Elkview Country Club hosts the 2019 "Hickory Stick Tournament"

One hundred years ago, Walter Hagan captured the US Open by one stroke in an 18-hole playoff and claimed the $475 top prize.

In the midst of its 100th anniversary, Elkview Country Club hosted a Hickory Stick Tournament last Saturday as 44 golfers traveled back in time to play the club’s original nine-hole layout in 1919 style.

“We decided to make it a nine-hole tournament instead of 18, so the nine holes were laid out as they appeared in the original Elkview course layout,” said the hickory stick tourney chairperson, John Tolerico.

“Tee boxes and pin placements were moved to their original locations. Holes were about 20-40 shorter than they are today.”

In addition to capturing the original course layout, the tournament featured a number of other century-old looks. Golfers were attired in clothing from the 1919 era and were equipped with clubs far-removed from today’s hybrid clubs.

“Last year, I participated in a similar tournament at a club in Philadelphia and everyone enjoyed the entire event,” noted Tolerico.

“A company in California provided the equipment for that event so that company was contacted and provided the equipment.”

Scene Set

As golfers and spectators arrived, bagpipers provided an immediate party atmosphere to the event.

As one would expect, the golfers attire attracted much of the attention leading up to the actual golf action. Before they took their first swing, golfers kiddingly critiqued each other’s outfits amongst roaring laughter.

According to Tolerico, everyone’s golf attire was great but he made special mentioned of Gary McDonough’s all pink ensemble and Dom Sparks long-sleeve (had to be roasting) jacket and dressed-to-the-nine’s knickers and shoes.

Once the Captain and Crew Tournament started, the golfers got down to business.

Armed with clubs called mashies, niblicks, cleeks or jiggers, participants adjusted their game to the clubs.

Today’s clubs are ever changing as hybrids evolve. A century ago, clubs weren’t numbered but named. A “playing-club” was a driver. Brassie was 2-3 wood. A Wooden-Cleek was a 4-wood. A Cleek was a 1-2 iron. A Mashie was a 4-iron.

“There was a noticeable difference in the clubs we used for the tournament compared to today’s equipment,” said Tolerico.

“The biggest difference was the club head’s size. The driver (back then) was about half the club head size. The clubs used in the tournament had a lot of give and movement when you swung the club.”

While the club shaft had a lot of movement on the swing, Tolerico didn’t believe it was an issue for the golfers.

“The winning team scored 5-under,” he said.

Then & Now

A couple of things golfers did notice was if they didn’t hit the ball square, they would feel it in their hands since a vibration would reverberate from contact point to their hands.

Distance with the hickory stick clubs was shorter compared to today’s equipment.

“Today’s golfers certainly benefit from modern equipment. Back then golfers had to rely on sheer skill. If you didn’t hit every shot square, the ball wouldn’t travel,” said Tolerico.

Today, if a golfer has a slight miss on direct contact, the ball will still travel. Clubs are designed specifically for loft etc.

Brad Sparks, Dom Sparks, Steve Beautz and Billy O’Dell mastered the time travel event to claim the crown with a 5-under round.

“The tournament was well-received,” noted Tolerico. Everyone who participated enjoyed themselves while some spectators expressed interest in participating if another tourney was held.”

The event was such a success that Tolerico noted it may become an annual or twice a season event.