The Michigan State Golf League: 1906 – ?
As early as 1906, the Michigan State Golf League seems to have been the state’s organizing golf body.
The earliest published reference to the Michigan State Golf League I have found was in a 1909 article in the Detroit Free Press. There is evidence, however, that it is at least four years older.
The 1909 article covers a “state tourney” staged by the Michigan State Golf League, held at the nine-hole Saginaw Country Club. Eighty golfers participated.
That tournament was the 1909 Michigan Amateur, now under the umbrella of the Golf Association of Michigan.
The winner of that “Michigan State Championship” was James Standish. Just nineteen at the time, Standish would go on to a lifetime of service in golf that led to his induction in the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame (link). He also would help found the Detroit District, official forerunner to the Golf Association of Michigan.
In 1910, an article in the Detroit Free Press announced a state title to be held September 1, 2 and 3. The winner of that title was Howard Lee of the Country Club of Detroit. He defeated fellow club member Wiley Carhartt 3-up.
A “State Championship” in 1908 was won by Joseph Schlotman, but there is no reference in an article to the Michigan State Golf League.
However, a Sept. 11, 1911 article in the Sebewaing Blade refers to the “sixth annual tournament of the Michigan State Golf League.”
That means that the League had been responsible for staging the Michigan Amateur Championships since 1906.
Still, I could not find any newspaper references specifically designating a Michigan state championship earlier than 1908.
However, a small note in the Detroit Free Press on May 27, 1902 says that representatives of different golf clubs would meet at the Washtenaw Golf Club on May 30 to “form plans for a state league.”
Based on that, it is possible that the Michigan State Golf League was in operation as early as 1902.
There is, however, no proof of its actual existence until 1906.
Indeed, a note in the Detroit Free Press from June 1, 1902 indicated that the proposed Michigan state golf league was still being worked on.
In 1910, Michigan State Golf League member clubs were Kent Country Club, Detroit Country Club, Country Club of Detroit, Saginaw Country Club, Bay City Country Club, Washtenaw Country Club, Berrien Country Club, Muskegon Country Club, Battle Creek Country Club and Ann Arbor Country Club.
Berrien Country Club closed in 2019. The Bay City Country Club now seems to be the Saginaw Valley Public Golf Course.
Washtenaw Country Club now is the Washtenaw Golf Club (website) and is open to the public. I’m happy to call it my home course.
Kent, DCC, CC of Detroit, Saginaw, Muskegon and Battle Creek are still in operation. The Ann Arbor Country Club is possibly the predecessor to the Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club, which was formed in 1903 from that earlier club (according to an article in the Detroit Free Press, March 25, 1903).
Those ten clubs are thus the founders of the Michigan Amateur, the state’s oldest golf championship.
A July 11, 1940 article in the Benton Harbor Herald Palladium notes James Standish as the secretary-treasurer of the Michigan State Golf League. Standish’s Michigan Golf Hall of Fame biography, however, says that he was President of the Detroit District Golf Association at this time.
The Detroit District Golf Association was formed in 1919, with 14 founding Detroit Area Clubs. The official Golf Association of Michigan history says that the Detroit Golf District would later become the Golf Association of Michigan One of the fourteen, The Country Club of Detroit, was one of the original members of the Michigan State Golf League.
The announcement of the Detroit District in the May 8, 1919 Free Press noted that the Detroit District intended to represent clubs within a fifty-mile radius, and that Pontiac, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor Clubs were expected to join shortly.
I’ve got quite a few unanswered questions: Were the founding members of the Detroit Association all previously part of the Michigan State Golf League? Did the Michigan State Golf League split, with the Detroit area clubs forming a separate organization? Were there two different organizing bodies in which Standish was an officer? Or were there two different names for the same organization? Perhaps the Michigan State Golf League continued to represent the out-state clubs.
In any case, the Michigan State Golf League continued to run the Michigan Amateur. Articles in the Marshall Evening Chronicle (July 22, 1935) and The Benton Harbor Herald Palladium (Jul 11, 1940) state as much.
The last newspaper reference to the Michigan State Golf League that I found was in the Benton Harbor News Palladium on July 11, 1941. Again, James Standish was in the news, as “four-time champion” and “secretary of the Michigan State Golf League.” The tournament was at Belvedere and by all indications, the Michigan State Golf League was still running the tournament.
The official biography of Standish in the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame says he was four-time winner of the Michigan Amateur. There is no mention of his being an officer in the Michigan State Golf League.
That was not the end of the Michigan State Golf League, however. An auction site has a photo of a Michigan State Golf League trophy from 1944. It was thus in operation least through 1944. There was, however, no Michigan Amateur from 1942 to 1945.
The Detroit District Golf Association was renamed the Golf Association of Michigan in 1961. At the time, it had 66 private clubs as members. Forty-one of those were in the Detroit Area.
What happened to the Michigan State Golf League? My suspicion is that members slowly migrated to the GAM.
I’d also like to know at what point the Michigan State Golf League gave up management of the Michigan Amateur. I suspect it may be after 1946, as there is no mention of the Michigan State Golf League in relation to the Michigan Amateur in 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949 or 1950.