The Greatest Indoor Golf Match Ever Played

 

It is hard to imagine an event such as this in 2013. Today with air travel so common I just have trouble wrapping my mind around a foursome of the nation's top golfers squaring off at an "indoor golf school" for a match in Chicago during January. Exhibition or not. Before we get to The American Golfer story let's take a step back and look at the players involved. The American Golfer magazine as was its custom played down any achievements of its editor Walter Travis.

The players

  • Walter Travis - 4 time US Amateur Champion, 1 time British Amateur Champion, golf partner to President Taft

  • Chick Evans - 2 time US Amateur Champion, 1 time US Open Champion, 10 time Western Amateur Champion, the 2nd player to ever hold the US Amateur and US Open titles at the same time.

  • Mason Phelps - Western Amateur Champion

  • H. Chandler Egan - 2 time US Amateur Champion, 4 time Western Amateur Champion, 5 time Pacific Northwest Amateur Champion

Now if you put this into 2013 terms, this "indoor golf match" was clearly a huge event.


As reported in The American Golfer February 1911

As a side feature to the national golf gathering in Chicago, an all champion foursome was scheduled Saturday, January 14, at the O'Neil and Fovargue indoor golf school, Messrs. W. J. Travis, former international champion, and "Chick" Evans, the Western open champion, playing Western Amateur Champion Mason Phelps and H. Chandler Egan. The players elected to play over the Chicago Golf Club's course at Wheaton, and Messrs. Phelps and Egan triumphed by 2 and 1. The presence of this quartet of noted golfers served as a magnet to attract a record throng at the golf school. Mr. Egan, who has almost mastered the intricacies of the indoor net game, negotiated the first nine in 34, which was considerably better than the mark of his comrades, none of whom has had so much experience with the intricacies of the indoor play. His work won the fourth, fifth and seventh holes, but Mr. Travis with a fine three took the ninth, and his side was only two down at the turn. Mr. Evans won the twelfth hole with a three, but as Mr. Egan took the long thirteenth with a five, and the remainder were halved, victory went to the Exmoor-Midlothian combination. 

The cards: 

Mr. Phelps: Out—5 5 4 5 4 4 6 5 4—42 
Mr. Egan:   Out—4 4 3 4 3 3 5 4 4—34 
Mr. Travis: Out—4 4 4 5 4 4 6 5 3—39 
Mr. Evans: Out—4 4 3 5 4 3 6 4 4—37 

Mr. Phelps: I n — 5 5 3 6 4 4 4 4 — match
Mr. Egan:   I n — 4 5 3 5 3 5 4 3 — match
Mr. Travis: I n — 5 5 4 6 4 4 4 3 — match
Mr. Evans: I n — 4 4 3 6 3 5 5 4 — match


A vintage golf photo of golfer Mason Phelps.
Mason Phelps

A vintage golf photo of golfer H. Chandler Egan.
H. Chandler Egan

A vintage golf photo of golfing great Walter Travis.
Walter Travis

A vintage golf photo of golfing great Chick Evans.
Chick Evans

 

As reported in The American Golfer January 1912
The Chicago Athletic Association recently admitted Mr. Charles Evans, Jr., as an athletic member and installed indoor golf as an important feature of the club's athletic activities. Three "links" have been put in in one of the big racket courts and Professional George O'Neil, of Beverly Country Club, is in charge. The initial match played at the Cherry Circle links was between Mr. J. C. Le Duc, the indoor champion, and Mr. Charles Evans, Jr., of Edgewater, the amateur champion of Chicago, utilizing the Chicago Golf Club's course where, next season, the majority of western golfers are planning to see the national amateur golf championship decided. Mr. Evans won 4 and 3, the victor negotiating a 71 and his opponent making a 75. It may be said for the Midlothian player that he used some make-shift clubs and was four down to Mr. Evans before he learned of the "hump" in the novel putting "green"—an innovation suggested by Mr. O'Neil to make the short game more difficult.

As reported in The American Golfer March 1912
Playing his farewell game of indoor golf at the George O'Neil school while the temperature was below zero, Mr. M. Chandler Egan elected to compete over his home, or Exmoor links, and defeating his rival, Mr. R. A. Bond, of Exmoor. The former champion's card was 35-35 70. 

Play for the indoor championship probably will have progressed to the final match some time in early March, at the Indoor Golf School in Chicago. Mr. Charles Evans, city amateur champion, playing in the qualifying round in February over the Denver Country Club course, led the field of aspirants for the first flight of sixteen, with a card of 68. Other leading scores in the main flight were: Messrs. Warren K. Wood, 71; C. B. De Vol, 72; D. E. Sawyer, Joseph C. Le Duc, and H. A. Flaeger, 74. On the afternoon of Feb. 10, Messrs. Warren K. Wood and Paul Hunter, utilizing the Denver course distances in the Indoor School, defeated Messrs. Charles Evans and O. J. Frances, 3 up 2 to play. Indoor links at the Chicago Athletic Association have been patronized during the coldest weather by a sufficient number of members of the big club to warrant Chairman H. H. Latham, of the Athletic Committee, in the statement that the courses will be continued as a feature of the Cherry Circle life. The old racket court transformed into an indoor golf links was not supplied with heat. Its position at the top of the club home made it an ideal place for golf play, contestants wearing sweaters during the coldest weather. The location of the links, however, makes it obvious that during the summer weather the golf school will be the most comfortable spot in downtown Chicago. Indoor Champion Mr. Joseph C. Le Duc recently set a mark of 69 at the indoor links for the Beverly Country Club links.

As reported in The American Golfer April 1912
One thing which is considered more or less responsible for the advanced popularity of the game here is the increased number who have taken up the indoor game. Many have found this very valuable to them in learning stance, swinging, etc., and while it cannot, of course, compare with the outdoor game, it goes a long way toward whetting the appetite for the real thing. The Chicago Athletic Association has taken up indoor golf on a large scale and has kept three "courts" busy all winter. A professional has been kept in charge during the entire time and there is much talk of the members members holding tournaments of their own the coming season. 

There has been lively competition in the indoor matches and it is almost inevitable that they will be carried on to the various golf courses as soon as the weather permits. The indoor golf school has been another busy place and during the past month attention has been drawn to the playing of the Western indoor championship. As is usually the case in this section of the country, the younger players have command of the field as the contest draws to a close and with only the semi - final and final yet to be played Mr. Paul Hunter of Midlothian, Mr. Carl Devol of Riverside, Mr. Charles Evans, Jr., of Edgewater and Mr. Warren K. Wood of Homewood remain in the running. 

In the final, Mr. Hunter will meet Mr. Devol and Mr. Evans will be matched against Mr. Wood. The indoor courts at the Illinois Athletic Club have been neglected to a certain extent this year, the members having lost interest, but that is the only case on record in the city where such a thing has happened.


A vintage photo of the Chicago Atheletic Association.
Chicago Athletic Association

 
As reported in The American Golfer January 1913
Chicago golfers have better facilities for indoor play this winter than ever. George O'Neill, the Beverly professional, has opened a school at 19 North Wabash Avenue, which is the biggest yet seen in the West. He has installed seven nets, one of them being in a separate room which affords greater distance for driving. The annual western indoor championship will be staged after the holidays and a number of the Chicago cracks will take part. The Chicago Athletic Association also has installed several nets which are being well patronized.

As reported in The American Golfer February 1913
Mr. Charles Evans, Jr., the western champion, is a "headliner" both in summer and winter. Outdoor and indoor he probably plays more golf than any of the leading amateurs. He is easily the premier indoor player around the Chicago district, his latest success being the winning of a putting tournament staged at The Fair. 

The big State Street store has, under the direction of Tom Bendelow, installed a nine-holes course 215 feet in length. It is well bunkered and has miniature ponds and bridges. The initial tournament attracted a field of 85 starters. Mr. Evans made the double round in 42. Mr. W. L. Cashbaugh, of Garfield Park, and Mr. F. Seelig, of Jackson Park, tied for second prize with scores of 47.

A vintage photo of The Fair department store at State and Adams in Chicago
The Fair department store Chicago

As reported in The American Golfer March 1913
The indoor putting course installed by The Fair, one of the big Chicago stores, has proven quite popular. Nearly 100 players started in the Western Open Putting Championship. Thirty-two qualified, among them being Messrs. Warren K. Wood, Charles Evans, Jr., C. B. Devol, and professionals George. Dow, D. Kober, Arthur Clarkson and George Fernie. Evans was defeated in the second round by Mr. H. E. Baxter, who scored a one at the 18th hole and won 1 up. Mr. Warren Wood won first prize, defeating George Fernie, the Kansas City professional, 6 and 5 in the final. In the semi-final Wood defeated Mr. W. W. Griffen, of Wheaton, 1 up, and Fernie defeated Mr. Baxter 1 up.

As reported in The American Golfer April 1913
Indoor golf has proved extremely popular in Chicago this winter. There has been a lot of play at O'Neil's school, and the tournaments given by The Hub and The Fair on their carpet putting courses have attracted as high as 150 entries. Both these big stores have installed excellent miniature courses, and the Saturday afternoon competitions have attracted hundreds of spectators. The indoor courses at the Chicago Athletic Association and the Illinois Athletic Club have been well patronized. Officials of the Crane Company also have installed a course at their building on Michigan Avenue, where Professional Tom Vardon has been acting as instructor.

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1913 US Open

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