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History of Golf in Dallas

 

In the  "GAY NINETIES" the town of Dallas had about 38,000 people. There had been a depression in 1893 but by 1896 the area had started to recover. Cotton was King and foreign cotton merchants came from all over the world.  Dallas became the world's largest inland cotton market.   Among these cotton men was H.L. Edwards (1856-1948), listed in the City Directory of 1900 as a Cotton Buyer.  He was from Britain where he had been introduced to the game of golf.  Another native of England, R.E. Potter, listed as a capitalist with the Texas Land and Mortgage Company, joined with Edwards and they were instrumental in laying out the first six hole golf course on Haskell and Keating near Turtle Creek. These entrepreneurs sent to Boston for clubs and balls and introduced golf to the area. Potter lived at the Dallas Club and Edwards lived at the Oriental Hotel.

This venture led to the formation of the Dallas Golf Club in 1900, with the first building erected at Argyle and Lemmon.  Mr. Edwards was the first president of the Texas Golf Association that he helped organize in 1906.  The Dallas Golf Club lives on as the Dallas Country Club, first institution of this kind in Dallas.

The Dallas Country Club was established in 1899 on thirty acres of land on the edge of Oak Lawn.  By 1912, its directors decided to sell this land for homes and move three miles farther north on land they purchased in Highland Park that was just being developed as an addition.  Beautiful homes in Highland Park and University Park have now long since surrounded this location, but the cities recognize the importance of open spaces and have made tax concessions for the Club.

In 1912, Collett Munger and George Aldredge founded the Lakewood Country Club at Gaston and Prospect Street.  This is the second oldest country club in Dallas.  This was close to the new development of Munger Place, Junius Heights, and Swiss Avenue and it was thought that the club would help draw developers and residents farther east. George Aldredge, chairman of the First National Bank in Dallas, must have really worked at the game of golf as he won the city's first state championship in 1916.

The next private club that was organized was because of the worm castings at the Dallas Country Club! Cameron Buxton, brother-in-law of H.L. Edwards was playing a game of golf and his ball hit the "handiwork" of the earthworms in March 1920.  To say the least he was upset, and the next week he, and three other players, started the search for land that did not have worms on it.  They found 157 acres near the confluence of the Elm Fork and the Clear Fork of the Trinity which had sandy soil and would be not be subjected to the same problem of worm castings. In addition water could be pumped from the Trinity to keep the greens. This was the founding of Brook Hollow Country Club.  Brook Hollow was the first course in the United States to have a complete fairway watering system. Dallas cotton merchant Sheppard W. King, Sr. was the club's first president 1921-1922.

 By 1914, while these three private clubs were being organized, the athletic citizens of Dallas who could not afford to join a country club approached the Dallas Park Department for public links so that they, too, could enjoy this newest sport from Scotland.  Although it took a while to satisfy this request, the Park Department was able to lease 117 acres of land along Turtle Creek from the estate of John Cole and laid out a golf course.  This course had sand greens to avoid the expense of installing greens on leased property.  This facility was used from 1922 until 1935, when the land was returned to the Cole Estate.  This land along Turtle Creek had been settled by the John Cole family who first came to Dallas in 1843 and owned many acres of what is now Oak Lawn, Highland Park and North Dallas. Dr. John Cole was one of the very first physicians in Dallas County.

Cedar Crest had first been developed as a private country club in 1917. When the club was chartered the trustees were Robert Shelton, Raymond Thomas, and George Reynolds in 1919.  All of this area that is known as Cedar Crest Golf Course was part of the original survey of 640 acres granted by the State of Texas to Lorenzo Van Cleve as a Peters Colony land grant. Van Cleve probably never saw the land.   Alabama native William Brown Miller came to Texas in 1846 and purchased this land and additional acres for $1.00 an acre.  Miller with his family and slaves built first a log house and second a large home known as Millermore, now at Old City Park. 

Sol Dreyfuss laid out the club and the 18 hole golf course was designed by A.W. Tillinghast.  Always interested in sports, Dreyfuss once owned the Dallas Baseball Team during the 1930s.  He was the Secretary-Treasurer of Dreyfuss and Son - one of the first men's clothing stores in downtown Dallas. Sol's sister, Hortense, married Lawrence Pollock.  Sol was the Vice President of the Pollock Paper Company.  The Dreyfuss family lived on S. Ervay, which was in the southern section of Dallas in an addition called the Cedars. Many of the terminal merchants who had followed the Houston and Texas Central Railroad in 1872 were eventually able to build mansions in this upscale suburb of Dallas in the next few years when their businesses had flourished.

Across the Trinity River from this section of Dallas were the rolling hills, creeks, and trees of Oak Cliff.  In 1908 the worst flood of the Trinity River in Dallas history since it had become a growing city, destroyed the old wooden bridge spanning the river at the end of Forest Ave.  By 1911 this bridge had been rebuilt and was a direct route to the beautiful area of Oak Cliff. This is where land was assembled to establish the private Cedar Crest Country Club in 1916 just across the river.  Many members of the club were neighbors and business associates of Sol Dreyfuss.

Back in the '20s all it took to stage a pro golf tournament was to put up the money.  So in an effort to put Dallas on the map in the pro golf world, Dreyfuss had offered a purse and the first Dallas Open was held at Cedar Crest in 1926.  MacDonald Smith a Scottish pro, won the first Dallas open.  It was held in the spring, but a "blue norther" had blown in on the eve of the tournament, freezing greens and fairways, but they still played with Smith shooting 301 to win. 

Despite the cold, Cedar Crest made such an impression on the pros that when Dreyfuss offered $12,000.00 to host the 1927 PGA Championship, it was decided to come to the South for the first time.  During the semi-final match, Walter Hagen's path crossed with a future great of the game.   While his competitor Al Epinosa held as much as a four hole lead, a young lad of fifteen was following Hagen.   As the match approached the 13th hole of the second round (matches were 36 holes back then) Hagen was on the brink of elimination.  The sun was shining directly into Hagen's eyes as he was about to hit his second shot on the par four.  The lad offered his baseball cap to Hagen to shield his eyes.  Hagen was extremely proud of his slicked-back, jet black hair and never wore a hat; however, he accepted the cap.  As he swung, the cap fell to the ground, but the ball landed on the green and he won the hole.  Hagen went on to win the match in extra holes and the final championship the next day over Jim Turnesa.  Who was the lad that gave Hagen the cap?  Byron Nelson!

 The Club operated a few more years, but the stock market crash and subsequent depression had badly hurt the members of Cedar Crest.  Within months the club closed down and was ultimately purchased by the Schoellkopf family in 1930. Gus Schoellkopf had come to Dallas County in 1869 to buy buffalo hides and established a small saddler shop on the Courthouse Square.  His business flourished and Dallas became world renowned for its leather products.

 The Schoellkopfs put the property under a caretaker's supervision until after World War II.   In April 1946 the Park Department purchased the facility from Fred and Hugo Schoellkopf trustees for the G.H. Schoellkopf  estate for $135,551.46.  It enjoyed little popularity initially.  Much of the championship character was lost when the traps were filled in and the fairways widened to accommodate the anticipated increased play.  The old clubhouse was torn down and replaced by an efficient, smaller structure.   In 1949 an additional 6.57 acres was purchased from T.B. and Minnie Miller for about $1000.00 an acre to expand the golf course. In 1954, Charles Sifford led the United Golf Association pro tournament at Cedar Crest. He won the tourney and $500.00.  He became PGA’s first black member when it dropped the “whites” only rule in 1961. The current pro shop was built in 1962. In 1968, the United States Golf Association decided to hold its first Public Links Tournament of the Southwest at Cedar Crest.  This helped the course to regain some of its lost prestige.  The course received more maintenance dollars and play responded with more participation. The tournament pavilion was built in 1995. Past golf professionals at Cedar Crest include Levi Banks and Ben Banks in the 1940s, Dennis Lavender from 1954 to 1972, J.W. White from 1972 until 1981. Leonard Jones was here for ten years from 1981 until 1991 and Bob Garza for the next three years.  Leonard Jones is presently the golf professional as he returned in 1994.

Mr. Bowman was the Green’s Superintendent beginning with construction of Cedar Crest Club in 1913. Mr. Bowman’s sons, Reggie Bowman and Lee Bowman followed in his footsteps as Green’s Superintendent.  In 1970 Lee Bowman turned over the reins to Billy Wayne Dennis, who continued in this position until his retirement in 1990.

The course suffered green’s freeze outs in 1960, 1983, and 1989.  All greens were killed by the severe winter of 1989.  In the early 1990s the city golf courses purchased green’s covers for use during long periods of freezing temperatures.  This practice is now common in the industry throughout North Texas. In the 1950s a new addition of homes was developed nearby and the golf course and all the facilities were offered as special features for the Magna Vista homes.

In 1919 the Park Department that operated under Mayor Joe Lawther, appointed Foster Jacoby to be the Director of Playgrounds.  He was an accomplished young athlete and was described as having "unlimited energy and pep." Jacoby had married the daughter of a socially prominent family in Dallas and was acquainted with the other families in the area who were successful businessmen and large landowners. Foster Jacoby encouraged recreation in the parks rather then just beautification of the parks.  He was a good friend of and played golf with Dr. W.W. Samuell.

Many acres were donated in 1923 by citizens of Dallas and it is thought that through their respect for him and his ideals this was accomplished.

Stevens Park Golf Course was opened in 1924 in Oak Cliff as the second municipal golf course in Dallas.   Additional land adjoining the original donation was acquired from North Texas Trust Company.  One of the owners of this company was Dallas native L.A. Stemmons who was instrumental in developing several additions in Oak Cliff.  Since coming to Dallas after the Civil War, the Stemmons family has been associated with many civic improvements in the city.  Twelve acres was also purchased from the Catholic Church bringing the total to 90 acres, The rolling hills and woods in this area were some of the most beautiful land in Dallas County.  Kessler Park and Stevens Park were being developed as attractive additions to Dallas at this time.  Oak Cliff had been a separate city until 1903 when it was annexed to the city of Dallas. 

Stevens Park Golf Course is located on land that was part of the Anson McCracken Survey and a portion of the William Myers Survey.  Peters Colonist Anson and his wife and four children came to Texas in 1844 from Missouri.    Anson served as the County Coroner from 1848-1850.  As a family man he received 640 acres through the Colony.  The McCracken family cleared the land for farming and lived on the land.  The 1850 census, the first for Dallas County, lists them as family No.159.  The creek that runs through this property was called McCracken's Creek on early maps.

In September 1855, three hundred and twenty acres in this vicinity was sold to European American Society of Colonization of Texas, known also as the La Reunion Colony.  The agent for the Colony was Francois Cantegral  who had come to America to purchase land for the Colony. This colony of Europeans had been persuaded to come to Dallas to establish their theory of socialism. They came hoping to raise grapes for wine, but the cold winters, hot summers and plague of grasshoppers soon discouraged them.  Many went back to Europe, but those who stayed enriched the community as they were mostly educated in the arts, music and sciences, not as farmers. The headquarters for this utopian dream was near where the golf course is now.  By 1858, the Colony had disbanded and the land was finally seized for the debt owed and resold to other early settlers. There is a marker recognizing the La Reunion Colony erected on the 6th tee of the golf course.

Dr. John H. Stevens (1824-1881) came to Dallas County after the Civil War.  He had served as Medical Director of the Confederate States Army of Virginia. He was a graduate of Dickinson College, Pennsylvania and the University of Virginia. His wife, Mary Armstrong Stevens (1847-1916) was a native of Tuskegee, Alabama. They lost an infant daughter in 1879, but Walter Armstrong was born in 1874 and Annie Laurie was born in 1876, both in Texas.  When the land for the addition to Dallas called Stevens Park was platted, forty acres were donated to the Park Department for the golf course by Walter and Annie Laurie as a memorial to their parents Dr. and Mrs. John Stevens in 1923.

The first club house for the 18 hole Stevens Park Golf Course was constructed in 1924 for $7000 of which the North Texas Trust Company (L.A. Stemmons) paid $3000.  O.M. Taylor was the architect and it was built with park labor.  The second clubhouse was built in 1941-42 with WPA funds combined with city money for the construction and purchase of additional land.  

Elm Fork Park was purchased by the City of Dallas in 1963 and the course was designed by Donald Kleinschmidt.  The course was built by city employees and opened for play in April 1969.  At this time the course was renamed L.B. Houston Golf Course.  In the early 1980s, the golf course experienced summer long flooding caused by large water releases from lakes upstream on the Trinity River.  A perimeter berm was installed in 1982 to protect the facility from future long term flood periods.  To further reduce the flood potential, an automatic de-watering system was installed on the south side of the golf course in 1989.  In 1987, the driving range was constructed to provide staff an opportunity to promote and teach the game.

Land for the newest facility, the Grover Keeton Golf Course, was acquired in 1973 by the Park Department. The acquisition of this course was a project of the Pleasant Grove Chamber of Commerce.  A grant was received from Housing and Urban Development for a golf course in Southeast Dallas.  That same year, 315 acres were purchased from Lacy Building Corporation, Patsy Griffith and Ann Lacy Crain for $2,144.00 per acre a total of $676,068.00.  This course was built on an old pecan plantation and in the White Rock Creek flood plain and it was designed by Dave Bennett.  The first driving range in the Park Department was included in the original construction. 

In the spring of 1978, construction on the Gateway Golf Course and the clubhouse was begun. The facility opened for play in April 1979. The original name was changed to Grover C. Keeton in honor of Keeton who had been a long time employee of the Park Department and the Director of the Department from 1972 to 1978.

This course is in the flood plain of White Rock Creek and its confluence with the Trinity River. Within the first two years of operation, the golf course flooded from high water levels on the Trinity for eight months due to high water.  Berms have been erected to help control this flooding.

As the sport of golf evolved through the years, many changes have taken place. Rules of the game have always played a very important role.  The players respected them and they were stringently enforced.  It was many years before women could play golf in Dallas. In 1947, when this was reported in a local paper, the article said, " no rules could be found barring girls." Some of the first women golfers in Dallas were Mrs. Clay C. Cary of the Cedar Crest Country Club, Mrs. Dan Chandler who won the Texas Women’s Championship in 1932 and Betty Jameson who had attained the Women’s title at the age of fifteen.  Mrs. E.H. Wohlfert was seven times city municipal champion and twice state muny champion.

The women distinguished themselves through the years.  Beaumont native Babe Didrickson Zaharias (1914-1956) was one of the top athletes in the first half of the 20th century.  In 1946-47, she won seventeen tournaments in a row.  She was instrumental in the formation of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). Babe won eighty-two tournaments as both amateur and professional.  Babe died of cancer while still a young woman.

Lee Trevino is a well known Dallas golfer.  His connection with the game began in the area first called Lakeview and later changed to Vickery. He started at eight years old retrieving balls for the golfers at Glen Lakes Golf and Country Club near Walnut Hills and Greenville Road.  His family consisting of his mother, two sisters, uncle and grandfather who was a gravedigger at Hillcrest Cemetery, lived nearby in a dirt-floored shack.  Lee as a small boy had a winning smile and pleasant personality and climbed over the fence to play on the golf course.  Trevino also knew Tenison Golf Course as a place to pick up balls, caddie, or play.  He is one of the only players in the sport’s history to surpass $9 million in career earnings. In 1971 he was presented Keys to the City of Dallas by then Mayor Wes Wise.  This was at a banquet before the Byron Nelson Classic.  Lee is quoted as saying,” Dallas must be in a budget crunch” as he held the tiny key, about the size of a tie-tack. In 1995 when he returned to Dallas for a Pro Am Senior PGA Tour, the Mayor of Dallas Ron Kirk, presented him with a handsome gold key bearing the City of Dallas logo.  As a minority he was able to play golf and set records all over the world!

It was several years later before "Negroes" would be allowed to play.  One golf association president said "that it had not even come up for discussion, but, eventually some of the colored players will have their games down to where we'd be justified in inviting them." Some courses had allowed them to play one day a year on June Teenth. From 1945 until 1955 Moore Park in Oak Cliff was patronized by African Americans.  The original sand greens were laid out as a par three executive course and can still be recognized in the park today. For a few years the Hillard Golf Course on Lemmon Avenue near Love Field was patronized by black golfers, This nine hole regulation golf course, with grass greens, closed down in the 1950s when blacks were allowed to play at all city courses.  The golf professional at Hillard Golf Course was A.Z. Sanders. The land used for this course is now included in Love Field.

In 1999 there are still many private golf clubs that have insurmountable rules to deny or limit blacks from becoming members.  There are secret committees to control the list.  There was much speculation when Tiger Woods started winning tournaments all over the world.  What will happen next?

In the 1960s another institution associated with golf was changing – the caddies! Golf carts were introduced.  Many of the caddies had grown up around the courses and learned to play from watching the Masters.  Many went on to become the professionals who now manage the courses.  When the rules changed to allow golf carts not as many caddies were needed.  In the early days the boys would sleep all night at the course on Friday night to be given the opportunity on Saturday to earn 65 cents for 18 holes and they had to give back 10 cents to the club.  Some times they could make four rounds a day.

Since women have been allowed to play on the courses styles and fashions for this new lifestyle followed.  New hair styles, visors, special sox associated with special golf shoes and through the years knickers, pants, shorts, and culottes. In 1999 on the tours, only shirts with collars may be worn and the men must wear pants – the women are allowed to wear shorts.  This also opened a new era for the companies who manufactured golf equipment. A demand for special clubs and bags to hold them that fit the women who played the game.

Texans were leading money winners from the very first.  From 1937 until 1950 all of the top pro money winners except two were Texans.  An explanation for this was the climate permitted year round play.  Also the fact that every club had a tournament and that the players are used to playing in high wind.

The complete history of golf in Dallas has not been written, yet. This compilation from several sources is only the beginning.

Frances James -1999.

 

 

 

 

 



 



 



 
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