In 2016, the Sylvania Country Club celebrated its 100th year anniversary.
Looking back, it was just before World War I when a group of golfers who had been playing at the Toledo Golf Club (later named Ottawa Park) began looking for property to establish a new golf course. They looked at three different properties throughout the county and settled on this Monroe Street and Corey Road location. In September of 1916 they purchased four parcels for a total of 160 acres.
The first step was to hire Willie Park, Jr., an internationally famous golf course architect and British Amateur Champion, to lay out a new course through 160 acres of cornfields, swamps, trees, tree stumps and the meandering Ottawa River. As he walked the property he commented that this property was the finest piece of golf property that he had seen in America, and he estimated that the course could be built for $50,000. Park was hired for 15 days at $100 per day to lay out the course. After that, his construction supervisor, David Kay, stayed to complete the actual work. Area farmers were hired to clear the land and tile was laid to drain it.
By October 1917, the clearing was finished and a nine-hole course opened in September 1918. Dues were set at $50 per year. Then in July of 1919 the 18-hole course was opened. The first club professional was D.K. White. The first club champion was Claude A. Hauck. The first female club member to win the Ohio State Women’s Golf Champion was Mary Hauck. There are so many firsts that could be listed here but my space is limited.
By 1919 the group had built their first clubhouse and that structure was used until 1929. They sold it to Floyd Crandell and he moved it to his property, just to the west, and used it for many years as a family gathering place. Later William and Lillian Crandell converted it to their residential home and then in 1959 the state of Ohio purchased all the land for building the U.S. 23 expressway and that was the end of the club’s first clubhouse.
The second clubhouse was started in May, 1928 and finished by 1929. A newspaper article from the time said it cost $109,000 to build. The plans were prepared by Stophlet & Stophlet Architects, of Toledo. The building was built on the hill overlooking the No. 9 hole.
During the Great Depression years the club struggled to survive, and dramatic action was necessary. After many board resignations, George Lutz became the president and guided them through those tough years, serving seven terms. It was reported that some dedicated employees worked without salary for a time, with the worst year being 1932.
Also during the depression years, on Sept. 12, 1933, John L. Parker, while playing golf with a group of men, was murdered by Floyd (Sailor) Baldwin on the 15th tee of the course. Baldwin and another bandit were attempting to rob a group of six men. The thieves drove up on the course in a vehicle, with handkerchiefs hiding their faces, and demanded, “Stick em up fellows, it’s a hold up.” There was a struggle and a shot was fired. Both men fell to the ground. The bandit recovered the gun and fired twice, with the second shot hitting Parker in the eye and killing him. As Baldwin was escaping, his handkerchief slipped off giving the victims an opportunity to identify him. The thieves escaped but were later located and arrested.
In July 1940, two years before WWII, a new swimming pool opened. Club records say that members felt the impact of the war as their young members started joining the Armed Forces. This caused a major shortage of employees and caddies. Food and gasoline rationing forced the club to limit the number of days when food was served, and guests were limited.
In 1944 the board of trustees agreed to purchase the 1.62 acre triangle parcel of land formed by Monroe Street and Corey Road in order to protect the entrance. By 1947 membership was completely filled, a new cocktail lounge was built on the first floor of the clubhouse and memberships were in great demand. In 1948 a $9,000 snack bar and locker room for girls and ladies was built on the lower porch, and drinking fountains were added at various tees throughout the course.
In 1954 the Ohio Amateur Tournament was held at the Sylvania Country Club and was won by Arnold Palmer, who went on to win the U.S. Amateur that same year.
As history shows, sometimes setbacks make one stronger, and in the case of the Sylvania Country Club this proved true. On Jan. 18, 1955 a fire gutted the inside of the club. Three employees were injured, a 65- year-old woman had to be rescued by ladder and a female club employee, 29-year-old Lindsay Morris, died in the blaze. Her memory was etched in the minds of all involved for many years to come. Reports at the time said that the exterior of the building was literally untouched, but the entire lounge and most of the second floor employee quarters were destroyed by this fire.
Throughout the rest of that year the interior of the clubhouse was reconstructed and was restored to its original grandness and beyond. During the winter of 1956 a new cement block shelter house was built and a refreshment stand and restrooms were built at No. 6 tee. The ladies locker room, the pro shop, the kitchen and the 19th Hole were considerably enlarged. New locker rooms were added at the pool, a new cocktail lounge, and a pool canteen were also added.
In 1957 there were many interior improvements to the pro shop, ladies locker room, 19th Hole, the kitchen and an improved hot water system. On the golf course, No. 10 tee was rebuilt and a new garage was built to store electric carts.
In 1958 the club lost a longtime employee, Julia Klingler Manton, who had served as the assistant treasurer and secretary for many years. She lived in an apartment at the club and during the early morning hours of Feb. 19, she quietly passed away in the place she loved working at and the place she called home for 24 years.
By March of 1961 plans were underway for a new swimming pool. Built by the Henry J. Spieker Company and designed by Richard M. Troy, the pool had a pavilion, dressing rooms, and featured three- pools-in-one in a Z-shaped unit. The pavilion had a snack bar, tennis courts and shuffleboard courts.
From 1963 through 2006 building permits show all the building additions that were made on the property and the list is just too long to include here.
Property deed records show that the club sold various properties along Monroe Street between 1964 and 1982, including properties as we know them today, the strip mall complex, the bank, the old Bill Knapp’s property and where the ProMedica building and the Fairways are today. Deed records also show properties that they purchased between 1982 and 1988 along Corey Road which eventually allowed them to make a new entrance.
Starting in 2014 the 375-member club approved a project to convert the club into a family destination place. The board hired a St. Louis consulting firm, the McMahon Group, to survey what the people of today wanted, which lead to a $3 million upgrade project. This was done in conjunction with the club’s 100 year birthday celebration in 2016.
By May 2015 the club announced completion of its new aquatic center; a 4,100-square-foot pool pavilion with a full-service cash bar, and basketball courts were remodeled with a breezeway leading to the new tennis courts. Also getting a face-lift was the restaurant with a bar-centered dining area.
A recent general manager, when pointing out all the great offerings at the Sylvania Country Club, is quoted as saying, “The historic clubhouse is beautiful and offers many amenities to its members and guests. Our ballroom is a great venue for many activities including formal dinners, weddings, grazing and cocktail parties and is also an ideal location for luncheons. There are also smaller rooms for private meetings or events.”
Sylvania is proud to have this country club within its boundaries.
Sylvania Country Club has also hosted the America Junior Golf Association Dana Incorporated Junior Open for the past four years.