Cricket and Golf in Wayne & St. Davids

In this column an early Wayne Country Club and a somewhat later Cricket Club have already been described, The former was the Merrivale Club, situated in North Wayne near the railroad tracks. It had a baseball diamond, tennis courts, billiards and bowling. This later became the Radnor Cricket Club, during the days when the center of English cricket in the United States was Philadelphia.

After several years of activity, the original Cricket Club house burned down, and a second club was started on the Francis Fenimore land at St. Davids. For several years matches were played here with other cricket teams around Philadelphia. Tom Credican was the professional for the local team, which was so good that one season they won all matches except that against the Merion Cricket Club.

Uniforms consisted of white flannel trousers and shirts with light blue blazer coats and small blue caps to match. On the later were the yellow initials, “St. D.” The club house was a one story frame building painted yellow, with a main room and lockers. A pleasant tree-shaded porch overlooked the nearby ponds.

Match days at St. Davids were well attended by the ladies, all in their best attire, adding greatly to the gala effect of the typically English country sport. On one such occasion two horseback riders stopped on a distant knoll to watch the match. The batsman made a tremendous hit out of bounds and the ball landed on the rump of one of the horses! Both riders were thrown to the ground and when last seen by the cricket spectators they were chasing their runaway mounts, waving their riding crops as they ran. The fact that they were attired in the wide breeches, bowler hats and russet boots of the horseback riders of that day, only added to the mirth of the onlookers. For a time the cricket game was abandoned!

After a time, local interest in cricket waned and activities ceased after the club house burned to the ground during a fire which started in the long grass after a dry spell. Then came the organization of the St. Davids Golf Club, one of the oldest institutions of its kind in the United States.

At this point it is interesting to quote George W. Schultz, from whom my information has been obtained.

“One Sunday in the spring of 1896 A. J. D. (Tony) Peterson came to my house carrying a small white ball and a club with a bent iron on its end and, chuckling, he began tapping the ball on the lawn. He said he had been to Devon the day before by invitation of a friend who introduced him to a Scotch game called “golf,” started by summer residents of Devon Inn.

“It seems that Edmund McCullough, president of the Westmoreland Coal Company; Edward Ilsley and others had laid out a nine-hole course on the spacious land around the hotel. In so far as I know, this was the beginning of golf in Pennsylvania. Tony Peterson arranged for me to be allowed to play on the course the following Saturday with some clubs lent to him.

“Later on Louis D. Peterson, William H. Brooks, Dr. G. L. S. Jameson, Herman Wendell and I decided to organize a golf club at St. Davids, on Francis Fenimore’s extensive lawn holding – it was largely due to Mr. Fenimore’s genial nature towards young men that we were able to use his land and form a club on the economical basis of $5.00 initiation and $10.00 annual dues.”

The former cricketers now became golfers and by their own enthusiasm attracted many others to this original group. The moving spirits of the project laid out the nine hole course “which had natural hazards rather than artificial bunkers.” It could certainly have been called a “sporting” course! Since they could afford no laborers, the original small group armed themselves with picks, rakes, and shovels for their job and they built their own tees and mowed their own grass!

At first the players were all men, as at that time few women were given to outdoor sports. These men were sticklers for good form, observing the courtesies and rules of the game according to St. Andrews tradition.

At that time a golf ball was made of solid Gutta percha with either checker or pebbled moulding. When hit, a distinct “click” was heard, quite different from the “mushy” sound of the later Haskell rubber-cored ball. It was seldom that the longest drive exceeded 150 yards. All the players were self-taught, many learning how to play by reading booklets of instruction. Dr. G. L. S. Jameson was elected the first president of the original St. Davids Golf Club.