Siwanoy CC Celebrates PGA Championship Centennial
Many forget that the event has deep roots in Westchester
Photo courtesy of the USGA
“Long” Jim Barnes won the first of his four major titles at Siwanoy CC in 1916.
The world’s best golfers gather this week at Baltusrol to play the 100th anniversary edition of the PGA Championship. The very first one, though, was a Westchester affair contested at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville in 1916. It was a major tournament then as now, with more than 10,000 spectators turning out to watch Walter Hagen and other top pros of the day compete for a purse of $2,580 donated by retailer Rodman Wanamaker.
Siwanoy CC celebrates the event this week with the Siwanoy Centennial Invitational, an outing laden with top PGA pros that will benefit the Metropolitan PGA Foundation. Participants include Larry Nelson, a three-time major championship winner; Rocco Mediate, who won the 2016 Senior PGA Championship and famously lost to Tiger Woods in the 2008 U.S. Open; and multiple-time PGA Tour winners Jim Gallagher, Michael Bradley, Johnson Wagner, Olin Brown, and Will McKenzie. In addition to playing with the pros, attendees will see them compete in a long-drive contest using hickory-shafted clubs.
When the first PGA Championship was held, Siwanoy CC was already one of Westchester’s leading clubs. Founded in 1901 by 107 members who paid a $10 initiation fee and $20 annual dues to belong, the club was originally located in Mount Vernon. It lost its lease there a couple of years later when the property was sold to a certain “Mr. Bailey,” who happened to own a circus. After a 10-year residence on another leased site in Mount Vernon, it found its permanent home in Bronxville on property that had been given by the Continental Congress to David Williams, one of the soldiers that captured Major Andre as he tried to help Benedict Arnold betray the fort at West Point to the British during the American Revolutionary War.
Donald Ross had advised the club on purchase of the property and designed today’s 18-hole course. At the time, it measured less than 6,300 yards, which was short even for the day (today it stretches 6,617 from the tips). Ross’s design, though, had elevated tees, brooks that wound treacherously through the fairways, and well-bunkered and heavily contoured greens.
The PGA of America was founded in April of 1916—its first president was Robert White, the head pro from Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle—and the first PGA Championship was held in October. Siwanoy head pro Tom Kerrigan hit the first shot in the 32-player field. The event was match play, with each pair going 36 holes per round, which meant the finalists spent five long days on the course.
The semi-finalists were three British-born professionals—“Long” Jim Barnes, a Philadelphia resident who eliminated Kerrigan in the quarterfinals, and Scots Willie MacFarlane and Jock Hutchison—and American Walter Hagen, who would go on to win 11 professional major titles, a total exceeded only by Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Hagen fell to Hutchison and Barnes beat MacFarlane, setting up the epic final match on Oct. 14.
Hutchison took a one-hole lead out of the morning round played in windy conditions that pushed both players to 77s—six strokes over par. On the first tee after lunch, Barnes calmly pronounced, “I always do better after lunch,” and proceeded to post a 2-up lead after the 28th hole. Hutchison rallied to go 1-up after the 33rd hole, and the match was all square when they teed it up on the 545-yard final hole. PGA Historian Bob Denney wraps up the tale: “Arriving on the 18th green, both players had five-footers for pars. After a measurement, it was determined that Hutchison was out. He missed his putt and Barnes made his, winning 1-up, a $500 prize, and a diamond medal.”
Over the last two years, Siwanoy has undergone significant restoration by architect Mike DeVries. Several tee boxes were added, bunkering adopted to modern play, and extensive water management brought the classic course back to the original Donald Ross concept. One of the most interesting features is the expansive practice putting green just outside the clubhouse. It also seamlessly includes the first tee, which makes for fluid play and great views from the grill room.
While the centennial PGA Championship will be played at Baltusrol, the Met PGA will hold the Lincoln Met PGA Championship at Siwanoy in September.