Directors Cup Golf Challenge keeps alive GNPCC classic tradition
By Don Brennan
It’s been written (and rewritten and rewritten) that on the lush links at old Torresdale-Frankford Country Club in the early 1920s, that beautiful Donald James Ross-designed golf course, the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce was born. Concerned businessmen in Frankford wanted a louder voice to protect and promote their interests.
The U.S. Flag had 48 stars. Warren G. Harding was President. In less than one month, his presidency would be crippled by the Teapot Dome Scandal. J. Hampton Moore, a Republican, was Mayor of Philadelphia. There is an elementary school named in his honor at 6900 Summerdale Ave.
The Phillies and Athletics (yes, the city had National League AND American League clubs in 1922) had one thing in common: they were bad teams. The A’s finished seventh with a 65-89 record. The Phils also finished seventh with a 57-96 record. The Phillies were managed by a former pitcher named Kaiser Wilhelm. He was fired late in the season. The A’s, of course, were managed (and owned) by the venerable Connie Mack. Nobody was firing the owner.
On March 28, 1922, Charles J. McGough and Alvin Swenson were the first to sign the GNPCC Charter, a framed copy of which hangs on the walls of the group’s offices today at 8025 Roosevelt Boulevard, on the spacious second floor of the Philadelphia Federal Credit Union building.
On Monday, July 18, 2016 the GNPCC 94th Annual Directors Cup Golf Challenge will be held at this historic site—following $7 million in renovations by the new owners, the Union League of Philadelphia, one of the region’s most respected Philadelphia brands that dates back to the Civil War.
This will be the second time the Directors Cup Challenge will be held at what was renamed The Union League Golf Club at Torresdale, located at Frankford and Grant Aves. Last year’s sold-out outing in the fall was among the first held there, as the local golfing community marveled at $3 million in renovations to the classic course, and a $4 million makeover of the clubhouse. More work is planned in coming years.
The highly respected golf columnist Joe Logan, whose great work graced the pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer for many years and now at Myphillygolf.com, wrote about the Torresdale club last January.
The revered Torresdale-Frankford Country Club had begun to show its age, which led to talks with the Union League about a merger of some sort. It took about 10 years to complete, but the deal was sealed on July 1, 2014. Former TFCC members now belong to a fabulous new golf course, and Union League members have access to it as well.
The results are stunning. In addition to work on the golf course, the lobby, ballroom, and members’ clubhouse and dining facilities have all been given complete facelifts. The food and catering services are top notch. The GNPCC held a sold-out luncheon there April 15 with Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney as the keynote speaker. The reaction to the spectacular setting from those in attendance was jaw-dropping.
According to the article by Joe Logan, the course work was guided by architect Stephen Kay, who has a passion for restoring “classic courses” like the Union League. However, even Mr. Kay does not claim to be recreating Mr. Ross’s 1921 design, since it would not fit the modern game, he said.
For example, had he done so, Mr. Kay would have had to remove all ladies’ tees, cart paths, and a modern irrigation system—since none of these were part of the 1921 design, and did not come along until the 1950s!
Some of the renovations include the removal of hundreds of trees, lengthening the layout, rebuilding the bunkers, widening the fairways, and softening the greens. Joe Logan points out that some of the greens on the old TFCC course were “too unforgiving. A missed downhill three-footer could roll off the green.”
Union League officials are hoping for an uptick in rounds of golf. In the early 2000s, TFCC notched 15,000-to-17,000 rounds per year. Ten years later that number had dropped to about 11,000 rounds per year. The goal today is to reach 18,000-to-20,000 rounds.
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