"BIRTH OF THE ASSOCIATION”
On March 31, 1897, just a few hours before April Fools Day, a group of what many would have considered eccentric middle-aged sportsmen gathered to discuss the governance of a sport with which most Americans were unfamiliar. Two weeks later, on April 14th, many of the same men reconvened and the Metropolitan Golf Association was born.
The site for both meetings was Delmonico’s, a famous restaurant located in lower Manhattan. Those attending the meetings were well-to-do gentlemen representing 26 golf clubs from New York City and the surrounding area. Their first get-together was called at the suggestion of the Green Committee of the Saint Andrew's Golf Club in Yonkers, which consisted of James Brown, R.L. Cuthbert, Arthur Livermore, W.D. Baldwin and M.C. McEwen.
Delegations from 23 clubs (Shinnecock Hills and Englewood were represented in spirit, if not physical presence) joined the Saint Andrew’s contingent at Delmonico's. Their stated purpose was to form an organization interested in the “promotion of the interests of golf locally, and the arrangement of dates for open tournaments among the members, in consultation with the United States Golf Association.” They proposed to call their new organization the “Metropolitan League of Golf Clubs.” The result of that first meeting was the creation of a committee to formulate the exact role of the new organization. The committee consisted of five men: Daniel Chauncey (Dyker Meadow), Oliver W. Bird (Meadow Brook), Grenville Kane (Tuxedo), Richard H. Williams (Morris County) and T. Hope Simpson (Staten Island Cricket). The committee presented its results at Delmonico’s two weeks later. A draft of the constitution and a set of bylaws were adopted by the 19 men, representing 18 clubs, in attendance at the second meeting. The other clubs sent their best wishes, each indicating a willingness to join the new organization.
The Metropolitan Golf Association was officially formed that evening, with membership limited to member clubs of the USGA located within 55 miles of New York City, but including the whole of Long Island. (At that time, the entire USGA roster included just slightly more than 100 clubs.) The MGA's territory reached as far as Morris County to the west, Shinnecock Hills to the east, Lakewood to the south, Tuxedo to the north and to Greenwich in Connecticut. The limit was set at 55, rather than 50, miles at the suggestion of Julian Curtiss of the Fairfield County Golf Club, so his club (now Greenwich Country Club) might gain admittance.
Two other proposals were discussed, and rejected, at those two meetings. The first called for orchestrating a series of interclub team matches and was defeated when Daniel Chauncey argued it would create a class of semi-professional players, which he vehemently opposed. The second called for the exchange of country club courtesies among member clubs; Oliver Bird successfully argued that it would destroy the notion that a club was a special sanctuary for its members.
H.B. Hollins of Westbrook, who chaired the two meetings, was elected the first president of the new organization with J.C. Ten Eyck of Saint Andrew’s as vice-president, R. Bage Kerr of the Golf Club of Lakewood as treasurer and John du Fais of Baltusrol as secretary. Five directors were also elected, the same five men chosen at the first meeting with one exception - R.H. Robertson of Shinnecock Hills replaced T. Hope Simpson. The entire slate ran unopposed.
And so was born the third oldest golf association in the country (the Golf Association of Philadelphia is a few months older), one that has worked closely and harmoniously with the USGA for over a century.
At that second meeting, 26 clubs were admitted as charter members of the MGA.
Eight of the founding clubs no longer exist and five others continue to exist, albeit under different names. Paterson became the North Jersey Country Club in 1897, two years before Queens County changed its name to Nassau Country Club. Hillside Tennis became known as the Plainfield Country Club in 1904, and Fairfield County became Greenwich Country Club in 1909, one year after Seabright had been subsumed by the newly-formed Rumson Country Club. In all, 18 of the founding clubs are in existence today.
From those first meetings at Delmonico’s over 100 years ago has grown one of the world’s leading golf organizations, encompassing more than 500 member clubs and serving more than 140,000 golfers. While the size and the scope of its service programs have grown, the MGA remains true to its founding purpose, as stated in Article II of its original Constitution: “To promote in all ways the best interests and the true spirit of the game of golf.”
On April 14, 1897, representatives from the following clubs met at Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City to draft a constitution and bylaws for the formation of the Metropolitan Golf Association. Each club was charged $5.00 annual dues.
MGA Founding Clubs:
Baltusrol Golf Club
Bedford Golf and Tennis Club
Dyker Meadow Golf Club
Englewood Country Club
Essex County Country Club
Fairfield County Golf Club (Greenwich)
Hillside Tennis and Golf Club (Plainfield)
Knollwood Country Club
Golf Club of Lakewood
Meadow Brook Hunt
Golf Club of Montclair
Morris County Golf Club
New Brunswick Country Club
Oakland Country Club
Paterson Club (North Jersey)
Queens Country Club (Nassau)
Richmond County Golf Club
Richmond Hill Country Club
Rockaway Hunting Club
St. Andrew’s Golf Club
Seabright Club (Rumson)
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Staten Island Cricket Club
Westbrook Country Club