1904 Olympic gold medals on display at World Golf Hall of Fame and Museum

By Garry Smits
Published on
1904 Olympic gold medals on display at World Golf Hall of Fame and Museum

The World Golf Hall of Fame and Museum not only has on display a priceless piece of golf history, but of Olympic history.

And it wasn't easy to obtain.

"Road to Rio: Golf's Return to the Olympics" opened this week in St. Augustine, honoring the upcoming golf competition in the Rio de Janeiro Games. The last time golf was an Olympic sport was in 1904 at the Glen Echo Golf Club in St. Louis.

On hand for the grand opening of the exhibit on Thursday was World Golf Hall of Fame member Amy Alcott, a five-time LPGA major champion who was the co-designer, along with Gil Hanse, of the Olympic Golf Course.

Despite fears of the Zika virus and a crowded men's professional golf schedule that caused players such as Rory McIlroy, Charl Schwartzel, Adam Scott, Vijay Singh and Graeme McDowell to opt out of playing in Rio, Alcott is confident of strong competition on a course of which she is taking great pride.

"I'm very pleased with the way it's turned out," she said. "It's grown in really nicely. It's a typical links course, but there's nothing typical about it. I think it will challenge the elite male and female players."

The fields of 60 men and 60 women will be drawn from the World Golf Rankings as of July 11. The men's tournament will be Aug. 11-14, and the women will play Aug. 17-20.

Until then, visitors to the Hall of Fame can learn about the brief history of golf in the Olympic Games. It was an Olympic sport in 1900 in Paris and 1904 in St. Louis, then dropped after that.

Eighteen months ago, the Hall of Fame was asked to put together an exhibit on Olympic Golf, first at the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, late last year. It was done in cooperation with the IOC, Golf Canada, the United States Golf Association and the PGA of America.

The prize displays are the two Olympic medals won by American Chandler Egan in the 1904 games, a team gold and an individual silver.

And they're not so much a piece of golf history as they are international sports history: They're the oldest Olympic medals from any sport known to exist.

"The Olympics has not had a connection with golf for so long that to have the gold and silver medals, knowing how rare they are, was quite an acquisition for us," said Brodie Waters, senior director of institutional advancement for the Hall of Fame.

Egan, who won the U.S. Amateur before the Olympics, passed away in 1936. His effects were boxed and stored by his daughter, Eleanor Egan Everett, who died in 2012 at the age of 101 in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

Her son, Morris Everett, found the medals when he was cleaning out her home. They were in a metal box on a bookshelf.

"Everyone forgot about them," said Tony Parker, the Hall of Fame's historian. "They opened up the box, and lo and behold, these medals."

Waters said finding the medals and other artifacts (such as a team trophy and rare photographs of the Olympic competition), were more difficult than obtaining items for past exhibits.

"We had given up trying to find a medal," Waters said. "We've had pretty good success in the past obtaining artifacts but since there was no Hall of Fame player attached to this and nothing had happened for 112 years, there wasn't much clarity on whether the artifacts existed."

The individual gold medal for the 1904 Olympics was claimed by Canadian George Lyon, who defeated Egan 3 and 2 in the match-play final. Lyon's medal has long since disappeared, thought to have been sold in the 1930s during the depression.

The medals will be on display until mid-September before returned to the family. The Hall of Fame will receive replacement items from the Rio competition, such as scorecards, clubs, balls, gloves and uniforms from the players who medal.

Whose items will be on display is becoming increasingly hard to forecast, with McIlroy and Scott among the male players opting out. But 15 days before the teams will be finalized, no top female player has announced she is not going to Rio.

"I would think it would be some women with the concerns over Zika," Alcott said. "But I think the women really treasure this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They're very, very good about playing for their country. They really honor that a lot."

Alcott said she believes the men's schedule, in which a World Golf Championship, the Open, the PGA, the Olympics and the FedEx Cup playoffs are all packed into a two-month period, might be more of a factor than Zika.

"Everybody has their own reasons, and I'm not going to judge why someone would not want to go," she said. "There is a lot on the line in other [events]."

This article was written by Garry Smits from The Florida Times-Union and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.