125 Years of Golf in America: Delaware January 2, 2019

The USGA was founded on Dec. 22, 1894. With the 125th anniversary coming at the end of 2019, every week throughout the year we're highlighting how all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, make the game we all love a great one in the United States. 

Next Week: Hawaii

 

Watch: A Chat with Pete Oakley, six-time Delaware Open champion and 2004 Senior British Open champion 

Delaware A State of Firsts, Including Golf

By Mike Trostel, USGA

 

Don Hurter and Lori Castillo won U.S. Junior titles in 1978, the first time USGA championships were held concurrently at the same venue. (USGA Archives)

On Dec. 7, 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, five days before Pennsylvania. It has lived up to its nickname, “The First State,” in a variety of other ways, too. 

The inventor of the steam engine, Oliver Evans, was born in Newport, Del., in 1755. The first Methodist Church was formed in Frederica, Del., in 1778. And the University of Delaware was the first school to offer a “Study Abroad” program in 1923.

Golf too witnessed a first in Delaware. In 1978, Wilmington Country Club was the first club to host concurrent USGA championships. That August, the U.S. Girls’ Junior (North Course) and U.S. Junior Amateur (South Course) were played simultaneously at the 36-hole facility.

The idea was ratified by the USGA Executive Committee in 1976. A press release from that October stated, “[We] believe it will be interesting to have the best junior golfers in the country, both boys and girls, competing in the same place at the same time.”

But the historic undertaking didn’t come without its challenges. In the October 1978 issue of Golf Journal, Charles Brome wrote, “The logistics involved in such an enterprise are imposing enough to give reasonable people pause.”

Not only did the USGA need to find a willing host club with two championship-caliber courses and an enthusiastic membership, the community also had to handle housing and transportation for 270 players and their parents. The facilities at Wilmington C.C. met all the requirements, and to offset some of the club’s expenses, the USGA held a golf clinic and exhibition led by Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite that raised more than $5,000.

The Junior Amateur final turned out to be a record-breaker. Don Hurter, of Honolulu, Hawaii, fell 4 down through seven holes against Keith Banes, of La Mirada, Calif., but fought back to square the match with a par on the 18th. After halving the first two holes of sudden death, Hurter got up and down from a greenside bunker to win in 21 holes. It was the longest 18-hole final in the championship’s history (1948 to 2004). The format was changed to a 36-hole final in 2005.

In the Girls’ Junior, Lori Castillo, also of Honolulu, defeated Jenny Lidback, of Baton Rouge, La., 4 and 2 in the final.

“That was the first USGA championship I played in and to win it meant everything,” said Castillo, who also won the 1979 and 1980 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links titles.

“Winning this dual championship along with Don [Hurter] was truly amazing. They called it the ‘Hawaiian Punch,’ which was pretty cool.”

In his recap of the championships, Brome seemed especially intrigued by the social interactions between teenage boys and girls. He wrote, “At the dinner that preceded the championships, the same people who, a few hours earlier, had been happily throwing each other into the pool or showing off their putting strokes, retreated to separate tables in stony silence.”

Additionally, there were three other firsts that year:

  • This was the first time either championship had been televised nationally. Both championships received two hours of broadcast coverage on ABC Sports.
  • This was the first instance in either championship in which the champion was from outside the continental United States. Both Hurter and Castillo were residents of Honolulu.
  • Willie Wood became the first player in the 31-year history of the Junior Amateur to earn medalist honors in successive years.


“On the whole, I think what we did at Wilmington was certainly successful,” said Stephen Horrell, chairman of the Junior Championship Committee. “The camaraderie among the players was really super.”

While no USGA championships were played concurrently in the two decades that followed, it has occurred six times since 1999, most recently in 2011, when the U.S. Amateur Public Links and U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links were played at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Ore.

Mike Trostel is the senior content producer for the USGA. Email him at mtrostel@usga.org.