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Club History


The following is a reprint of the Club History from the NCC 75th Anniversary Booklet (Text by Elbert Chance)

Two actions that were to have a profound effect on the City of Newark occurred in March 1921. Governor William D. Denney signed a bill which merged Delaware College and the Women's College into the University of Delaware, and on March 1, three prominent Newark citizens -- Norris N. Wright and Harry L. Bonham, officers of the Continental Fibre Company, and attorney George L. Townsend -- held the first formal meeting of subscribers to capital stock in the Newark Country Club. The new corporation's Certificate of Incorporation stated, "...The object to be promoted is the maintenance of an association or club for social, intellectual and recreative purposes."

At the initial meeting, Norris Wright was chosen temporary chairman, but, in an ensuing election, Townsend was elected president; Bonham, vice president; and Wright, secretary and treasurer. On April 13, these temporary officers resigned and permanent officers were elected. They were J. Pilling Wright, president; A. Franklin Fader, vice president; and Mr. Bonham, secretary and treasurer. Other directors were Messrs. Townsend and Norris Wright, John E. Armstrong, John K. Johnston and Dr. W. H. Steel. J. Pilling Wright was president of the Continental Fibre Company and Bonham also was an officer of that company. Mr. Johnston was vice president and sales manager of the National Vulcanized Fibre Company.

By the end of April, sixty stockholders, including residents of Elkton and Wilmington, had purchased shares at $25 each. The eight-member, Board of Directors appointed a committee to obtain bids for the construction of an 18 hole golf course and a clubhouse on a farm that had been owned since 1890 by Mrs. Jennie Jex.

Wilfred Reid, Golf Professional at the Wilmington Country Club, who had designed some of the finest courses in the East, was hired to plan the new layout. His 18 hole, 6,300 yard design was completed in April. Nine holes immediately were staked out, but it was decided to delay the construction of the second nine until it was warranted by membership growth. Rather than add a new clubhouse, the directors chose to convert a sturdy old barn on the property to that use.

By mid-July, more than 100 charter members had been accepted and, as work progressed, it was increasingly suggested that the Club would become a center for outdoor recreation and social life and a source of pride for the entire community. In the next several months, a news story reported that "interest and enthusiasm are growing beyond all expectations", and the Board of Directors established a limit of 200 charter members. A special Membership Committee consisting of E. H. Vogt, Dr. Walter Hullihen, George L. Townsend, J. E. Dougherty, C. W. Strahorn, J. B. Decker, E. Brinton Wright and J. Irwin Dayett was appointed to screen future membership applicants. Also appointed was a House Committee composed of J. R Armstrong, George W. Griffin, John S. Shaw, Norris N. Wright and Thomas F. Manns. By fall, the first nine was completed at a cost of $14,742 by R.H. Johnson of Wayne, Pennsylvania. Albert D. Ginther was hired as Club Professional in 1922 and his brother Edward succeeded him in 1926.

Family Tradition

Family tradition has played a distinctive role in the Club's history. Founding members J. Pilling Wright and Norris N. Wright were brothers, and one of the Club's prestigious early trophies, the E.B. Wright Memorial, honors another brother who chaired both the House and Membership Committees in the early 1930s. Norris Wright's daughters, Martha and Eugenia, were both active golfers, and Martha was women's champion for three successive years from 1949 to 1951.

George L. Townsend, Jr., the Club's first president and a long term director, was later succeeded by his son, George L. Townsend, III, who became president in 1960 and served as a director until moving to Sussex County in 1966. J. Franklin Anderson, another early director and three-time president, resigned from the Board in 1966, only to be succeeded by his son George, a five-time Men's Club champion.

University of Delaware Connection

There has been a close relationship between the University of Delaware and the Country Club. Early Club members included former University President Walter Hullihen, Deans George E. Dutton and Charles A. McCue and professors Clinton 0. Houghton, F. Courtland Houghton and W. Owen Sypherd, the latter the Club's first men's champion in 1923. In 1937, Winifred J. Robinson, Dean of the Women's College, petitioned the Board for permission to have her athletic instructor use the course occasionally to provide instruction for her students, asking discreetly that only a "nominal fee" be charged for this privilege. In more recent years, the late Eugene P. Brasher, a faculty member in the College of Agricultural Sciences, and Elbert Chance, former Director of Alumni Relations, served terms as Club President.

For many years, the University of Delaware golf team has practiced and played its dual meet matches on the Newark course and, for a time, cross country meets also were run here. Alumni Association Homecoming Goalpost parties were hosted by the Club in the 1960s and 1970s.

Vision and Ability

Though Newark is by no means the state's largest club, it has been an influential one and with members who have been farsighted in their approach to statewide cooperation and tournament play. The Newark Club advocated state champions tournaments long before they began, was a staunch supporter of the DSGA, has produced more than its share of state champions, and frequently has played host to state and regional tournaments.

Newark has produced a number of fine golfers. Many recall the late Al Dollins, who won both Club and state championships, as did George Anderson who won Men's Senior Championships in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947, 1977, 1978 and 1988. Elbert Chance matched Anderson's five Senior Championships with victories in 1982, 1986, 1991, 1992 and 1994. No male golfer won more events than the late B. Franklin "Sank" Richards who won his first Club championships in 1934,1936,1942,1957 and 1958 and Senior titles in 1959, 1962, 1964 and 1971. Other outstanding senior players of the last two decades include Elwood "Woody" Statler, J. Fred Mitchell and James Wyres.

The dominant figure in local competition in the 1960s and early 1970s was Edward Richitelli, successful businessman and Georgetown University alumnus, who won his first Newark championship in 1960. In 1966 he won both the Newark and Wilmington Country Club championships, a double few have matched. No fewer than five times, he finished among the top five in the DSGA Men's Championship and once he made the finals of the Philadelphia Amateur. He has played in the U.S. Amateur, the Western Amateur and the North-South Amateur, once advancing three rounds in the latter event before being eliminated. His victory in the state Championship in 1970 was long overdue and widely acclaimed, for he overcame both illness and a host of younger players to take his first state title after a number of near misses.

Although Richitelli won the Club championship in 1967, 1970, 1973, and 1977, he was challenged by several players who had been members of the University of Delaware varsity golf teams, including Charles Pinto, Jack Tuttle and three-time winners Andy Smith and Mark Grunert. Gibby Young, Jr., has been a fine performer for more than two decades, winning championships in 1969, 1971, 1978, 1979 and 1989. Andy Smith's course record of 64, set from the white tees on June 11, 1973, was equaled by Mark Doughty on October 7, 1995.

Even more impressive than Richitelli's dominance in the 1960s were three decades of competitive play by the late Mrs. Mary McDowell who won 18 Women's championships and 13 Senior's titles between 1952 and 1980. The reliable little putter that contributed to her many victories is displayed in the Clubhouse. It was not until the late 1970's that Ms. Nancy Pierce, a physical education teacher at Glasgow High School, succeeded Mrs. McDowell as the Club's Women's champion. Ms. Pierce won that title 11 times and was DWGA State Champion in 1988 and 1989. Her principal challenger, Joanne Sydnor, has captured eight titles, 1982-84 and 1991-95.

Other top women players through the years have been Dorothy A. Ott, Zona K. MacPhee, Dorothy S. Stiegler, Doris H. Frye, Margaret Ware and Barbara Bergman. One of the most promising of Newark's women players was long-hitting Judy Aneda, daughter of Newark pro Joe Aneda, but marriage removed her from the links after a single Women's championship in 1966. The dominant senior woman of the 1990's has been Jacque Land, who captured the Senior Women's crown in 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1995.

Male golfers of outstanding ability have emerged in the last decade, notably William Barrow and Mark Doughty, both winners of four Men's Championships, and Dr. Yogish Patel, who has won twice.

Statewide Competition Advocated

As early as 1934, Board minutes show the interest of Newark Club members in statewide competition. F. Courtland Houghton, chairman of the Match Committee, asked the Board to consider the desirability of forming a state golf association. The directors appointed Charles A. McCue to determine whether other clubs in the state were interested.

Response to his inquiries apparently was not favorable, for no further action on the question was reported at that time. But Newark members did not abandon the effort and, on August 23 and 24, 1947, largely through the efforts of Alvin L. Dollins, the first of five successive pre-DSGA Championship tournaments sponsored by the Newark Country Club was held on the local course, then only nine holes. Seventeen merchandise prizes and a silver loving cup were provided by the Club's Tournament Committee and area merchants. The home course favorite, Ellis Taylor, topped the field, which included many of the state's best known golfing names: George Anderson, Steve Brodie, Al Dollins, Willard Dickerson, Willard McConnell, Sank Richards, Curtis Riley and Hayes Wilson. The tournament proved an immediate success and was highlighted by Arthur Giammatteo's hole in one.

Those five state tournaments prior to the formation of the DSGA in 1952 were all played on the Newark course and won by Newark members, as were the first three championships played on other courses in 1952, 1953 and 1954. Ellis Taylor was a four-time winner and Dollins and George Anderson each won twice. Though representatives of other clubs broke this domination, in later years, 1970 again found Newark members on top, with Ed Richitelli taking the crown and Gibby Young, Jr. in the runner-up slot.

Brothers Albert and Edward Ginther were the Club's Golf Pro's from 1922 to 1939. Albert was succeeded in 1940 by a popular and promising young professional, Dave Douglas. The lanky, smooth-swinging Douglas remained at Newark for only two years before hitting the professional tour, where he won several major events and became a member of the 1953 United States Ryder Cup team.

With the advent of the Second World War, the Club experienced difficult times. When Douglas left in October 1942, a successor was not immediately hired. Membership fees of one-half the regular rate were authorized by the Board for military personnel. Club membership dropped to II 3 in 1943 and to 93 in 1944. But the tough little Club survived adversity and, on March 15, 1946, H. Gibbons Young, Sr. was hired as Golf Professional. New President Leon H. Ryan, Sr. appointed a committee to study expanding the golf course to 18 holes and to consider the feasibility of building a new clubhouse at a different site. A decision that was to have long-term significance in the life of the Club was made in 1952, when the Board hired Joseph R. Aneda as Professional/Course Superintendent. By 1959, the growth of the Club made that dual role impractical, and Gaston J. "Gus" Tagnon became Greens Superintendent.

The popular Joe Aneda continued to serve as Head Professional until 1976 when he retired to a life of leisure in Puerto Rico. After several years, he and his family returned to Newark where he was welcomed by his many friends and promptly returned to the Pro Shop as part-time assistant, counselor, friend and player, posts he continues to hold. In October 1995, he was inducted into the Philadelphia PGA Section's Hall of Fame, an honor accorded to only ten persons in 75 years. Shortly before being honored at age 85, he made the fourth hole-in-one of his career en route to a round of 77.

Growth after World War II

In 1954, Harry L. Bonham, last of the founding officers, died, but steady progress continued under a capable group of younger directors who had been carefully assembled. Notable improvements were made in the clubhouse during the presidency of Wayne C. Brewer in 1953 and in 1954, during the first of two successive terms under President J. Harvey Dickey. The Board negotiated an agreement with William F. Gordon, a golf architect and contractor from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, to plan an additional nine holes and assess their cost. The resulting estimate, coupled with the necessity to replace and extend existing water lines, made it apparent that a substantial increase in dues might be necessary. The Board agreed to purchase the plans submitted by the architects, and Mr. Dickey appointed a committee to investigate ways of raising the funds needed for construction. He also appointed a committee to study the formation of a separate corporation interested in building and operating a swimming pool on Club property. The swimming pool opened for the summer of 1956.

In March 1955, the Board took the long-expected plunge, contracting with the firm of Murray and Roberts, Golf Course Designers and Builders of Rockville, Maryland, to add the new nine. That times had changed was evident from the cost--almost four times that of the original course completed three decades earlier! Yet even though anticipating heavy expenses, the Board continued its policy of supporting worthwhile community causes by authorizing a contribution to Newark's Aetna Hose, Hook and Ladder Company during the 1956 season. It was a prophetic action that was to be recalled with good reason just a few months later.

Clubhouse Destroyed by Fire

On January 15, 1957, twenty-four hours after new officers had been elected, the clubhouse burned to the ground. The fire was discovered shortly after 10:30 p.m. by members who had been attending an evening dancing class. Defective wiring was believed to be the cause of the blaze, which apparently had been smoldering within the walls for several hours. Several Club members had mentioned smelling smoke during the evening, but Club Steward Mickey Palumbo attributed the odor to scorched paint on several radiators he had sprayed earlier in the day.

Newark's Aetna Company was assisted by volunteer companies from Elkton, Marshallton, and Christiana. Approximately 100 men and 12 engines responded to the alarm, the firefighters were hampered by light snow and freezing weather and the building was enveloped in flames before the blaze could be effectively contained. In addition to the almost complete destruction of the clubhouse, 176 bags of golf clubs were destroyed at an estimated loss of $20,000 and damage in the Pro Shop was estimated at $5,000 to $6,000. The picturesque converted barn, home to some 400 members and site of many of Newark's social activities, was gone forever.

It was a cruel blow to Dr. Paul K. Musselman and his new Board, which included Richard T. Ware, vice president; George L. Townsend III, treasurer; Stanley Gibbs, secretary; and directors J.F. Anderson, W.C. Brewer, J.H. Dickey, Benjamin P. Frye, Hugh F. Gallagher, Jr. and Robert Stewart, but standing and special committees, operating with all possible speed, cleared the debris, opened a temporary bar and Pro Shop, negotiated a necessary loan and employed the firm of Durham and Greenhouse to design, and D. R. Eastburn, Jr. to construct, a new clubhouse. It was completed by the summer of 1958 and, on May 12, 1959, an appreciative Board of Directors voted to purchase a plaque to be mounted in the lobby near one honoring the Club's founders. Its inscription, bearing the names of the appropriate officers and directors, reads: "This tablet honors the members of the Board of Directors who faced with courage and
vision the loss by fire of the original clubhouse in January 1957."

Expansion Continues

No subsequent development quite matched the drama of that January fire, but in 1965 the Board requested and received recommendations for course improvements from golf course architect Russell Roberts. These improvements included installing irrigation lines and rebuilding certain tees and traps. Roberts was hired to supervise the course alterations and Donald Nahrgang was named architect for clubhouse improvements, including the building of a new Pro Shop. In 1970, the previously independent Swimming Pool Association voted to dissolve and transfer its assets to the Club. This step had been envisioned when the Association was formed and the transaction was readily approved by the Board of Directors.

On the weekend of July 3-5, 1971, the Club officially recognized its 50th anniversary with a program that included an anniversary dinner, pool events, putting and pitching contests, prizes and good fellowship. Throughout the 1970s when a number of Philadelphia area country clubs suffered membership losses and experienced financial difficulties, the Newark Country Club continued to thrive as an ecological oasis and recreational/social center in the City of Newark.

Extensive improvements were made on the golf course during the 1980s under the guidance of Greens Chairmen George F. Anderson, Michael A. Kubico and Charles E. Smith, and Course Superintendents Skip Gardner, Jeff Carson and Jim Kelley. Throughout this decade, state-of-the-art equipment was purchased, the power cart fleet was enlarged to 36 carts and plans were developed to alter the design of several holes. About $50,000 was spent to repair and improve the course irrigation system. Recognizing that the advancing age of the clubhouse and swimming pool would soon require major expenditures, the Board of Directors established a Long-Range Planning Committee in 1987 under the chairmanship of Charles Smith to establish goals and priorities for club improvements on the basis of recommendations submitted by the Advisory Committee and chairmen of the Board's standing committees. Mr. Smith was succeeded by Michael Kubico and by the present chairman, O. Eugene Trivits.

Demonstrating the innovative leadership that has characterized the Club since its founding, the Board elected its first woman director in 1980. Mrs. Sue Ware Davis, whose father had preceded her as a director, became the first woman in the state of Delaware and one of the first in the nation to be elected president of a country club. Since her untimely death, Mrs. Mary Franklin and Mrs. Mary Williams have been added to the Board. Both women have chaired major committees and Mrs. Franklin has served a term as President.

The 1980s also brought necessary changes in other areas. In 1984, the Club installed a computer system to improve office efficiency. It has subsequently been upgraded several times. Several original paintings were purchased to enhance the decor of the dining room. Substantial improvements were implemented on behalf of the Club's employees by the Employee Benefits Committee chaired by Allen E. Smith, a Directors Golf Tournament for the 18-hole Women's group was established in 1988 and, in that same year, a new maintenance storage building was completed. Important additions to the Club's professional staff were made in 1989 and 1990, with the appointment of Mrs. Nancy Mahanna as Office Manager, Douglas Frazier as Golf Professional and James Kelley as Golf Course Superintendent.

The first step in making long-awaited improvements in the clubhouse was taken in 1989 when about $150,000 was expended to refurbish the kitchen. Between 1993 and 1994, at a cost approaching $483,000, the windows in the dining room, ballroom and lounge were replaced with thermal units; the main and lower floor restrooms were remodeled, as were The Grille, Pro Shop and Men's and Women's locker rooms; several air conditioning units were replaced; a completely new roof was installed; the front entrance of the building was landscaped; and the parking lot was resurfaced.

In 1996, the Long-range Planning Committee again will be active under the guidance of Chairman Trivits. The Club's swimming pool, the oldest in the City of Newark, has been demolished and is being replaced by a state-of-the-art complex. Also scheduled for completion within the year are a new golf cart storage facility and additions and improvements to the maintenance buildings. These projects have a projected cost of more than $400,000.

An advantageous relocation of the new pool was made possible by the cooperation of the Session, Trustees and congregation of First Presbyterian Church, a neighbor with whom the Club has enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial relationship. The Church and Club exchanged small parcels of land of similar size that permitted a realignment of the pool and the desired improvement of our buildings. In the last several years, the Club's grounds crew has provided water for the Church's Memorial Garden and has installed several sections of fencing bordering the two properties. The crew also installed horseshoe pits on Church property that are used by both Church and Club members. Perhaps most useful has been a paved roadway linking the Church and Club parking lots. Many churchgoers use the Club's parking area on Sunday mornings and golfers who find the Club's lot filled when tournaments are in progress on weekdays frequently use the Church facility. This ongoing cordial relationship is valued and appreciated.

In 1991, at the urging of Directors Elbert Chance, Leon Lockerman and Allen Smith, the Board of Directors acted to ensure the permanence of the Club by establishing a Stock Purchase Committee. In the years immediately following the Club's founding, the Board issued 680 shares of stock. By the mid 1980s, more than half of these shares had been transferred to descendants of the founders or other early Club members, many of whom were neither members nor Delaware residents.- Efforts were undertaken by the Committee to purchase shares owned by nonmembers and a breakthrough occurred when Mr. Leon Ryan, Jr., son of a past president, and Ms. Leslie Baldwin, daughter of a founding member, relinquished two of the largest blocks of stock outstanding. Since its inception, the Committee has succeeded in purchasing nearly 200 shares which have been redistributed among active members. More than 60% of the 680 shares are now owned by present Club members. They, in turn, have agreed to give the Club an opportunity to purchase their shares if they relinquish their membership rather than transfer them to non-member relatives.

The Newark Country Club is proud of its continuing role in the life of the community and of the achievements of its employees and members. In 1987, the Club hosted the city's Constitution Ball, held as part of the national observance of the 200th anniversary of the founding or our nation. In 1994 and 1995, it hosted tournaments benefiting another respected community institution, the Newark Senior Center. In 1992 Course Superintendent Jim Kelley earned the coveted rating of Certified Golf Course Superintendent and, in 1994, Club Manager Theo Brans, who served the Club faithfully and well for 23 years, was elected president of the Delaware Chapter of the Club Managers Association of America. As previously noted, Pro Joe Aneda, who has endeared himself to the members for nearly half a century, was honored by the Philadelphia Section of the PGA in 1995.

The world, the nation, the City of Newark and the Club have experienced great change in 75 years; indeed, remarkable change has occurred since the Club observed its 50th anniversary in 1971. Today the Newark Country Club continues to meet the goals of its founders and its future has never appeared brighter. The Long-range Planning Committee, committee chairmen and individual members, are working diligently to ensure that the future is all it should be.