Llanerch Country Club
|Llanerch Country Club|
950 West Chester Pike
Havertown, PA 19083
Architect: Alexander Findlay
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On the same main artery, City Line, as Overbrook and Bala which, heading south, becomes Township Line, we find what is today Llanerch Country Club. That is the fifth name for the club which was born at this location, in Havertown, Pa., in 1901.
In addition to covering the national cricket scene. The American Cricketer served for some years as the official news organ of the Golf Association of Philadelphia. Its Jan. 15, 1902, issue reported on the embryonic club:
A proposed corporation, to be called the Delaware County Country Club, has sent description and invitation to a number of golfers in the city to enlist their support in the maintenance of a semi-public course on the West Chester Pike, within easy access of the city by rail and trolley. Low dues, a large clubhouse, and a membership practically unrestricted are promised. The idea, if carried out and supported properly, will give Philadelphia golfers an organization more or less English in its wide range, as well as a welcome and needed opportunity for obtaining matches not restricted to a choice of ten or a dozen opponents ....
One hardly needed to read between the lines in order to understand that the new club would, at the very least, not be elitist. Whether it would be genuinely egalitarian remained to be seen. In any event, by June 1903, its members were playing an 18-hole course, the second nine having just been completed. Its greens were "browns"—putting surfaces of sand. In the spring of 1904, the club fielded a team in the Golf Association’s Suburban League.
The first name change occurred in April 1904, when the club was chartered as the Delaware County Field Club. By this time its members and visitors had the choice of playing golf, tennis, cricket, or soccer. In 1911 the Delaware County Field Club merged with the Athletic Club of Philadelphia (1626-28 Arch Street). The town club and the country club were now known as the Philadelphia Athletic Club, although the Delaware County Field Club charter remained in force.
This union was a brief one, terminating in 1914. The charter of the Delaware County Field Club was now amended to change the name to Bon Air Country Club. An unusual feature of the course during its Bon Air days was a par 6 of 655 yards that began at the site of the present 10th green and stretched away almost to Township Line. It was in 1914 that a 10-year-old caddie by the name of Marty Lyons began an association with the club that would include 33 years as head professional and would end only when he died suddenly in 1968. Marty recalled that during his caddying days most of the members arrived at the club on the 69th Street trolley and that because the course was surrounded by cornfields and grazing land they often had to chase stray cows, horses, and sheep away as they played the round.
Over the years between 1902 and 1918, when it burned down, this imposing structure served
as the headquarters for a club that changed its name four times.
According to Wilbur Germain, longtime member and club historian, not until 1916 did the club convert its greens from sand to grass. It was probably at this time that Alexander Findlay laid out what could fairly be called a new 18 on the same tract.
Between 1915 and 1918, Lansdowne, Pa. resident Thomas M. Fitzgerald, a wealthy furniture retailer and part owner of the Philadelphia Athletics, acquired the several parcels of land that constituted the club property—the club had always leased its ground from various owners, most of whom were members—and became sole owner of the club. In September, 1918, a tragic fire destroyed the clubhouse and killed two employees, including William F. Furlong, the club’s general manager. Fitzgerald immediately undertook the construction of a new clubhouse (the present one) and then reorganized the club under the name of Llanerch Country Club, with himself as president. In 1927 he purchased some adjacent acreage and added another nine. For the next 22 years, till part of the property was sold off to real estate developers, Llanerch’s members enjoyed the luxury of three nines. When the club reverted to 18 holes in 1949, James B. McGovern, head of the Donald Ross office here in Wynnewood, was called in to effect the necessary changes.