On Dec. 7, 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, five days before Pennsylvania. It has lived up to its nickname, “The First State,” in a variety of other ways, too.
The inventor of the steam engine, Oliver Evans, was born in Newport, Del., in 1755. The first Methodist Church was formed in Frederica, Del., in 1778. And the University of Delaware was the first school to offer a “Study Abroad” program in 1923.
Golf too witnessed a first in Delaware. In 1978, Wilmington Country Club was the first club to host concurrent USGA championships. That August, the U.S. Girls’ Junior (North Course) and U.S. Junior Amateur (South Course) were played simultaneously at the 36-hole facility.
The idea was ratified by the USGA Executive Committee in 1976. A press release from that October stated, “[We] believe it will be interesting to have the best junior golfers in the country, both boys and girls, competing in the same place at the same time.”
But the historic undertaking didn’t come without its challenges. In the October 1978 issue of Golf Journal, Charles Brome wrote, “The logistics involved in such an enterprise are imposing enough to give reasonable people pause.”
Not only did the USGA need to find a willing host club with two championship-caliber courses and an enthusiastic membership, the community also had to handle housing and transportation for 270 players and their parents. The facilities at Wilmington C.C. met all the requirements, and to offset some of the club’s expenses, the USGA held a golf clinic and exhibition led by Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite that raised more than $5,000.
The Junior Amateur final turned out to be a record-breaker. Don Hurter, of Honolulu, Hawaii, fell 4 down through seven holes against Keith Banes, of La Mirada, Calif., but fought back to square the match with a par on the 18th. After halving the first two holes of sudden death, Hurter got up and down from a greenside bunker to win in 21 holes. It was the longest 18-hole final in the championship’s history (1948 to 2004). The format was changed to a 36-hole final in 2005.