Once Upon a Time, a Women’s Golf Tournament Shenecossett Invitation, 1919–1940 © Richard A. Voyer Independent scholar, Mystic, CT. Published on idrottsforum.org 2016-09-28
abstract: Shenecossett Invitation, or the Griswold Cup as it was also referred to, was played at the exclusive seaside summer resort located at Eastern Point in Groton, Connecticut USA in years 1919 through 1940. A product of hotel management, it served to attract tourists as well as to satisfy the want of women to enjoy their sport. Recognized as one of the more important summer events within the circle of women golfers, it attracted nationally well-known players that included Glenna Collett, Edith Cummings, Maureen Orcutt, Marion Hollins, Edith Quier and Jean Bauer, as well as champions of state golf associations in Illinois, Kansas, Maine Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Because of its importance, the Invitation constitutes a significant link between the past and present in the tradition of women’s golf. A beneficiary of the “Roaring Twenties” and a casualty of the Great Depression the following decade, history of the Invitation is an early example illustrating the thesis that economic productivi-
ty is fundamental to success of the tourism and leisure industry. The number of entries and number of scores reported in newspapers, and the distance players traveled to compete at Eastern Point were used to assess the changing fate of the tournament. richard a. voyer worked thirty years as an environmental scientist for the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency and its predecessor departments. His research focused on study of the influence of factor interactions involving natural and chemical contaminants on lethal and nonlethal responses of estuarine organisms. As a last project Richard put together a historical study of New Bedford, Massachusetts USA to show changes in the environment that accompanied development of that city as it evolved in a step-wise progression from a small farming community, to whaling, to cotton textiles, and to light industry. Since retiring Richard has played golf, and more recently has become involved with restoration of an old house.
richard a. voyer The old order changeth, yielding place to new… Alfred, Lord Tennyson, The Passing of Arthur
ot long after the Apple Tree Gang founded what became the oldest permanent golf club in the United States in 1888 women began to express their desire to compete in playing the game of golf. The ladies of the Morris County Golf Club of New Jersey, for instance, held their first tournament in 1895. Over the next five years the Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia, the Women’s Metropolitan Association and the Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts came into being, in part, to similarly promote competitions among club members. And on a national level, ladies of clubs affiliated with the United States Golf Association competed in the Women’s Amateur Championship first held in 1896. With the rapid growth of golf in the United States in the 1890s, an offering of the game of golf quickly became essential to the success of seasonal resorts.1 It served the need of hotel proprietors to attract tourists as well as to satisfy the want of their guests to enjoy their new found sport. Not surprisingly, tournament play soon became an important adjunct of resort golf. The Shenecossett Invitation was a prominent example of that offering, one that became widely recognized as a significant event within the circle of women’s golf. Glenna Collett noted in Ladies in The Rough that, although the national championship was “supreme”, the Shenecossett Invitation was one of the more important invitationals on the women’s summer tournament schedule.2 The following is one story of that tournament’s success and eventual demise. Sponsored by The Griswold, one of New England’s seaside grand hotels, the Shenecossett Invitation was a significant part of the summer activities at the gated, exclusive and fashionable colony at Eastern Point in Groton, Connecticut, USA. As a resort event, the tournament catered to golfers representing a wide range of golfing skills. Participation of golfers of national stature, including Marion Hollins, Mrs. Dorothy Campbell Hurd, Mrs. Ronald Barlow, Mrs. G. Henry Stetson, Mrs. Celeb Fox, Mrs. H. Arnold Jackson and Elaine Rosenthal, along with champions of state golf associations in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, conferred legitimacy and ensured a competitive environment of interest to players and spectators 1 “Golf Club Opening,” The Day (New London, CT), July 3, 1897, 5; John G. Anderson, “Winter Golf in the Southern Resorts”, Sporting Life, December 4, 1915, 16(14): 22. 2 Glenna Collett, Ladies in The Rough, assisted by James M. Neville (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928), 55.
once upon a time, a women’s golf tournament alike. Participation of others possessing lesser skills served to broaden the scope of colony involvement. As was so at other seasonal resorts3, entrants were likely awarded entrée into the Eastern Point society as tournament participants. Tournament fields were variously described in news coverage as: “one of the strongest fields that ever took part in an Eastern women’s golf tournament” (1921); “constituting one of largest fields ever starting in any tournament in this country” (1925); “one of the largest and most representative fields of women golfers ever assembled for a tournament in this country” (1926); and “not only large but almost as strong as one that will play in the national championship” (1929).4 Clearly, these statements testify to the Invitation’s popularity and to its significance in validating and underscoring the importance of women’s presence in the sport of golf. The opinion of the New York Times that Glenna Collett’s victory at Eastern Point in 1925 confirmed her as the greatest among American women golfers lends support to the interpretation of tournament importance.5 Origin of the Eastern Point colony dated from the mid-nineteenth century, when the owner of the property set out to create “a watering place and summer resort of the pleasant point.”6 Located in Southeastern Connecticut on the north shore of Long Island Sound and on the east bank at the mouth of the Thames River (Fig. 1), Eastern Point was readily accessible by automobile, steam yacht, steamship service from Long Island, New York and via railroad to the City of New London, Connecticut on the river’s west bank, and from there to Eastern Point by hotel motor launch. The colony attracted like-minded Americans of middle and upper classes with leisure time and discretionary income necessary to support travel. Guests enjoyed a healthy environment replete with panoramic and aesthetically pleasing views of the River and Sound, along with a diversity of recreational activities that included, in addition to golf, deep sea fishing, swimming, boating, tennis, horseback riding and dancing. The Galilee Chapel provided for the spiritual needs of visitors. 3 Larry R. Youngs, “Creating America’s Winter Golfing Mecca at Pinehurst North Carolina: National Marketing and Local Control”, Journal of Sport History 30 no.1 (Spring 2003): 35-37, 40, 46; Paula Welch, “Wealthy Women Establish Country Club Sport in Florida” (NASSH Proceedings and Letters 1986), 23; Paula Welch, “Florida’s Distaff Side of Sport in The 1920s” (NASSH Proceedings and Letters 1989). 4 New York Times, August 2, 1921; Providence Journal, July 28, 1925; New York Times, July 27, 1926; New York Times July, 8, 1929; New York Times, August 2, 1925 S8. 5 “Miss Collett Proves Her Supremacy Again”, New York Times, August 2, 1925, S8. 6 D. Hamilton Hurd, History of New London County, Connecticut with Biographic Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men (Philadelphia: J.W. Lewis, 1882), 475.
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Figure 1. Map of Connecticut showing location of Eastern Point on east shore and New London on west shore of Thames River.
Popular early-on, the colony became stylish under the influence of Morton F. Plant. Referred to as a “playground for millionaires” at its peak, Mrs. Mildred Lehman, who lived across the street from the golf course during the heyday of the Eastern Point colony, remembers the women in their chiffon and lace and the men in pinstripes and starched collars being shuttled between hotel and country club in their Cadillac and Packard automobiles. Eastern Point was a regular stopping place for the New York Yacht Club during its annual cruise. It was a favored spot of the New Haven and Cambridge crowd during Yale and Harvard’s annual Regatta on the Thames, a happening one scribe poetically described as “… something more than a race and only a little less than a rite.” And, in addition, it was a perennial summer gathering place of the “golf clan,” implying a group of friends who shared a life style and who played the game together on a regular basis, what Youngs referred to as a “community” of golfers.7 Heir to the estate of Henry B. Plant, a railroad and steamship magnate who had built hotels and promoted tourism along the west coast of Florida 7 Gail Braccidiferro, “Course Is Remnant of A Grand Old Era,” The Day, June 20, 1983, 17; Arthur Ruhl, “The New London Boat Race and Its People,” Outing, July 1905, 387; W.A. Whitcomb, “Now New England Beckons,” The American Golfer, Issue 9, 1934, 38; Youngs, “Creating America’s Winter Golfing Mecca”, 28.
once upon a time, a women’s golf tournament
Figure 2. View of The Griswold from Thames River. “Groton History Online”, Local History Collection, Groton Public Library, Groton, Connecticut.
in the latter part of the 19th century, Morton set out to improve the character of his adopted summer neighborhood following his arrival at Eastern Point in 1900. He first purchased the existing Fort Griswold House, which had become rundown and unprofitable following death of the family manager and litigation of his estate. He then commissioned Robert W. Gibson, a well-known New York architect, to design an up-to-date replacement at the same site (Fig. 2). The Griswold, the 400 room structure Gibson created and which opened for the summer season of 1905 was comparable to Poland Spring House in South Poland Spring, Maine and Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire in both scale and appearance. A public space on the main floor promoted a sense of “luxury of quiet rather than that of ostentation”, while inclusion of an informal grill in the interior design encouraged a feeling of casual living. Guest rooms were finished in mahogany, provided lighting by electricity and private telephones for local calling. Public telephones and telegraph service afforded guests long distance communications. The kitchen included facilities to produce that requisite treat of a summer resort, ice cream.8 Privately owned shingle style cottages ranging from quaint vernacular structures to imposing mansions of the Queen Anne 8 “Fort Griswold House Is Purchased By M.F. Plant,” The Day, June 5 1905, 9; “The Griswold – A Study in Summer Hotel Building,” The Architectural Record 19, no. 5 (June 1906):344-360; Bryant F. Tolles, Jr., Summer by The Seaside, The Architecture of New England Coastal Resort Hotels, 1820-1950 (Hanover and London: University Press of New England, 2008), 29, 31; “The Finest Summer Resort Hotel in America, The Griswold, Eastern Point, New London, Connecticut”, Advertisement, ca 1914.
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Figure 3. The Clubhouse at Shenecossett Country Club. “Groton History Online”, Local History Collection, Groton Public Library, Groton, Connecticut.
and Colonial Revival design that neighbored the hotel added to the grandness to the overall setting. Plant also retained Donald J. Ross to design a golf course consisting of eighteen holes to replace the existing few holes first opened at Eastern Point in 1898. By the time of his hiring, Ross had contributed significantly to golf course design and formulation of the management philosophy at the Pinehurst resort in North Carolina.9 Ever in search of the best, Plant went so far as to import soil from New Jersey during construction of the golf course to compensate for the glaciated and rock strewn landscape at Eastern Point to produce fairways that Durham Burt described as the “best between Boston and New York” (Durham Burt, letter to Mildred Lehman, April 22, 1978). Selection of Ross as his golf course architect allowed Plant to offer travelers a sense of seasonal continuity between Eastern Point and Pinehurst in the form of an architectural golf link. Plant created a second such tie when he again hired Ross to design two courses at his resort in Belleair, Florida. Plant also employed Dudley St. Clair Donnelly of New London, Connecticut to design and Hettie Rhoda Meade of New York City to furnish his new clubhouse that was advertised as “hospitably open to all players from all other clubs and sections of the country” 10 to suggest a management policy that fostered inclusiveness and participation of guests (Fig. 3). When the
9 Youngs, “Creating America’s Winter Golfing Mecca”, 32, 38. 10 “The Shenecossett Country Club at New London,” The Hartford Courant, October 11, 1914, X2.
once upon a time, a women’s golf tournament golf course and clubhouse opened in 191411 the newly created Shenecossett Country Club laid out over 129 acres was no less a stage and focal point of the colony than was The Griswold. Elected to the United States Golf Association as the 128th active member two years later it added significantly to the stature of the Eastern Point colony and its golf. Hotel, country club, cottages and the seaside location together constituted the wholeness of the milieu in which golf was played at Eastern Point. By the time of the inaugural Shenecossett Invitation in 1919, the country club was an established site of management-hosted amateur and professional competitions that included Shenecossett Open Championships conducted in 1915 and 1916, as well as fund-raising exhibitions during WWI that involved notable golfers such as Bobby Jones, Perry Adair, Alexa Stirling, Elaine Rosenthal, and Francis Ouimet. Exhibitions and championship play continued in post-war years. H. B. Martin, in reviewing early American golf, included the Shenecossett Country Club on his list of “other famous courses [of Donald J. Ross] that have seen important tournaments,” specifically mentioning the Shenecossett Invitation as one.12 Photographs of galleries following an unspecified tournament in 1921 and play of the Invitation in 192713 suggest that a high level of community interest and involvement in golf contributed excitement to the atmosphere of tournament play at Eastern Point (Fig. 4). Youngs characterized wealthy Northerners who traveled south in the winter to extend their golf seasons and to avoid urban living during winter months as “commuters”.14 Travel to Eastern Point from metropolitan districts of Baltimore, New York City, Philadelphia and Boston in the East and from those of Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Youngstown, Ohio in the Midwest can be interpreted as an analogue to that winter travel in which women traded disadvantages of city life during summer months for the pleasant ambience of a seaside resort. The concept of commute is important in that it implies that women took an active role in choosing to spend time and dollars in order to travel to play seasonal golf. H. L. Fitzpatrick, in reporting on the national championship in 1898, commented on the distance some women had traveled, to imply the increasing importance of the cham11 “New London Takes to New Golf Links”, The Sun, (New York, NY), June 28, 1914, Sixth Section, 2. 12 H.B. Martin, Fifty Years of American Golf (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1936), 334. 13 “Groton History Online,” Local History Collection, Groton Public Library, Groton, Connecticut. 14 Youngs, “Creating America’s Winter Golfing Mecca”, 26.
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Figure 4. Galleries following play of an unspecified tournament in 1921 (The American Golfer, January 29, 1921, 9) and Invitation play in 1927; “Groton History Online”, Local History Collection, Groton Public Library, Groton, Connecticut.
pionship.15 Here, I used a player’s commute distance from home to Eastern Point as an integrated summary, in the absence of hotel and club records, to assess the changing appeal of the Shenecossett Invitation over time. For each woman whose qualifying score was reported in the New York Times and The Day newspapers, I estimated the number of statute miles she had traveled to reach Eastern Point as the “crow flies”, using latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of her identified home town or home country club and those of Shenecossett Country Club. Estimates were made using the following equation: Statute Miles = Cos-1 [(LatPO)* Sin (LatSCC) + Cos (LatPO) * Cos (LatSCC) * Cos (LongSCC – LongPO)] * 60*1.1516 and Microsoft Excel software: where Lat = latitude; Long = longitude; SCC = Shenecossett Country Club; PO = a player’s point of origin. Estimates were then used 15 H.L. Fitzpatrick, “Golf and The American Girl,” Outing, December 1898, 298.
once upon a time, a women’s golf tournament to compare commute distances within and between the time periods 19191928 and 1929-1940, distribution of players at discrete time intervals and by mileage class intervals. Home towns and country club identified in news coverage were also used to determine the distribution of women by home state. Lowe identified American golf as a generally untapped area of sport history that arguably includes competitions held at resorts. With the exception of investigations presented by Welch, Youngs and Glenn, however, the resort golf women played has received scant attention.16 Review of issues of the New York Times, Golf Illustrated and American Golfer reveals that many of the women who entered the Orange Blossom Circuit in Florida and the women’s North and South Championship at Pinehurst in North Carolina during their winter travel also competed at Eastern Point. Because they were of the social class who then played the game, history of the Shenecossett Invitation, not only contributes geographical context to the study of women’s resort golf, it also provides a link between the past and present in the tradition of the golf they played. In spanning two very different economic periods in American history, the Shenecossett Invitation is an especially important element of that story. Moreover, in that former seaside grand hotels of New England have become models for development of present day coastal tourism17, history of the Invitation is of additional significance because of the increasing emphasis on tourism in Southeastern Connecticut. The Invitation was a beneficiary of the growth of sport in general and the prosperity of the hotel industry in the United States during the Roaring Twenties, but then became a casualty of the Great Depression the following decade. Its history of “boom and bust” is thus consistent with the thesis that economic productivity is fundamental to success of the tourism and leisure industry.18 The first ten years of the Invitation corresponded with a period of economic development marked by low inflation and a climate favorable to business following the severe though brief recession of 1920-1921 and 16 Stephen R. Lowe, “Change, Continuity and Golf’s Battle of the Century,” Journal of Sport History 26, no.3 (Fall 1999): 521; Paula Welch, “Wealthy Women Establish Country Club Sport in Florida” (NASSH Proceedings and Letters 1986), 23; Paula Welch, “Florida’s Distaff Side of Sport in The 1920s” (NASSH Proceedings and Letters 1989), 32; Rhonda Glenn, The Illustrated History of Women’s Golf, (Dallas, Texas, Taylor Publishing Co., 1991); Youngs, “Creating America’s Winter Golfing Mecca”, 36, 37, 40; Tolles, Jr., Summer by The Seaside, xvi. 17 Tolles, Jr., Summer by The Seaside, 14. 18 Dennison Nash, “Tourism as a Form of Imperialism, the Anthology of Tourism”, Hosts and Guests, ed. Valene L. Smith (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 1989), 37-52.
richard a. voyer the business slowdown in 1924.19 Durham Burt, a native Scot who served as head professional at Shenecossett Country Club from 1926 to 1938, was impressed by signs of prosperity he observed upon his arrival in the United States in 1922 from war-torn Europe. He later noted, “It seemed to me then that all the money in the world was in the USA” (Lesley Craig, e-mail to Author, April 28, 2009). Development of the radio industry, home construction, and an expansion of the middle class and its developing habit of buying on credit contributed to prosperity. The auto industry, as both a consumer and producer of goods, was another major factor that added to economic growth. Profits derived from the “Great Bull Market” of 1924 to 1929 augmented individual wealth. What is more, although only a small fraction of the American population was invested in equities in 1929,20 the trading frenzy that developed and took hold on Wall Street, especially after 1928, captured the interest and imagination of Americans in all walks of life. On its own, the stock market created a mood of excitement and a sense of security and well-being across the entire country. President Calvin Coolidge, a celebrant of prosperity, predicted a continuing bright economic future for America in his State of the Union Address delivered in December, 1928: No Congress of the United States ever assembled, on surveying the state of the Union, has met with a more pleasing prospect than that which appears at the present time … The country can regard the present with satisfaction and anticipate the future with optimism. Early years of the Invitation also corresponded with the blossoming of the youth culture that Edna St. Vincent Millay captured in A Few Figs from Thistles: My candle burns at both ends; It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends – It gives a lovely light! Census records together with reported entry data show that Mary Fine, Jane Broadwell, Maureen Orcutt and Helen Waterhouse entered the Invitation at 12, 14, 15, and 15 years of age, respectively. Maureen Orcutt, and Frances 19 Milton Friedman and Anna Jacobson Schwartz, A Monetary History of The United States 1867-1960 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963), 296, 298. 20 John Kenneth Galbraith, The Great Crash 1929, 2nd Edition (Cambridge, MA: The Riverside Press, 1961, 93.
once upon a time, a women’s golf tournament Table 1. Range of qualifying scores, and names of medalists, champions and runners-up in Shenecossett Invitation, 1919-1928. Numbers in parentheses are ages of players. Year
Medalist & Range of Champion Qualifying Scores
1919 1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1928
Lounsbery Barlow* Collett Collett Collett Collett Collett Orcutt (19) Stifel
E. Rosenthal E. Rosenthal A. Jackson J. B. Rose E. Cummings D. C. Hurd H. D. Sterrett M. OrcuttM. Orcutt E. Quier
88-109 86-118 87-103 84-100 80-94 81-94 78-91 82-94 79-93
Barlow Collett (17) Hollins Cummings (23) Collett Collett Collett Collett Hurd
* defeated Collet in play off
Williams won medalist honors at age 19; while Edith Quier, Jean Bauer and Helen Waterhouse became champions of the Invitation in their early twenties (Tables 1 and 2). Glenna Collett and Edith Cummings, who were winners of the Invitation at ages of 17 and 23, respectively21, became nationally recognized: Collett as the “Female Bobby Jones” and Cummings as the “fairway flapper.” Cummings was also the first female athlete to grace the cover of Time Magazine (August 25, 1924); and she was immortalized as role model for Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby.22 As heroines and examples for other young ladies, the association of Collett and Cummings with the Invitation doubtlessly added to tournament recognition, appeal and luster. The inaugural Invitation was held following purchase of The Griswold and Shenecossett Country Club by John McEntee Bowman of the Biltmore hotel chain from the estate of Morton F. Plant in 1918. Afternoon teas, dances, movies, and lawn socials cottage owners hosted were an integral part of the week-long community occasion. Organized and conducted by the Golf Association of the Shenecossett Country Club, the golf competition began with a mixed foursome on Saturday that was reported as “a pleasant curtain raiser” to the festivities. An exhibition match featuring four prominent women players followed on Sunday. Results of the qualifying round played on Monday allowed the tournament committee to group players into flights 21 1920 United States Federal Census On-line data base, Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations data, 2010. 22 F. Scott Fitzgerald and Maxwell Perkins, Dear Scott/ Dear Max, The Fitzgerald-Perkins Correspondence, eds. John Kuehl and Jackson R. Bryer (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971), 90.
richard a. voyer Table 2. Range of qualifying scores, and names of medalists, champions and runners-up in Shenecossett Invitation, 1929-1940. Numbers in parentheses are ages of players. 1929 Orcutt 1930 Williams (19) 1931 Hurd 1932 Collett-Vare 1933 Broadwell 1934 Bauer 1935 Davis 1936 Davis 1937 Collett-Vare 1938 Bauer* McNaughton 1939 H. Waterhouse 1940 Bauer
76-93 80-95 78-97 79-98 82-98 83-94 79-91 78-90 81-96 79-95
Quier (24) Quier Federman Collett-Vare Hurd Bauer Collett-Vare Bauer (23) Bauer H. Waterhouse (20)
Orcutt D. C. Hurd E. Quier B. Wall J. Brooks J. Broadwell J. Bauer F. Davis H. Waterhouse F. Davis
Bauer H. Waterhouse
H. Waterhouse M- Fine
*defeated McNaughton in playoff
by performance. That evening, The Griswold hosted the annual welcoming dinner, described as “one of the pleasantest social events of the entire year,” with men being allowed into the banquet hall after the ladies had eaten and then onto the dance floor only by invitation, symbolizing the ladies’ independent spirit and ownership of the tournament. To illustrate, in 1926, 250 women dined and 400 attended the dance that followed. At the completion of Invitation play, the medalist and runner-up in a qualifying round received gold and silver medals, and the winner of the championship flight received the three-handle sterling silver Griswold Cup.23 As was the practice at Poland Spring House in Maine and Palm Beach Country Club in Florida, three-time champions were granted permanent ownership of the trophy. And also in common with the tradition at Pinehurst, winners of other flights, and those demonstrating proficiency in driving, approaching and putting skills, were awarded trophies to acknowledge their performance as well. In 1921, players in each of four flights of sixteen received prizes; forty five trophies were distributed in 1924; and in 1926 trophies were given to women in each of eleven flights of sixteen. 24 That other resorts also recognized performance 23 “Noted Women Players To Be At Shenecossett Links,” The Evening Day, July 25, 1925, 12; “Dinner for Women Golf Players Held At Griswold Hotel”, The Evening Day, July 27, 1926, 5. 24 Jason Libby. Telephone interview by author, September 9, 2010; Robert Sommers, “The Orange Blossom Circuit,” Golf Journal 33 no. 2 (March/April 1980): 5-9; Youngs, “Creating America’s Winter Golfing Mecca”, 36, 37; “Miss Glenna Collett Wins Women’s Qualifying Round,” The Day, August 2, 1921, 9; “45 Trophies Offered Golf Winners At Shenecossett,” The Evening Day, July 28, 1924, 10; “Miss Maureen Orcutt and Glenna
once upon a time, a women’s golf tournament
Figure 5. Numbers of entries and scores in Shenecossett Invitation reported in newspaper coverage.
with the distribution of trophies suggests a practice intended to promote interest and inclusiveness within and conceivably more broadly among resorts on a seasonal basis. The number of entries reported in newspaper coverage increased every year from 26 in 1920 to a maximum of 241 in 1925; then averaged 212 golfers in each of the next three years, to indicate an event that enjoyed success and sustained appeal. The number of qualifying scores reported also increased, beginning in 1925 and peaked at 177 in 1929 (Fig. 5), a trend in reporting that is perhaps indicative of the growing interest of the news media in response to tournament success. The annual average travel of Top Ten, women who posted one of the low ten scores in qualifying rounds, ranged from 102 miles to 304 miles, with their overall average travel distance of 204 miles in years 1919 to 1928. The annual average travel of Remainder, those other than Top Ten in qualifying fields, ranged from 80 miles to 135 miles, and averaged 118 miles over the entirety of that ten-year period (Figs. 6, 7). One third of Top Ten and forty three percent of Remainder traveled in the mileage class interval of >50 <100 miles during that time interval (Fig. 8A). In each of the three higher-mileage class intervals the percentages of Top Ten were consistently in the range of 14 percent to 17 percent. Percentages of Remainder in each of those successively higher mileage class intervals in contrast progressively decreased from 22 percent to 5 percent, Collett Are Easy Winners at Shenecossett,” The Day, July 27, 1926, 1; “Miss Collett Held to One-up Victory,” New York Times, July 31, 1925, 13.
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Figure 6. Average annual miles Top Ten and Remainder traveled from a player’s reported hometown or affiliated country club to enter Shenecossett Invitation.
suggesting lesser golfers were less inclined to travel longer distances to compete at Eastern Point than were their more accomplished competitors. Data presented in Figure 9 show that during 1919-1928 forty percent of the women who entered were from New York (28%) and New Jersey (12%); an equivalent total percentage hailed from the New England states of Connecticut (18%), Massachusetts (14%), Rhode Island (6%) and Maine (2%); with the balance of tournament fields originating in Pennsylvania (14%) and Illinois and Ohio (5%). Nation-wide, hotel receipts declined seventy-five percent between 1929 and 1933. Resort hotels, as self-contained entities that were open only a few months per year, were exquisitely sensitive to economic perturbations, especially to disruption in the flow of investment capital that accompanied banking panics of the Great Contraction. Misfortune, poor judgment and high fee charges necessitated by short seasons, along with whims of a small, financially well-off segment of the population they catered to also contributed to their high failure rate. That hotels at Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio were empty as early as 1931; that Hotel Belleview-Biltmore in Belleair, Florida operated under receivership from 1935 to 1939; that Poland Spring House in Maine experienced financial difficulty beginning in 1936, when banks called in loans; and that deterioration of an already precarious financial position at the hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan worsened illustrate the pecuniary fragility of the resort hotel. Recent studies of tourism suggest retrospectively that the exclusivity and the self-containment of those resorts, along with
once upon a time, a women’s golf tournament
Figure 7. Overall average miles traveled by women posting one of the low ten scores in qualifying rounds (Top Ten) and scores of entrants in the balance of tournament fields (Remainder) at selected time Intervals.
their dependence on external sources of funding, contributed to the financial hardship they experienced.25 With receipts dropping eighty-nine percent, and their numbers declining by nearly sixty percent, Connecticut’s seasonal hotels fared still worse.26 Land records in the Town of Groton, Connecticut, showing that liens were placed on The Griswold and Shenecossett Country Club properties early in the 1930s for nonpayment of services and goods provided by local merchants, unpaid local taxes, and failure to meet scheduled mortgage payments, strongly suggest that The Griswold was one of the many Connecticut hotels that suffered significant revenue reductions during that initial period of recession. Whereas Morton F. Plant had been willing to forego a profit in operating The Griswold for the greater good of his summer neighborhood,27 profit and loss surely became a critical issue for later corporate owners of the 25 U.S. Bureau of the Census, “Census of American Business 1933, Services, Amusements, and Hotels, Vol. 4: Hotels” (Washington DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1935), 18; “The Griswold – A Study in Summer Hotel”, 346; Jeffrey Limerick, Nancy Ferguson, and Richard Oliver, America’s Grand Resort Hotels (New York: Pantheon Books, 1979), 13; Paolo Vassallo, Chiara Paoli, David R. Tilley, Mauro Fabiano, “Energy and Resources Basis of An Italian Coastal Resort Region Integrated Using Emergy Synthesis,” Journal of Environmental Management, 91, no. 1 (October 2009): 277; Kampeng Lei, Shaoqi Zhon, Dan Hu, Zhen Guo, Aixin Cao, “Emergy Analysis of Tourism Systems: Principles and A Case Study for Macao” Ecological Complexity 8, no. 2 (June 2011): 192. 26 U.S. Bureau of the Census, “Census of American Business 1933, 18. 27 The Griswold – A Study in Summer Hotel”, 346; Tolles, Jr., Summer by The Seaside, 5.
richard a. voyer two properties. Cuts in the quantity and quality of amenities offered by management likely accompanied decreases in revenue, along with a diminution of the up-until-then social setting patrons had expressed a preference for. Because the totality of the Eastern Point colony constituted the environment in which the Invitation was played, any unfavorable changes within the colony can be expected to have also lessened the satisfaction competitors had previously derived through their participation.28 A threat of foreclosure and the encouraged auctioning of The Griswold and Shenecossett Country Club properties by the holder of a mortgage, coupled with a report of the suicide of a former owner in the New York Times in 193329, no doubt exacerbated concerns among perspective patrons regarding the colony as an escape and among golfers as to its continued suitability as a competitive arena. Incidences of vandalism of cottages that occurred during years of depression likely further added to those concerns.30 In its final twelve years, the tournament became a casualty of the economic crisis that overtook the life style of conspicuous consumption and make-believe it had been a part of, but not immediately. In July of 1929, one month after indices of industrial production had peaked and three months before the stock market crashed, 200 golfers reportedly competed in the Invitation for the second consecutive year (Fig. 5). Entries continued at that level in 1930, perhaps in part buoyed by development of the mini-bull market in the first three months of the year, along with the reassuring words of President Hoover in May that “business would be normal by fall.” Thereafter, however, by October industrial production and personal income had dropped precipitously by twenty six percent and sixteen percent, respectively, and to more than fifty percent and forty five percent by 1933. During the period of The Great Contraction of 1929-1933 the supply of money plummeted by more than one-third, as one-third of the country’s commercial banks failed. Preferred and common stock in all businesses in the United States lost an estimated 85 billion dollars in value. Country-wide, a sense of hopelessness and despair replaced the earlier euphoria that had prevailed among rich and poor alike, to be replaced by “…a widespread feeling of uncertainty tinged with fear.” Calvin Coolidge, shortly before his death on January 5, 1933, 28 Robert L. A. Adams, ”Golf”, The Theater of Sport, ed. Karl B. Raitz (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), 235. 29 “R. E. Farley Ends Life by Suicide,” New York Times, September 29, 1933; “Hotel in Difficulties,” New York Times, January 10, 1934. 30 National Register of Historic Places, Inventory Nomination Form – Eastern Point District, 1979.
once upon a time, a women’s golf tournament
Figure 8A–B. Frequency distribution of Top Ten and Remainder by mileage class interval, by time period.
expressed a view very different from the one he had conveyed earlier in his State of the Union Address: In other periods of depression it has always been possible to see some things which were solid and upon which you could base hope, but as I look back I can see nothing to give ground for hope, nothing of man.31 Economic recession impacted country clubs in Metropolitan New York, forcing many to close, especially those with the ostentatious club houses 31 Good Housekeeping, June 1935, quoted in William Allen White, A Puritan in Babylon The Story of Calvin Coolidge (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1938), 427.
richard a. voyer that had become symbols of country club life during the Roaring Twenties. In Youngstown, Ohio country clubs curtailed winter operations to conserve dwindling financial resources. One writer sardonically noted early in 1932, “snob appeal [of golf] not worth much now.” By 1935 the image of the country club as a mark of financial success and social status was a mere memory.32 At Eastern Point the number of entries dropped to 169 in 1931 as economic conditions worsened, to 107 by end of the first recession in 1933, to 94 golfers by mid-decade, and finally to 32 in 1940 (Fig. 5). The average commute distance among Remainder in 1929, like number of entries, continued unchanged from the previous year at 110 miles. It then decreased to 91 miles in 1930, but recovered over the entire1929-1940 period to the earlier 1919-1928 average of 109 miles (Fig. 6-7). Among Top Ten, the average annual commute increased in 1929 to 273 miles from the 256 miles of the previous year, but then decreased by 57 percent in 1930. Unlike Remainder, however, the annual commute distance of Top Ten did not rebound to the earlier level 1919-1928 (Fig. 6-7). Their overall average commute distance declined from the previous one of 204 miles 1919-1928, and continued to do so, decreasing to 167 miles by 1933, to 100 miles by 1936, and to 77 miles by 1940 (Fig. 7). More specifically, proportion of Top Ten in a tournament field that had traveled >200 miles, those who had contributed to the inter-regional flavor of the tournament, declined from a peak of twenty one percent during the Coolidge Bull Market of 1925-1928, to seventeen percent from 1929-1933, and finally to a tournament low of about four percent during the interval of 1934-1936. By 1936, percentage of Remainder traveling >200 miles exceeded that of Top Ten for the first time in tournament history (Fig. 10). As the number of participation diminished the geographic distribution of entries did so as well. From 1929 onward, percentages of entries from Connecticut and Rhode Island increased to twenty eight percent and fourteen percent, respectively, while at the same time the fraction of women from Metropolitan New York, the financial center of the country, declined to seventeen percent. In its coverage of the Invitation in 1934, The New York 32 Friedman and Jacobson Schwartz, A Monetary History of The United States 1867-1960, 303, 306, 351; Benjamin Roth, The Great Depression: A Diary, eds. James Ledbetter and Daniel Roth (New York: Public Affairs, 2009), 14, 40, 57;Ted Gup, A Secret Gift (New York: The Penguin Press, 2010), 50; Stuart Chase, Prosperity: Fact or Myth (New York: Charles Boni, Jr. Paper Books, 1929), 16; John Kiernan, “A Case Study in Economic Trends: Savings and Democracy Have Succeeded The Extravagance and Golf,” New York Times, July 30, 1933, 78; Elmer Davis, “Purest of Pleasure: Contract,” Harper’s Magazine, August 165, 1932, 287-295; John R. Betts, America’s Sporting Heritage: 1850-1950 (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1950), 262.
once upon a time, a women’s golf tournament Times reported that “Most of Metropolitan women stars [were] conspicuously absent.”33 Travel from Midwestern states of Illinois and Ohio dropped to virtually zero by 1940. Women from the golf hub of Philadelphia, on the other hand, continued at about fifteen percent of a tournament field (Fig. 9). A downward shift in the modes for mileage classes accompanied that distributional change. Whereas modes of both had previously occurred in the mileage range of >50 ≤100 1919-1928, they now shifted downward into the range of >5 ≤50 miles, first among Top Ten in 1933 and then among Remainder a year later (Fig. 8B). Unlike previously, distributions of both Top Ten and Remainder also decreased in each of mileage class interval above the one in which the modes occurred. The result was a tournament losing its interregional flavor to become more local in character. Moreover, 1934 was the first year since 1919 that no former tournament champion entered. Mrs. Roland Barlow, a former medalist and champion, who had competed annually since 1919, did not enter after 1933; nor did Mrs. Dorothy Campbell Hurd, also of Philadelphia. A major player in the world of women’s golf, Hurd, who had first competed at Eastern Point in 1922 and every year afterwards, did not return to defend her third title won in 1933. Given the importance of well-known players to the business of golf at Pinehurst,34 their absence from Eastern Point in all probability contributed directly to lesser participation of golfers of the golf clan they were a part of, as well as indirectly influenced the choice of others to compete in the Invitation in the economically distressed environment of the 1930s.35 Also, in 1934 the championship flight was reduced from 32 to 16 players for the first time since 1926 because of declining entries. Although Glenna Collett was the preeminent player at Eastern Point during the 1920s, prior to 1934 other champions of the tournament had come from the distantly removed City of Wheeling, West Virginia and environs of Chicago and Philadelphia. In years following, three women traveling about fifty miles from nearby Providence, Rhode Island dominated play: Mrs. Frederick Davis was twice medalist and twice runner-up; Jean Bauer was three-times medalist, four-times champion and once runner-up; Helen Waterhouse once medalist, twice winner and twice runner-up (Table 2). Although the depth of tournament fields decreased after 1934, the average medalist score of 79.3 strokes from 1935-1940 was virtually the same as the 79.6 strokes 1929 to 1934, indicating that play of top qualifiers had continued at the earlier high level 33 New York Times, July 10, 1934, 27. 34 Youngs, “Creating America’s Winter Golfing Mecca at Pinehurst”, 37, 38. 35 Wagner A. Kamakura and Rex Yuxing Du, “How Economic Contractions and Expansions Affect Expenditure Patterns,” Journal of Consumer Research 39, no. 2 (2012): 246.
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Figure 9. Frequency distribution of players by state and time interval.
(Tables 1 and 2). Bauer, Waterhouse and Davis also performed well in international championships during those same years of success at Eastern Point: Bauer was medalist in 1935 and ninth in the tournament in 1937, Davis finished thirty-third in 1936, and Waterhouse finished seventeenth in 1938. Hardy, in discussing development of the sports goods industry, notes existence of a fundamental relationship between providers and consumers, in which the former effectively convert pastime activities into commodities delivered to the latter.36 In that regard, Youngs characterized that interaction between management of Pinehurst and guests as symbiotic and of fundamental importance to development of that resort as a golfing Mecca.37 Shenecossett Invitation, though being at its core a promotional tool was another example of that mutually beneficial interrelationship. By 1940, however, participation in the Invitation had so waned that filling the championship flight with even sixteen top players had become difficult. A year later, hotel management canceled the Invitation along with the corresponding men’s event, announcing it “no longer regards the tournament as paying proposition”.38 thereby clearly identifying the Invitation as a commodity. Demise of the Invitation eliminated one pathway in what one can interpret as having 36 Stephen Hardy, “Entrepreneurs, Organizations, and the Sport Marketplace: Subjects in Search of Historians,” Journal of Sport History, 13, no. 1 (Spring 1986): 17. 37 Youngs, “Creating America’s Winter Golfing Mecca”, 28. 38 “Shenecossett Club Abandons 2 Major Golf Tournaments,” The Day, June 10, 1941, 12.
once upon a time, a women’s golf tournament
Figure 10. Percentages of Top Ten and Remainder traveling >200 miles at selected time intervals.
been a tournament network involving women’s north-south seasonal travel in search of competition. Also, as metaphor, its termination symbolized the end of a life style of conspicuous consumption that hotels of the grand design, including The Griswold, had catered to. As commodity the Invitation contrasted significantly with the intent of the national championship sponsored by the United States Golf Association. Although both were perceived as important competitions in the early years of the Invitation, the national championship in representing a game survived, whereas the Invitation as a business opportunity did not. A comparison of travel distances to each provides an insight into how top flight women golfers responded to the two forms during the differing economic conditions of the 1920s and 1930s (Fig. 11). Estimates of distance show that Top Ten traveled more than twice as far per year on average to compete in championships than did those who entered the Invitation 1919-1928 (449 miles versus 204 miles). The annual average length of commute to both, however, fluctuated in parallel with one another and generally in correspondence with production of passenger cars, down during the recession in 1921 and again during the business slowdown in 1924. Then, from 1929 through 1940, Top Ten competing in national championships traveled an average of 69 percent farther than in 1919-1928. Fluctuations in their annual travel averages continued to correlate with auto production, up with an improving economy after 1933, down again during the recession of 1937-1938 and idrottsforum.org 2016-09-28
richard a. voyer
Figure 11. Average miles Top Ten traveled to compete in Shenecossett Invitation and in national championships and production of automobiles (oooos)
then up again right through 1940. The one exception to that pattern occurred in 1930 when the championship was held for the first time west of Missouri in Los Angeles, California. That year the commute distance of Top Ten from Eastern and Midwestern states doubled over the previous year (1,232 versus 629 miles), despite a reduction in auto production from 1929 to 1930 by a factor of 1.639, a deviation from the overall pattern that can be interpreted as an expression of their desire to participate in what amounted to an historic national golf competition. In contrast, Top Ten competing in the Invitation during those twelve years traveled 60 percent fewer miles than during 19191928. Moreover, commute distance of that group as noted earlier did not rebound to previous levels of 1919-1928, even though the economy was showing evidence of recovery after 1933 and an increase in leisure travel nation-wide by 1935.40 Evident differences in the patterns of travel to 39 U.S. Bureau of The Census, Historical Statistics of The United States, 1789-1945 (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1949), 223. The evident deviation from the established pattern can be accounted for in the upward skewing of the average commute distance by Top Ten traveling from the Eastern and Midwestern sections of the country. Of the nineteen Top Ten players, ten commuted an average of 268 miles from homes in California. The remaining nine traveled an average of 2028 miles from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania and from Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin. 40 Jesse F. Steiner, Research memorandum on Recreation in The Depression (New York: Arno Press, 1972, Reprint of 1937 Edition Published by Asocial Science Research Council), 95.
once upon a time, a women’s golf tournament the two competitions in the last twelve years of the Invitation illustrate the choice of better players for golf as a game, rather than the commercialized version offered as a more “secular” element of business at Eastern Point, reflecting the importance of the championship enunciated by Collett.41 However, though all but forgotten, the Invitation arguably has left a legacy of its own. Though a product of the tourism industry, it also served as an outlet for the competitive spirit women had expressed in playing the game, dating to the early days of women’s golf in the United States. It also afforded aspiring young golfers a training ground where they could develop and hone their skills in a casual environment, while at the same time interacting with more accomplished players. Apropos, Glenna Collett in Ladies in The Rough noted that after defeating Elaine Rosenthal to win the Griswold Cup in 1920, her “desire to win [was] very strong.”42 And as a widely heralded event, one can reasonably posit that the Invitation served to attract women to the game and thereby encouraged the increased play they exhibited following onset of the Great Depression, even as the level of play by men declined.43 On the other hand, as a casualty of the Great Depression, termination of the Shenecossett Invitation represents a cautionary message to the tourism industry to illustrate the sensitivity of leisure golf to economic downturns that tend to re-occur.
Acknowledgments It is a pleasure to thank Richard Broadbent for introducing me to the measure of distances between two points. Efforts of Judith Kelmelis, of the Groton Public Library, in securing needed reference material through the Connecticut Inter-Library Loan Request Program are appreciated. And thanks to Susan B. Stearns, Stephanie Kindel, Don C. Miller and Elissa Wright. Their reviews eliminated rabbit tracks and significantly contributed focus and clarity to the manuscript. I also wish to thank Professor James L. West III for graciously sharing with me his knowledge of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
41 Glenna Collett, Ladies in The Rough, assisted by James M. Neville (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928), 55. 42 Ibid., 41. 43 “Slump in Golfing Noted in 1931; Men’s Play showed 29 1/2 % Drop”, New York Times, December 30, 1931, 22.