A Diamond In the Rough
In these days of uncertainty when many of our sports are postponed or being played with limited audiences, I think it’s important to shine a light on the game that has held up under Corona Virus. Golf. It is the one sport that offers an outside venue, is non-contact and features small groups of people. If you put everyone in their own cart, the risk drops even further. And lucky for us we have a peach of a course right here in Sistersville. I grew up playing this course and enjoyed playing whenever I returned to visit, often with my dad and mom. These great memories got me thinking about the history of the course, and I set off to investigate and see what I could find.
Much of West Virginia is rich in golf history. The Scottish game which came to our state in 1884 was introduced at the Oakhurst Links golf course at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs. When the course opened there were several other golf clubs in America, but Oakhurst has the honor of being the oldest that has remained in the same location with the same traditional play. Now that’s some West Virginia history!
While researching this article I was surprised to learn where Milan Puskar Stadium, home of the West Virginia Mountaineer Football team, currently is located was once a course named the Morgantown Golf and Country Club. In its 52 year history it hosted numerous college and amateur golf tournaments, as well as civic functions and school dances. The course operated successfully through the 50’s and 60’s until WVU purchased the property in 1969 eyeing it for its Evansdale Campus expansion. It would be another 10 years before construction began on the new and current mountaineer field. For any WVU fan that has attended a Mountaineer Football game on a Saturday afternoon in the fall at Milan Puskar Stadium, you know there is no greater thrill!
But let’s look at the gem of a course right here in our little town. Sistersville Country Club has been a part of our history since it was established in 1907 and is still going strong today. The corporation “Sistersville Country Club” was assigned to the City of Sistersville by Houston G. Young, Secretary of State.
The original officers of the club were appointed along with the board of directors. Several different committees were established. They were the Golf Committee, House Committee, Tennis Committee, Executive & Finance Committee and the Entertainment Committee. I think it’s interesting a tennis committee was formed. I didn’t realize at one time the club had tennis courts between the club house and the first tee, but the installation of gas lines were their downfall and they were removed.
The nine hole Sistersville Country Club sits along the banks of the beautiful Ohio River, and features 3,098 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 34. It has a beautiful old club house with a wide and relaxing front porch perfect for viewing the 9th hole while drinking a cold beverage. Sometime around 1984 or 85, the course needed funding for cart paths. Eleven members donated money to complete the construction. Plagues were placed in the asphalt of the cart paths commemorating these contributions and are still in place today some 36 years later. The generous families contributing were the Phillips, Karls, LaRues, Licchillos, Howdyshells, Adcocks, Founds, Wrights, Potts, Barths, and Wables. Speaking of Wables, Scott Wable is the only person that has a “Hole in one” on a par 4 in the 113 year history of the course. It came on Number 9, a par 4, a 294 yard hole on an Easter Sunday. Scott shared, “I didn’t even see it go in.” It’s still a great shot and the record stands today.
Tradition is a large part of the game of golf and some notable and famous golfers have played the course in the past 113 years. Included in this list is Sam Snead. Sam played in Sistersville in 1962 and 1963 in the West Virginia PGA Championship. Two Sistersville residents, Nick and Mark Karl, both caddied for Sam during his rounds earning the job by a recommendation from then Pro Homer Shreves. Nick related a story to me that at one point during his round, Sam asked for a 4 iron to hit his approach shot. Nick knew it was too much club, but followed orders and handed Sam the 4 iron. As it turned out Sam flew the green and hit his ball out of bounds. He then turned to Nick and asked for a 7 iron and hit the next shot to within 2 feet. Sam tossed the club at the bag and jokingly said to Nick, “You are the worst caddie I ever had.” Sam enjoyed playing the course and attended those two years because of his friendship with Homer Shreves, the well known and much liked club pro at the time. Homer was one of four talented local brothers that all eventually became either golf pros or superintendents. The other brothers were Roy Shreves – Moundsville Country Club, Herb Shreves – Williams Country Club, Weirton and Gene Shreves – Delavan, Wisconsin.
Other notable golfers to call Sistersville Country Club home were locals Kenny Karl, who won the West Virginia Seniors Championship 5 times and was runner up 4 other times, and Henry McCoy who also claimed 3 West Virginia Senior Championships.
One of my most vivid memories growing up was hearing talk about the famous Money Game that was played every day at 12:30. The names of those that participated over the years were many but a few of them I remember well included Ed Amos, Nick Karl, Roger Cline, Chauncey Rutherford, Dave Miller, Jim Phillips, Charlie LaRue, Harry Peters, John Wright, Jack and Ted Hayes, and Art Licchillo. Art and Nick were the two folks responsible for starting the money game, and it is still played every day at 12:30. It was so popular that many businesses in town closed on Thursday at noon so they could make the 12:30 tee time, and that’s a tradition still followed today.
We can’t talk about the course without mentioning the Sistersville High School Golf Team. Teams won 2 State Championships in 1958 and 1959, with Nick Karl earning Medalist honors in 1959, and 3 team runner-up finishes in 1962, 63, and 1988. The 1988 team was coached by Joe Griffith, who is the current Tyler Consolidated golf coach. The 1958 State Championship team members were Frank Weekley, Gene Ankrom, Nick Karl, Bill Sutton, Jack Gandour, and Bill Willamson. The 1959 members included Pat Droppleman, Jerry Cameron, Jim Shreves, Nick Karl, Bill Williamson, Gene Ankron, and Jack Gandour. Nick Karl told me that in 1958 Sistersville and Parkersburg High School were tied after 18 holes and went to a 9 hole playoff. Nick was paired with Frank Weekley vs two players from PHS. Frank hooked his tee shot off the tee and it ended up on the bank of a creek. The only way he could play it was to go in the water waist deep and hit the shot. Nick thought for sure this was a bad idea; however, Frank pulled the shot off, hit it on the green and made the putt for a birdie. According to Nick, “It was one of the best shots I have ever seen.”
Currently Sistersville Country Club has 80 members and fortunately every year the club seems to add to this total. Today the course is open to the public, but also offers both family and single memberships. During its heyday the Sistersville Country Club was completely private. Memberships were awarded into the following classes: Resident, Non-Resident, and Associate. Resident Members were those folks residing in the city of Sistersville and the surrounding districts within a radius of ten miles. Non-Resident memberships were people not residing within the ten mile radius. Ladies not otherwise entitled to the privileges of the Club could be admitted as Associate Members of the Club following the same mileage guidelines.
In closing we need to remember how fortunate we are to have a golf club in our little community. Many smaller clubs have fallen on hard times or closed completely. Sistersville Country Club has stood the test of time, and remains a fun, sociable and beautiful walk. Combine all this and it makes for an enjoyable day, but still manages to challenge the most seasoned players. Dave Moellendick, President, and Nichole Surface, Pro Shop Director, welcome all golfers of all skill levels for a great golf experience. If you haven’t yet played Sistersville Country Club make sure to put it on your bucket list. You won’t regret it.