PNGA’s history dates all the way back to February of 1899
Why was the Pacific Northwest Golf Association formed?
The answer is found in a February 1897 article in Harper’s Weekly, which had comments from the USGA’s annual meeting. USGA President Laurence Curtis requested local golf groups around the U.S. unite into an organized golfing body under USGA leadership.
The mandate was twofold: there was a desire to standardize the Rules of Golf throughout the country, and the USGA wanted regional bodies to hold men’s and women’s championships.
In 1897, only one Northwest club – Tacoma Golf Club – was a USGA member. The club joined the national organization to allow Charles Malott to participate in the 1895 U.S. Amateur. In all likelihood, a representative from Tacoma was present at the USGA’s annual meeting.
The clubs attending this meeting went on to form golf associations in Philadelphia, Chicago, Massachusetts and New York. Tacoma would soon originate a similar organization in the Northwest.
While no written records or minutes remain of the initial PNGA get-togethers, all the necessary ingredients to form the association were in place by the end of 1898. Six strong golf clubs existed – Victoria Golf Club, Tacoma Golf Club, Waverley Country Club, Seattle Golf Club, Spokane Country Club and Butte Country Club.
Inter-club matches were regularly played, especially between Victoria, Tacoma and Waverley. And by this time, Tacoma had played host to two Pacific Northwest Amateur Championships.
The clubs only needed to look to the USGA and Metropolitan Golf Association for inspiration and direction in forming their own association. Various club records and newspaper bulletins shed light on the PNGA’s formation. On Jan. 17, 1899, Victoria resolved to send two delegates to meet with others in Tacoma to consider the formation of a golf association.
From news accounts in Victoria’s Daily Colonist, invitations were extended to other golf clubs in Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Butte, Walla Walla, Portland, Eugene and Pendleton.
The Tacoma Daily Ledger reported the “Pacific Coast Golf Association” was formed in Tacoma on Feb. 4, 1899, with C.B. Stahlschmidt of Victoria elected president and Stuart Rice of Tacoma as secretary. Also in attendance were Jesse Merrill of Tacoma, who served as a proxy for Waverley and Walla Walla, and H.M. Hoyt and Captain H. Taylor from Spokane. F.W. Snow and Rice represented the Tacoma club.
With a new site under construction at Laurelhurst during this time, accounts indicate Seattle Golf Club probably did not send a representative to the first meeting. Nevertheless, the club did field competitors at the inaugural PNGA championship a few months later and is considered one of the association’s six founding member clubs.
With its founding Feb. 4, 1899, the PNGA is the fifth oldest golf association in North America, being preceded only by the USGA (1894) and Royal Canadian Golf Association (1895) on the national front, and the Golf Association of Philadelphia (Feb. 5, 1897) and the Metropolitan Golf Association (Greater New York City – April 14, 1897).
Like the USGA, the PNGA’s founders understood that strong leadership was needed for the new group to survive. For this reason, over the next 15 years the PNGA was controlled by only a handful of individuals. The association’s first presidents were Edwin Strout (Seattle) from 1901-1906; H.S. Griggs (Tacoma) from 1907-1911; and Chester Thorne (Tacoma) from 1912-1915. Stuart Rice acted as secretary for much of this period, relinquishing the position to Harvey Combe (Victoria) in later years. At the April 17, 1899 meeting, the organization’s name was changed to the Pacific Northwest Golf Association.