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The Good Old Days

YORK COUNTRY CLUB BOASTED an eighteen-hole golf course when it opened for the 1902 season. The first eighteen hole course in the United States was at the Chicago Golf Club which was founded in 1891. During the decade that followed, several other courses were constructed and York now joined this select group.

It was true that some of the holes were a little rough, but the course was in relatively good condition. Many of the new courses had sand greens and tees but those at York were made of grass. The only exception was the ninth tee which was located in the shade where grass couldn't grow fast enough to fill in the divots. Eventually clay was mixed with the soil on that tee and it became the only clay tee on the course. There were very few traps in the early years. Many of the holes were in temporary locations so they refrained from digging traps. Such large holes would only hinder the relocation of traps that would be necessary when the course was expanded. Pickering and Bragdon completed their work on the second nine holes with very little time to spare. The addition of these holes made it possible for the Board of Governors to increase the limit on family season tickets from 150 to 175. Two weeks later, they approved Mr. Fox's request that the limit be raised to 200 so that applicants would not have to be refused.

The construction of additional tennis courts was continued as soon as money became available. During the next few seasons, clay courts were constructed and enlarged until there were twelve open for use by the members. The electric car came through the grounds every fifteen minutes and in good weather it was packed with young people who came to play tennis. As many as seventy-five canoes came up the river loaded with members planning to spend the day at the club. Tennis players had to sign up for courts and Eddie Sewall regulated play with a megaphone from the club house porch. When a court became available, he would call the names of the people at the top of the list. Each person would receive three calls from Eddie before he relinquished his privilege to the next player on the list.

William "Billy" Wilson replaced Alex Ross, brother of Donald Ross, as the club pro. A native of Melrose, Scotland, home of Sir Walter Scott, Wilson began to play golf at the age of 12. When he reached 18 years of age, he turned to professional golf and served under Robert Simpson, the brother of celebrated golfer Sandy Simpson. In 1902, he sailed to the United States with a letter from Harry Vardon, a noted English golfer. The letter was instrumental in landing Wilson a job in York. Wilson resigned in 1952 and was honored when the course was rededicated as the William Wilson golf course.

Among the notables he taught were author Samuel Clemens, who summered in York. Wilson made the following comments about Clemens: "He had a terrible time; he was always standing much too close to the ball after hitting it. Good writer, though, under the name of Mark Twain."

"Golf is a good walk spoiled." - Mark Twain (note added)