Politicians and golf: Hughes at Glens Falls Country Club
A 35-handicap brought Charles Evans Hughes’ golf score down to the lowest net score of the foursome that played 18 holes at Glens Falls Country Club at Queensbury, NY in August 1919.
Hughes called it a “red letter day,” while another “gentleman” golfer, musing on the “fine weather and charming atmosphere” called it “a Hughes day,” The Glens Falls Times and Messenger reported on Aug. 20, 1919.
Friends who golf tell me that a 35 is a generous handicap.
Perhaps the busy schedule Hughes had kept as a New York City lawyer since he narrowly lost the 1916 presidential election was a factor.
“He has worked without a vacation for four years past,” The Times and Messenger reported.
Previous to 1916, Hughes, a Glens Falls native, had served as New York governor and U.S. Supreme Court associate justice.
Later in life he served as U.S. secretary of state and U.S. chief justice.
The golf outing was the result of a conversation several months earlier between Hughes and Addison B. Colvin, a Glens Falls businessman and political leader, in the back of the state Assembly chamber in Albany, where the two men were attending a hearing on the insurance industry.
Hughes mentioned that he and Mrs. Hughes hoped to vacation at Lake George, come summer.
“The distinguished former resident of our city inquired particularly about golf, of which he is very fond,” The Times and Messenger reported, around the time of the hearing. “He had heard of the new course to be built at Bolton Landing by the Sagamore Club projectors, and was hoping it would be in commission for the summer.”
Colvin, an ardent local promoter, invited Hughes to be his guest at Glens Falls Country Club.
Hughes’ 35-handicap put him in league, from a net score perspective, with local golfers.
Colvin had a gross score of 100. A 15 handicap resulted in a net score of 85.
Charles E. Johnson matched Colvin’s net score of 100. A 14 handicap resulted in a net score of 86.
Judge Rayley, with the lowest gross score of 96 and a six handicap, had a net score of 90.
Hughes had a gross score of 115. His 35-handicap brought his net score to 80.
The Times and Messenger said Hughes was a studious golfer.
“Judge Hughes plays a characteristic game of golf,” the local evening daily newspaper reported. “Carefully thinks out each shot.”
About 50 people, including Glens Falls business man Maurice Hoopes, attended a luncheon at the country club after the foursome completed the round of 18 holes.
Judge J. Edward Singleton and Hughes spoke at the luncheon.
“Mr. Colvin, gentlemen, and if you will permit me to say, fellow townsmen, this day has been one of surprises, surprises most enjoyable,” Hughes said.
“I told my wife as I left home I was going to have a most enjoyable day,” he continued. “I did not realize I was to have the pleasure of meeting so many men who have contributed so largely to its civic pride.”
Hughes said he was proud to be a Glens Falls native.
“As I came through Glens Falls on my way to Lake George and on my occasional visits, I could not help but notice the great civic pride, the prosperity and care, and I cannot refrain from saying what I have said in the privacy of my home: I do not think there is a town that can excel Glens Falls in material advantages, and I am very proud indeed that I can claim Glens Falls as my birthplace.”
Hughes reflected on his college years when he spent two weeks each in the summers of 1879 and 1880 at a Delta Upsilon fraternity camp on a Lake George island off Bolton Landing.
“When I come here it is with a feeling of one returning to an old home,” he said. “Of course you know this is really a very familiar place to me. For several years I camped at Lake George, and it was a tradition in our family that there is no place on earth quite as beautiful as Lake George.”
Hughes reflected on World War I.
“We have just been through this siege to prove that one nation could not dominate the world. Now you can have that human spirit at home as well as abroad. … When I sit in my study I grow rather pensive trying to study American problems, but when I meet American citizens like you I am optimistic about the future.”
Glens Falls Times and Messenger reports referenced in this post can be found in the Addison B. Colvin scrapbooks on file at The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls.
Maury Thompson is a freelance historian of politics, labor organizing and media in New York’s North Country. He lives in Glens Falls, NY, the birthplace of Charles Evans Hughes. Thompson previously was a reporter for 21 years for The Post-Star, a daily newspaper in Glens Falls.