Pictured: Morris County Golf Club Women's Team, 1900 (additional photos below)

When the Morris County Golf Club in Convent Station was founded in 1894, it held a unique distinction of being the only club in the country organized and managed by women, this at a time 24 years before the passage of the 19th amendment that gave women the right to vote.

By 1896, Morris County was host to the second USGA Women’s Amateur Championship, won by 16-year-old Beatrix Hoyt of Shinnecock Hills, the first of her three consecutive titles. It was the first national championship ever contested in New Jersey.

Looking ahead to 2014, Morris County, one of the 10 founding member clubs of the NJSGA, will celebrate its 120th anniversary. Morris County has been one of strongest supporters of the NJSGA, having hosted many Championships, including three state amateur championships (1906, '14 and '97), the 1984 State Open, two state four-ball championships (1983 and '96), and two state women's amateur championships (1973 and '90).

Club members Frederick H Thomas (1911-12), Morgan K. Smith (1913-14), A.D. Swords (1927), and Stanley H. Doggett ,Jr. (1978-79) have served as NJSGA presidents. Morris County's William Y. Dear, one of the state's top amateurs, donated trophies to both the NJSGA Boys' and Pre-Senior championships.

According to a November, 1973, article by John S. Ward, in Golf Journal, the founding of the Morris County Golf Club unfolded like this:

In April, 1894, a group of Morristown’s elite met at the home of Mrs. Henry Hopkins to form the Morris County Golf Club, believed to be the only one of its kind at that time. Golf then was linked to Society, and Morristown, according to the New York Herald in 1902, was “the millionaire city of the nation, containing the richest, and least-known colony of wealthy people in the world.”

Noting the birth of the Morris County Club, the New London (Conn.) Morning Telegraph hailed it as “a welcome addition to the 10 clubs in the nation – most outstanding, of course, being those at Southampton, Long Island; Tuxedo Park, N.Y., and Newport, R.I. Miss Cornelia Howland was elected the first president of the new club; honorary memberships were granted to Morristown clergymen, and – after a clubhouse was built and the course laid out – 200 men were allowed “associate membership.”

With 400 members in the fold, the Morris County Golf Club was divided into four classes – regular, limited, associate and honorary. The 32 “regular” members managed the club. The limited members were 200 ladies while the men comprised the associate membership.

The club’s opening day festivities, which included a new clubhouse, took place on June 16, 1894. At that time, the course included seven or eight holes (the record is unclear). The opening was attended by many from high society including Prince and Princess Ruspoli of Italy, the Marquise de Tallyrand-Perigord of France and the Mayor of Rome.

The honor of playing the first shot went to Mrs. Arthur C. James. With the crowd hushed, she swung -- and missed! It took her 12 strokes to reach the green, 238 yards away. She may have been distracted by a number of sheep grazing in the fairway.

The Golfer magazine called attention to the ladies of Morris County G.C.:

The Morris County Golf Club is unique in one respect in that its management has been from the time of its organization, entirely in the hands of ladies. It is pre-eminently a ladies’ club, all of the officers being ladies, although there is an advisory board of gentlemen. The regular members consist of 32 ladies. They were the organizers and financial supporters of the club at its start, and its present success has been due entirely to their efforts.

Soon, the men were calling for expansion of the club to 18 holes. In January, 1895, the men held a meeting and Paul Revere of Morristown was named the new president and held sway over a men-only slate of new officers. The women were none too happy about the coup. Ms.Howland, the first president of the club, refused Revere’s offer of honorary past president of the club and never again played at Morris County, according to Ward.

By June 8, 1895, an 18-hole course at Morris County was ready for play. That year, the club joined the year-old USGA. In 1916, the course was redesigned by Seth Raynor, possibly in partnership with Charles Blair MacDonald.

Women’s golf continued to hold its rightful place at Morris County, witness the second U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1896 won by Ms. Hoyt, followed by a second U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1905, won by Pauline Mackay over Margaret Curtis, 1 up. Years later, Curtis and her sister, Harriot, helped found the Curtis Cup matches, pitting U.S. women amateurs vs. their British counterpart, beginning in 1932.. Harriot Curtis won the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship in 1906 and Margaret in 1907, 1911, and 1912.

The 1896 championship is one never to be forgotten by golf enthusiasts. At the conclusion of the event, Scotsman Robert Cox of Edinburgh, visiting America at the time, presented the ornate Cox Cup trophy, which is now housed at the USGA Museum. It is the most ornate trophy in golf, featuring green leafing and a pair of enamel emblems.

Cox, a golfer and graduate of the University of St Andrews, was adamant that the 1896 U.S. Women’s Amateur be held at Morris County, a course he helped layout two years previous. He also promised to donate the trophy. Today, each winner of the U.S. Women’s Amateur receives a replica of the trophy. The first replica trophy was presented to champion Pat Hurst at Canoe Brook, site of the 1990 U.S. Women’s Amateur.

Morris County continued to bask in golf history. In 1898, the U.S. Men’s Amateur was held on the course, a testament to how well the course had progressed.

In 1900, Morris County was the site of the first Women’s Metropolitan Golf Association championship.

Bobby Jones visited the course in 1920 and teamed with U.S. Amateur champion Chick Evans in a match against the British duo of Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, the 1920 Open champion. Jones and Evans won in a rout, 10 and 9.

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