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Hartford Golf Club Celebrates its 125th Anniversary

Hartford, Connecticut (May 30, 2021) – In 1896 when the Hartford Golf Club was founded, few could have imagined what the club would become. The original version of the Hartford GC, created by John O. Enders, J.C. Sterling, Emerson Taylor, and Frank Cooley was built on what is now Elizabeth Park. An old barn served as the clubhouse for the nine-hole track.

Fast forward to 2021 and Hartford Golf Club is celebrating its 125th Anniversary with a series of events throughout the season highlighted by hosting the 119th Connecticut Amateur from June 14-18. 2021 will mark the 10th time that the club has hosted the Connecticut Amateur Chamionship dating back to 1902.

“It is important to host the Connecticut Amateur this year because after 125 years our tradition of alliance and involvement in the CSGA goes very deep. We have hosted it many years before but not since 1990 so this is the perfect year to give back to the game of golf and the clubs that represent the CSGA,” said Hartford GC Board of Directors President David Polk.

Hartford GC has long been linked with the Connecticut State Golf Association. In addition to hosting events, members of the club have been involved in the CSGA dating back to 1903 when F.R. Cooley served as the organization's second president. Overall six Hartford GC members have served as president, most recently current Hartford GC member James Healey, Jr. from 2019-2020. Longtime Hartford member Jack Bracken, a two-time runner up in the Amateur, is a past CSGA Team Captain and current member of the Executive Committee.

Hartford GC was also the home course of past CSGA Executive Director, Russell C. Palmer. The 1997 Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame inductee served in the role from 1986-1995. Additional members of Hartford GC in the Hall of Fame include two of Connecticut's all-time greatest amateur golfers, Lida Tingley (1997), and two-time Connecticut Amateur champion, James Healey Sr. (2001), legendary head professional Gary Reynolds (2011), and Carol Patton (1980) who Tingley described as “the el primo lady golfer at the HGC when I moved to the Hartford area from Ohio in the early 1970s.” 

In 1900 Hartford GC merged with the disbanded Hartford Lawn Club leading to the construction of the first formal clubhouse and 18 hole course located on Huntington Avenue between Asylum and Albany Avenues. Less than a decade after the clubhouse was built it burned down in a 1908 fire leading to a rebuild that included bowling alleys that are still used today. In 1955 membership voted to build the existing clubhouse along with five new golf holes to be incorporated into the existing course and a new nine holes bringing the number of holes to 27. Besides boasting an elite golf course Hartford GC offers a wealth of amenities including tennis courts, paddle tennis courts, numerous pools, squash courts, a bowling alley, a fitness center, and multiple restaurants.

However, during the Connecticut Amateur, it will be the golf course that takes center stage. “We take our big events quite seriously,” said third-year chair of the Men’s Golf Committee Jack Barnes. “If you walk through the clubhouse you see championship boards dating back to the early 1900s and see these wonderful names, many of which repeat over and over in the 20s, 30s, 40s and you just realize that there is a legacy and that this is just a part of a long continuum of people who have taken the club and its facilities offerings really quite seriously.”

Since first welcoming the Connecticut Amateur in 1902 the club has hosted countless championships including two USGA events – the 1996 U.S. Mid-Amateur won by Spider Miller and the 2008 U.S. Junior Girls’ Championship won by Lexi Thompson. Regionally the club has hosted the New England Amateur three times and the New England Women’s Amateur on two occasions. On the state level along with hosting the amateur, Hartford GC has welcomed the Connecticut Open four times, and most recently the Connecticut Women’s Amateur in 2018.

What makes this year's event different from all those previous events is the course that the field will play. Never before has a tournament included holes from all three courses until this year.

“The course that the competition will be played on from a Hartford GC standpoint is brand new,” said Barnes. “It has been hiding in plain sight for many years but it has never been used. It is a routing that has put together what we think is a really tough challenge of golf and it is going to incorporate all three of our nine-hole routings.”

Added in 1955 the Green Nine was one of Donald Ross’ final designs. Ross visited the property in 1946 and came up with the master design for the nine-hole layout before passing away in 1948. “It is a complete nine-hole Donald Ross golf course,” Barnes said.

Forming the new 18 holes for the amateur wouldn’t have been possible without buy in from the club membership, something that has been on full display in the leadup to the tournament and will continue until it concludes. “It has really been heartening to see how quickly the members stepped up in supporting the event,” Barnes said.

That support really shouldn't be a surprise. Hartford Golf Club's foundation is based on supporting golf at all levels. The 119th Connecticut Amateur is just the latest example of their dedication to the game and is a fitting part of their 125th Anniversary celebration.