The Early Days
Written by Jack Winter
Our Club was first located in the Croton section of east New Castle on Vine Street. There were 75 original members. It was a nine-hole golf course organized in 1897. The guiding force behind it and the first president was George D. Blair Sr. (Tom Blair's grandfather).
The Clubhouse was a small one-story frame building. The first golf pro was a Scotsman, Al Link, followed by his brother Richard Link. Inter-club matches were held with the Youngstown, Warren, and Beaver Valley Country Clubs. Since there were no automobiles in those days, the matches were all-day affairs. The social life was also active with dances, parties, picnics, and so on. There was very little history recorded between the early century and the 1920s.
The Field Club
In 1922, having outgrown the Croton location, the Club decided to move and expand. They issued and sold $100,000 worth of bonds and also issued 250 membership certificates to be purchased by each active member at a cost of $300 per certificate. They then purchased 200 acres, four miles north of the city on Wilmington Road.
The plans for the next year included erection of a Clubhouse as well as laying out an 18-hole golf course. It was to be called the New Castle Field Club. Board of Director, T.F. Morehead, personally took charge of building the course. A.W. Tillinghast of New York City, who had designed some of the most famous golf courses in the East, was the architect. After a quick survey of the terrain, it was reported that his first comment was: "Very little needs to be done here. This is without doubt one of the most naturally endowed layouts I have ever seen."
Meanwhile, the house committee under Chairman A.C. Hoyt had to coordinate action from the architects, W.G. Eckles and Thayer & Johnson. The Clubhouse was modeled after an English hunting lodge. As for the design, it was very similar to our current clubhouse, with the exception of the pro shop and the ladies locker room being located inside the Clubhouse.
The first golf professional of our new Field Club was Captain V. Arthur Smith of Scotland where he had been a ranking amateur before World War I. He then served in the British Army during that war. He was first located in this country at the Allegheny Country Club and then came to our Club from there.
Both the Clubhouse and golf course were ready for use on August 27, 1923, and at that time became open to the members. The Club "Niblick" publication in 1924 shows a 367 total membership.
And so the New Castle Field Club began its journey through the so-called "roaring twenties"and into the thirties. It made its way through the depression, but there were few written records. There are even fewer pictures or Club publications of this decade that exist today. Mr. Robert Garland, who was Club Secretary for over 20 years ending in 1942, claimed that all records were kept and preserved, but that they were lost by his successors.
At any rate, the bubble burst in the early forties. The depression, debts, and loss of members leading up to World War II resulted in the sheriff's sale of Clubhouse and premises on April 5, 1943 . They were sold on execution based upon an action instituted by the trustee on the Field Club mortgage. And that was the end of the New Castle Field Club.
One month later, on May 5, 1943, a sheriff's sale deed was executed in the name of James M. Smith Jr., and New Castle Country Club began its corporate existence nine days later, on May 14, 1943.
Jim Smith and P.J. Flaherty had to come to the Club's rescue. The heads of the Shenango Pottery Company and Johnson Bronze Company and their respective personnel, G.B. Zahnizer, James K. Love, J.P. Flaherty, and E.M. Flaherty subscribed for and owned 89% of the stock, and the 11% balance was owned by five other individuals: C.H. Johnson Jr., Keith McAfee, A.C. Hoyt, Robert H. Cunningham, and Fred L. Rentz. A total of 350 shares had been issued. The above stockholders were also the Directors of the Club.
On November 20, 1945, a meeting was held between the Directors and representatives of the membership to discuss the idea of getting the Club ownership back into the hands of the present membership. The feeling was that the Club was then in good financial position, and the present Directors would like to be absolved from any further responsibility in the running of the Club.
The November meeting culminated in an agreement dated December 28, 1945 between the stockholders and/or Directors and a group of interested parties who were undertaking to assume management and control of the Club. They were P.J. Flaherty, President of the Club; Francis Sowersby, Trustee; and the Lawrence Savings and Trust Company as an escrow agent. They would work out an agreement for the sale and disposal of the Club.
On May 11, 1946, the incorporators/Directors/stockholders formally resigned. The vacancies created by the resignations were filled by appointment for the unexpired terms of J.W. Miller, Ted Speck, William E. Langan, Francis S. Sowersby, Dr. Homer Allen, and Robert M. Garland.
The new Directors on June 4, 1946 and the stockholders in a special meeting of June 11, 1946 ratified and adopted what their representatives had performed. They authorized an increase in indebtedness to $25,000 to be secured by the first mortgage on the assets of the Club. It was to provide working capital and reserves.
Then, three years and two months later on August 10, 1949, there was a dinner-dance in celebration of the burning of the mortgage. For a short period of time, it hung on the wall of the main porch (now enclosed and known as the Oakroom). The members once again owned the Club.
New Castle Field Club Course layout. It remains largely unchanged since it was designed and built by A.W. Tillinghast in 1923. Minor improvements in landscaping, tree removal, and erosion problems have occurred without damaging the original design of this 18-hole “hidden gem.”