Three years after purchasing his childhood home – a farmhouse 25 miles southeast of Cleveland in Chagrin Falls, Ohio – Morris Everett Jr. made a startling discovery.
His 101-year-old mother, Eleanor, the only child of two-time U.S. Amateur champion and 1904 Olympic silver medalist H. Chandler Egan, had died in 2012, but what she left behind was a treasure chest of rare golf memorabilia, including what historians believe is the first discovery of an individual medal from golf’s last appearance in the Olympic Games.
With golf returning to the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro this August following a 112-year hiatus, Egan’s silver medal, plus a team gold medal he earned in the 1904 competition at Glen Echo Country Club in St. Louis, offers rare tangible proof of the game’s brief Olympic history.
Thanks to Everett’s discovery and generosity, visitors to the USGA Museum at Golf House in Far Hills, N.J., will have the opportunity to see the two medals, along with two Olympic golf trophies from the 1904 Games, in a limited-time exhibit from May 11-June 8.
When their display time at the USGA Museum ends, the medals will head to Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club, site of the 116th U.S. Open Championship, for some media opportunities before being transported to the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla., to be displayed from June 23 until the Olympics in mid-August.
“When you look at something this rare, the chance to look at silver and gold medals that have only been a part of the Olympics twice, it is a very unique opportunity for golf,” said Mike Trostel, director of the USGA Museum. “This exhibit is a great opportunity to connect golf’s Olympic past to its future and celebrate its return to the Games this summer in Rio.”
A Chicago native, Egan entered the 1904 Games as one of the favorites. A week earlier at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., he claimed the first of two consecutive U.S. Amateur titles, defeating Fred Herreshoff in the championship match, 8 and 6. In 1902, he won the NCAA individual championship while a student at Harvard.
Although the modern Games were revived in 1896, golf did not make its debut until 1900 in Paris, where both men’s and women’s competitions were contested. St. Louis resident Albert Lambert won an unofficial third event – the USGA Museum has his trophy – involving handicaps. Lambert’s father-in-law was Col. George McGrew, the founder and president of Glen Echo Country Club. When St. Louis landed the 1904 Games, McGrew, who had proposed a world championship golf event at his club, was eager to conduct the Olympic competition at Glen Echo. He even designed the medals and trophies.
This time, only a men’s competition would be contested and it began Sept. 17 with a 36-hole team event, featuring 10-man squads. Egan captained the Western Golf Association team, which included his brother, Walter. The Trans-Mississippi Golf Association also fielded a team, while a late addition comprised of players from USGA Member clubs called themselves the USGA team. The WGA team won gold, with Trans-Mississippi earning silver and the USGA team finishing a distant third to claim bronze.
A few days later, the individual match-play event commenced, but not before a driving and putting contest was held, with trophies awarded to the winners.