht Club in Connecticut.
1946—The Ninth Annual International Lightning Class Regatta was held at the Club, with 56 entries. Also, the Rhodes-Bantam Class made its debut at the Club, giving the Club its third #1 charter to join Comet and Lighting #1.
Linen-era postcards from the 1940s
With the Depression and WWII in the past, the Club began to thrive. The entrance road was repaved by the A.K. Wikstrom Co. The south porch was enclosed to enlarge “The Blue Room” and the bar was enlarged to accommodate a second bartender. William G. Allyn noted that revenues “improved accordingly.” And greenskeeper Burt Dudden received a new tractor and mower.
1947—On September 13th, the Club welcomed Gene Sarazen, the first golfer to win the “Grand Slam”: the U.S. Open (1922, ‘32), the PGA Championship (1922, ’23, ’33), the British Open (1932) and The Masters (1935). When Sarazen arrived with two friends, Billie Richards, the Club steward, made quick arrangements for a game and added Club pro Dick Govern to make a foursome. The gallery grew as word of Sarazen’s arrival spread, and by the final holes he had a large and appreciative audience.
When the last ball went down, Sarazen carded a 68, and Govern had a 69. Before retiring to the clubhouse for lunch with James Huxford, the Club’s president, Sarazen told reporters that Govern had “as solid a game as he’d ever seen.” (Golf is clearly good for you. Sarazen and Govern both lived to be 97.)
1948—In June, Harry Wilder hosted Lord and Lady Wakehurst for dinner. Lord Wakehurst, a.k.a. John Loder, was touring with his wife, Peggy, on behalf of the English Speaking Union.
An Eton graduate, Lord Wakehurst was a WWI veteran (Gallipoli, Egypt, Palestine), served in the Foreign Office, fought bush fires in Australia, loved the theatre, opera and ballet, and was an amateur filmmaker. Chances are he could hold up his end of a dinner conversation. And he was almost certainly the first member of the House of Lords to dine at the Club.
That summer, the sailors put up their first concrete dock, with the old wooden dock beyond it, shown above on what is surely one of the ugliest Skaneateles postcards ever.
1949—In September, the mortgage was burned at the Annual Meeting.
Three postcards from a series published in 1949
1951—The Club hosted its first member-guest tournament, and also advertised for caddies, who had to be 14 years of age or older. The Club introduced regular Monday evening dance classes for its members in the 5th and 6th grade, preparing them for dinner dances to come. The instructor was Leo Snell of Syracuse, who taught the waltz, foxtrot and tango, and of course the obligatory bow to one’s partner before each dance.
Swimming lessons were popular, as was ball hawking. “We could find a ball anywhere,” said one member of her childhood prowess, “We could feel them with our feet in the creeks.”
1955—The Club welcomed the Rhodes-Bantam International Regatta and Hurricane Connie “whipping the lake into an unsailable froth.” The next day, continuing high winds capsized boats and broke masts, but 22 sailors managed to complete three races. Among the mishaps, former Club Commodore Curtis Mial and his wife Dorothy took a page from a submarine manual and sailed their boat straight under water.
On June 10, John S. “Jack” Loss carded the nine-hole course’s most amazing round. The match began as an informal, after-supper foursome, two couples enjoying an evening round of golf. But on the first hole, Jack Loss hit a five iron shot 180 yards into the cup. The next five holes went eagle, birdie, par, eagle, birdie, and at some point the casual nature of the round began to take on the trappings of history. At the seventh hole, Jack began to wonder if he was going to “blow up, as had happened on previous occasions.” But he birdied seven, parred eight, and came to the final hole at nine under par. Jack made the green in two, but was 30′ from the hole, and shaking. Anticipating at least three putts, Jack tapped the ball and watched it make its way across the green, hit the back of the cup and disappear, for one more birdie and a 26, ten under par for nine holes, the stuff of which dreams are made.
On the 4th of July, the Cork Room bar opened. Not quite getting “Cork Room,” the Club president wrote to the Lord Mayor of Cork, in Ireland, with the news. The Lord Mayor wrote in reply, “It is very gratifying to know that Cork will be officially recognised by your members and I feel sure that Corkmen or their descendants who are resident in, or visitors to, your neighborhood will feel honored at your decision.”
In August, member Tom Rich brought Otto Graham to the member guest tournament. Old friends, they had played basketball for the Rochester Royals in 1945-46 – the team that won the NBL championship in 1946, the year before the league reformed as the NBA. Which made Graham the only athlete to win national championships in basketball and football. From 1946 to 1955 he took the Cleveland Browns to the title game every year.
Graham and Rich, however, could not work their magic on the links, and lost in the first flight to Cliff Turner and John McDonald. (Not to favor one sport over another, Tom Rich would later treat the Brooklyn Dodgers’ shortstop Pee Wee Reese to a round of golf at the Club.)
In September, pro golfer Ted Kroll played a round at the Club as part of an event to honor the Club’s pro, Larry Bartosek. A member of three Ryder Cup teams (1953, ’55 and ’57), Kroll would be the PGA tour’s leading money winner in 1956.
1956—In June, late night vandals did “considerable damage,” tearing up turf, knocking over poles and flags, and tipping over a Coca-Cola machine. The Skaneateles Free Press noted, “Some of the flags were found stuck in the lawns of various local people.”
In August, at the “gully hole,” now number 13, members built a 125-foot bridge across “lost ball gulch” a.k.a. “Cardiac Hill” and dedicated the span to greenskeeper Bert Dudden.
Dudden was born in Rodney Stoke, England, and served the Club for 40 years. At the dedication, poems composed for the day were read, Mr. & Mrs. Dudden were then escorted across the bridge for cocktails, followed by dinner at the clubhouse with music and dancing.
1958—In October, Bert Dudden retired after 40 years of keeping the golf course green. He was replaced by John Gerald “Jake” Moore, who had the heroic task of planting hundreds of trees to replace the elms that died of Dutch Elm Disease.
1959—On the 4th of July, hockey legend Gordie Howe played golf at the Skaneateles Country Club. He was accompanied by his good friend Dr. John “Jack” Finley, the team physician for the Detroit Red Wings, a Syracuse native who did his pre-med studies at Syracuse University.
On the ice, Howe played 32 pro seasons, won six MVP awards and four Stanley Cup championships. His injuries prompted more than 300 stitches, most of them put in place by Dr. Finley. On the links, Howe was a good golfer, usually within a stroke or two of par. During his visit, Howe also rode on the mail boat.
1960—In September, the women golfers celebrated the end of the season with a “Wing Ding Day,” that included golfers teeing off with both feet in a bushel basket.
Evenings at the Club were still very formal. Dances required suits for the men, evening gowns for the women. In fact, gentlemen had to wear a sport coat whenever they were in the clubhouse. In the days before air conditioning, at least one member was known for leaving in the middle of a dance, going home, changing into a dry suit, and returning for more dancing. Other members jumped into the lake at the end of the evening to cool off.
1961—Club member Sue Rich, described by the Skaneateles Press as “Skaneateles’ scintillating golf star,” won her first Syracuse Women’s District Golf Association championship, a title she would win again six more times in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s.
Regatta Week, 1961, photo by A. M. Baunach
In October, responding to the growing popularity of golf and crowding on the original nine holes, the Club announced its intention to expand the golf course to 18 holes. The Club bought 54 acres from Dwight Winkelman, across West Lake Road. Golf course architect Hal Purdy designed the new nine holes; construction was supervised by Tom Rich and Jake Moore.
1963—Opening ceremonies were held for the 18-hole golf course.
In June, three golfers made holes-in-one. June Burke hit her ace on a day when the Club was entertaining a number of women golfers from the Owasco Club in Auburn, for whom Mrs. Burke had to buy drinks. Because she usually shot in the 50s or 60s for nine holes, she had not bothered to invest in the “hole-in-one” insurance pool and thus had to pick up the tab on her own. (She followed in the uninsured tradition of Polly Wilkinson, Mrs. Joseph Rogers and Mrs. Preston James who had to foot the bar bill in the 1930s and ‘40s.) Henry Crumb was luckier that month, being covered by the pool. John Dalberg made his hole-in-one during a twilight league tourney and found 100 people waiting in the bar; fortunately, he too was covered for all but $2.50.
1964—In July, Janet “Johnny” Meyers shot a new women’s course record of 79 while winning the women’s championship.
In August, a visiting sailor named Pete Bone, frustrated by a poor start in the first race of an Invitational meet, chose to unfurl his Lightning’s spinnaker in 40 m.p.h. winds. The boat began to fight its crew, planed, then left the water and, airborne, passed the boats of ten (10) awestruck skippers. The heroic flight ended abruptly and poorly when the boat returned to its accustomed medium.
1965—In October, the Marcellus Observer noted the passing of Hugh Shear, a retired postal clerk and a veteran of World War I. The obituary noted, “Mr. Shear was a member of the Skaneateles Country Club and played golf on the first golf course located on the Hares farm.”
1967—The Club hosted the All Lake Regatta, a Rhodes Bantam regatta, a Lightning Invitational and the Fleet 1 Regatta.
1968—In January, directors of the Club declared the grounds off-limits to snowmobiles, of members and non-members alike, because of extensive damage to the greens. The warnings were repeated in 1969 and ’70.
1969—In June, legendary yacht designer Olin Stephens was the Honorary Race Committee Chairman at the SCC regatta, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the founding of Lightning Fleet 1. Stephens designed the Lightning, as well as winners of the Trans-Atlantic Race, the Fastnet and the America’s Cup.
1972—In June, a match play tournament found the temperature at 45 degrees with a north wind gusting to 35 m.p.h. The sponsor handed out lined windbreakers, all of which were instantly put to use.
On June 20th, Davies Birchenough glided into the harbor at Hamilton, Bermuda, as the only American crew member of the British yacht Noryema, winner of the Bermuda Race, the most prestigious ocean race in the world of yachting. The grandson of former Club President Arthur Birchenough, Dave learned to sail on Skaneateles Lake, and had assisted with the Junior Sailing and Seamanship course, taking students out in the Club’s fleet of eight Little Bear dinghies.
In August, 56 boats competed in the Rhodes Bantam Regatta, and in September, 57 boats competed in the All Lake Regatta. In the latter event, the Wiles Trophy for the Overall Championship went to Joe Spalding who piloted a 1929 Ackroyd Dinghy, one of the last of a once active fleet that sailed on Skaneateles Lake in the 1930s.
In September, the Club hosted Count and Countess Pier Arrigo Braschi and their daughter Francesca, of San Marino. They came here via Newport, where they had attended a reception for Jacqueline Onassis. The Skaneateles Press noted, “They had visited Skaneateles 16 years ago and wanted to show their daughter ‘the most beautiful village in the United States.’” While in the village, the family stayed at the Sherwood Inn and enjoyed lunch at the Club hosted by Miss Lynn Abrams.
1975—In August, the All Lake Regatta hosted 54 boats including an Optimist Pram, a Mayflower, two Ackroyd dinghies, a Renali, an LS 16, a Copperhead, a Rhodes 19, an 18-foot knockabout sloop, a Venture 22, a Cal 21, a Catalina 22 and a Comet.
On the golf course, the 25th annual Member-Guest tournament fielded more than 80 two-man teams, with golfers from 21 different states and Canada. There were nine previous tournament champions in the field, including the Club’s current champion, Jim Bean. Guests were advised to pay attention to Members when lining up putts. “The grain defied logic,” Jim Bean recalls. It was said that the grain of the greens gravitated toward moisture, i.e., the lake, creating unusual breaks that only Club members could anticipate.
1978—The Club hired Richard “Doc” Byrn, a.k.a. The Shoe Doctor, who ruled the locker room and grill for the next 11 years. Doc was famous for being able to supply everyone with everything, from aspirin to shoe laces to zippers.
1981—Dick Campbell stepped in as director of the Children’s Program, a post he would fill for the next 18 years.
1982—In July, while in the Finger Lakes region, actor Bill Murray watched his Utica Blue Sox play the Auburn Astros (today’s Doubledays) at Falcon Park, and then spent some time here, staying at the Sherwood Inn. He visited the Club, where he was gently asked to remove his hat, in deference to club rules, by bartender Al Colella. He did.
Deckle-edge postcard with photo by Rob Howard
1986—SCC junior golfer Tom Scherrer won the New York State Junior Championship just before he stated his sophomore year in high school. In 1988, he won the New York State High School Championship and repeated the performance in 1989, an auspicious start to the career of the man generally acknowledged to be the best golfer to come from the Skaneateles Country Club.
In July, the Club saw one of its more unlikely “famous visitors.” The Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, the author of The Power of Positive Thinking, was working with author Ken Blanchard on a book called The Power of Ethical Management.
As a part of his process, Blanchard shared drafts of the book with others and invited them all to the Country Club to share their thoughts. The 87-year-old Peale, who usually wrote alone and ended his projects with a simple prayer, may have found the mid-stream input to be out of the ordinary, but took it in stride.
1988—In May, the Skaneateles boy’s golf team won its 200th league match at the Club. Laker coach Dick Campbell had compiled a 200-13-1 record since the start of the 1966 season. The 200th win was notched by Tom Scherrer, Jamie Bean, Jeff Campbell, Jon Doctor and Brian Ralph.
The Lightning Class 50th Anniversary Regatta was held at the Club, with 277 boats participating. “This regatta will be a celebration,” said race committee chairman Joe Spalding, who with his wife Sue handled logistics. On land, Janet Besse recorded 600 dinner reservations.
The Clubhouse in 1990
1990—In July, the Club celebrated its 75th anniversary. On the golf course, 144 golfers enjoyed a Scotch String Twosome, with each player given a piece of string measured to allow one foot for each handicap stroke. The players could advance the ball to a more favorable spot at any time, measuring the distance the ball was moved with the string and cutting off the length used. When their string is used up, players were on their own.
Luncheon was graced by a display of McKenzie-Childs pottery and a talk by Victoria McKenzie-Childs. On Saturday evening, the dinner dance featured the music of Spiegle Willcox, who first played the Club fifty summers earlier. The keynote speaker was William G. Allyn, the oldest living former president of the Club.
The Original 1916 Course
The 75th anniversary history noted that only holes 1, 2, 14, 15 and 16 resembled the original course of 1916.
1991—On Mother’s Day, May 13th, a fire swept through the clubhouse causing $2 million in damage and disrupting a summer of planned events. The Club expressed its thanks to the firefighters of Skaneateles, Marcellus, Amber, Owasco and Sennet for their “valiant efforts” and gave thanks that no lives were lost. The Skaneateles Press noted that a sense of shared loss “permeates the streets of Skaneateles again this week. While only a small percentage of the residents actually belong to the club, in a larger sense the club belonged to all who live and play on the lake.”
Working out of a circus-sized tent in the parking lot, the Club hosted a summer of golf and the CNYYRA regatta with 117 boats participating. Over Thanksgiving weekend, construction of the new clubhouse began.
1992—On the July 4th weekend, the reconstructed clubhouse was opened with music from a steel band and a buffet, a formal dedication of the new building with a toast given by William G. Allyn, an evening dinner with music provided by a 17-piece orchestra, and a Sunday brunch, as well as three golf tournaments.
In October, the venerable Leisure Hour Club celebrated its 100th anniversary with a luncheon at the Club.
1996—The Club found a buyer for Sandy Point who would sell the point itself to the Club. Land that had long been leased became Club property.
1998—After a storm toppled trees at the 17th green, members suggested options including new trees or a new sand bunker. But the Greens and Grounds committee thought a professional golf course architect could unify the entire course’s design, add character and address some chronic maintenance problems.
Golf course architect Stephen Kay was chosen. The process involved a round of golf. Early on, Kay turned to the committee members and said, “This was the fifth blind shot and we’re only on the seventh tee.” He stated that one or two were permissible but so many could be dangerous. Kay also pointed out foot prints in a bunker that was so close to a pond that golfers walked straight through the sand with carts in tow. Kay’s Master Plan called for rebuilding green surrounds with enhanced bunkers, drainage, irrigation and aesthetics, changes to the locations of bunkers and sand traps, correction of drainage problems, and tree removals. The changes would be made on a gradual, year-by-year basis over the next two decades.
1999—The Club installed a lightning detection and course warning system on the golf course, which triggers a “clear the course” siren whenever lightning is within a five-mile radius.
In December, the Club’s head professional, Michael Doctor, was elected to the PGA’s national board of directors for a three-year term. Doctor had already been honored with numerous CNY PGA awards in the areas of club relations, teaching and the advancement of junior golf, and had been named Teacher of the Year in 1993 (with two of his students attending college on golf scholarships).
2000—On June 4th, Tom Scherrer won The Kemper Open at the TPC at Avenel with a score of 13 under par, becoming the only Club member to win a PGA Tour event. The win qualified him to play in the Master’s Tournament at Augusta National in April of 2001.
In July, the 70th Annual CNYYRA Regatta – “Centrals 2000: A New Century of Sailors” – was held at the Club, with 120 boats. Visiting the Club, Peter Isler, winner of two America’s Cups and editor-at-large of Sailing World, wrote, “From a racing standpoint, Skaneateles Lake is very challenging because of the topography and variability of the lake. The wind tends to funnel, making it a great place to race… The great thing for kids, and they may take it for granted, is that it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth. It’s like Lake Como, Italy, with more wind.”
In September, President Bill Clinton played at the Club with Terry McAuliffe, John “Duke” Kinney and Tom Scherrer.
2003—More than 500 members gathered to celebrate Al Colella’s 40th anniversary, and the bar was renamed “Al’s 19th Hole.”
2004—In October, the Club hosted the newly crowned Miss Deaf America, Erin Casler, at a dinner dance benefit for Whole Me, Inc.
The evening included a performance of poetry and stories in American Sign Language by Jeremy Quiroga who remembers “a charming small town with a good gathering of people for a good purpose.”
2005—In April, Beth Honcharski, who learned and taught sailing at the Club, took the helm of a 78-foot America’s Cup boat in the harbor at Sydney, Australia, and so impressed the crew that they offered her a position with their sail school. She noted, “My years with the Country Club Sail School certainly taught me well.” That summer, the school’s director, Mimi Appel, said, “I came here to watch my oldest learn to sail five years ago and I couldn’t leave. All these boats. All these kids. All this fun. I fell in love with the place.”
Dick Campbell retired as the coach of the Skaneateles High School golf team with a New York State record of 569 wins. He said, “Coaching golf here was the easiest job in the world because of all the great young players coming out of the Club.”
In July, a donation by John Stewart helped the Club to build a tunnel under Kane Avenue so golfers could pass safely under traffic when going between the east and west grounds.
The new tunnel followed the path of a “cattle pass” that had been placed under the road circa 1949 when the farmland was cut in half by the new Kane Avenue. The cattle pass was wet, slimy and tight. Many people chose to climb the hill to cross the highway where traffic was passing by at 50 m.p.h. Acquiring the permits took two years but the construction was completed in weeks, ahead of schedule.
2006—President Clinton returned to the Club for a quiet round of golf; his foursome included Duke Kinney and Mark Congel, and only four Secret Service men. Club pro Mike Doctor offered some coaching, and straightened out the President’s swing.
2008—The 70th Annual Lightning Regatta welcomed 130 sailboat racers, and while the weather was “lovely” for spectators, the light winds made for slow sailing.
2010—Har-Tru tennis courts were built on the outside nine, adding a tennis program with lessons, junior camps and leagues to the Club’s offerings.
On July 22nd, the legendary Chubby Checker entertained an enthusiastic crowd at the Club, celebrating Penny Allyn’s birthday.
2015—The Club celebrated its 100th anniversary, looked back on a history that touched thousands of lives, and reflected the history of the community and the nation. Al Colella tended bar for a couple’s wedding and for their 50th anniversary. Club pro Larry Bartosek was remembered as a great golfer, but also because he liked to feed the ducks.
The Club hosted bridal showers, bachelor parties (and at least one “spinster dinner”), rehearsal dinners, weddings, wedding receptions and anniversaries, birthday parties, retirement dinners, fashion shows, high school proms and reunions, card parties (rummy, bridge and whist in the 1920s, bridge and canasta in the 1940s, duplicate bridge in the 1950s), luncheons, teas, dinners, and benefits for scores of worthy causes.
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