The Country Club of Indianapolis was born more than 115 years ago on June 4, 1891. It was the first country club in the city and among the earliest in the nation.
Those who formed the club were prominent social and industrial figures in the thriving city of 40,000. Incorporators and members of the first Board of Directors were Chapin C. Foster, William L. Elder, William J. Richards, Ferdinand L. Mayer, William H. Coleman, Charles F. Sayles, Charles E. Collins, Cortland VanCamp, and Horace Bennett.
A remodeled farmhouse where the Woodstock Club is now situated served as the first clubhouse. It burned November 4, 1904 and was rebuilt only to burn again later.
Back then, a day at the club was a full day. Members took a streetcar from downtown to Mapleton (which now is Illinois Street and Maple Road) for the first leg of the journey. Then they were picked up by the club's "carry-all", a wagon-like vehicle with seats along the sides for the last lap of the trip.
Originally, it was not golf, but tennis and enclosed bowling in the clubhouse that attracted members.
Golf Comes to CCI
In 1897, a distinguished member, Alvin S. Lockard, toured the world and discovered golf in India. The popular Scottish game had been introduced there by the British. Mr. Lockard was attracted to the game, and upon his return to Indianapolis, purchased a set of "sticks" and balls from Charles Mayer & Co.
Two golf holes were constructed, and an annual fee of $1 was charged to interested members.
Later, as the popularity of golf increased, enough ground was leased for a 9-hole course. Mr. Lockard assumed most of the expense.
The enclosed bowling alley was converted into a locker room. A shop was built to accommodate Arthur Tweedy, Indiana's first golf professional, who arrived here in 1900 from England where he had been Great Britain's Junior Amateur Champion.
The Decision to Move
There was not enough land to expand the 9-hole course, and when the clubhouse burned the second time, a decision was made to buy land far enough from the city to warrant the name "Country Club".
In September 1909, CCI President Roscoe Hawkins was directed by the Board to appoint a committee of five members to consider, select and recommend a site for the new club.
While the committee sought a location, the members voted 218-18 on January 6, 1912 to sell the existing club, investigate the acquisition of a new site, the erection of new buildings and construction of a golf course.
By the spring of 1912, the committee had narrowed its choice to two sites considered adequate for the Club's purposes.
A Chicago golf architect, Tom Bendelow, was hired to inspect the sites and offer his opinion as to which was more desirable.
The result was the present site, then known as "Barnhill Farm," a tract of land consisting of 154 acres (plus), located on Crawfordsville Road approximately 8 miles west of the center of Indianapolis.
On June 12, 1912, the land was purchased for $250 an acre for a total of $38,522. A deed was delivered to the club with the first mortgage payment due on September 5, 1912.
Building the New Club
A month later, on July 8, 1912, the Board authorized President Samuel D. Miller to appoint a general committee to investigate the construction of buildings, tennis courts, a golf course and to do whatever else was necessary to complete and equip the new property for the use of the Club.
First, the general committee had to raise funds to start the project. Sale of the old property netted $50,298.05 (a sale price of $82,000 less an existing mortgage and interest charges). Sixty Life Memberships were offered for $1,000 each. Fifty-nine were sold.
In March 1913, the architectural firm of R. P. Daggart & Co. was retained to submit plans for the clubhouse, a caddie house and servants' cottage.
The plans were adopted that summer, and contracts were let. Work began in the fall of 1913 and was completed by August 1, 1914.
The general committee's financial reports to the Board were as follows:
The Country Club of Indianapolis
Cash Purchase Price of Land.....$17,522.00
(Total purchase price $38,522 Existing mortgage of $21,000);
Golf Course Construction.....$22,180.74
This brought the total expenditure for the construction of the new Club to $116,786 and left a surplus of $3,300.
Bendelow, the most prolific golf course designer of that era, laid out the original Country Club golf links, nine holes of which were opened for play in October 1914. The second nine opened in 1915.
Golf attracted most members to the Club, but its ambiance had its own attraction. Many of the early members were distinguished Hoosiers, including Benjamin Harrison, former President of the United States. They also included James Whitcomb Riley, whose fame as a raconteur preceded his celebrity as the "Hoosier Poet"; Booth Tarkington and Meredith Nicholson, both famous Indiana Novelists, and John T. McCutcheon, Dean of American Cartoonists.
Other familiar names who made Indianapolis a cultural and industrial showplace were members: Beveridge, Fairbanks, Fletcher, Ayres, Lilly, English, Fortune, Reid, Martindale, and Lemcke. There were scores of others, including John L. Griffith, who was so portly he played golf with only one hand and who later became Consul General to London.
The World Wars
During World War I, more than 70 members fought for their country in the armed forces.
During World War II, because of the club's rural location and gas rationing, the clubhouse was closed during the winter beginning in 1943; however, the golf course remained open.
CCI's Contributions to Golf
Throughout its history, CCI and its members have contributed generously to the promotion of golf--both competitively and administratively--at local, regional and national levels.
The late Cecil W. Weathers was a long-time leader on the Indiana scene. He was a past president of the Indiana Golf Association. Five other CCI Members also are past IGA Presidents -- Hank Ehlebracht, his son Jim, Dick Cardwell, Mike Bell and Larry Nicolet. Former members who served as President are Bill Regnier, Ron Atwell and Jim Ehlebracht.
George Hilgemeier, a CCI Past President, served as President of the Tri State Golf Association, an organization composed of golfers in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. Jim Ehlebracht served as a director of the Tri-State.
The late Mrs. Guy E. Morrison served as a President of the Indianapolis Women's Golf Association.
CCI has produced numerous tournament winners, including three of the early "greats": Bill Diddel, John Simpson and Edgar A. Zimmer.
Diddel captured the Indiana State Amateur crown five times--in 1905, 1906, 1907, 1910 and 1912. Zimmer won the title four times--in 1908, 1922, 1923 and 1924. Simpson won in 1921 and 1926.
Famed golf course architect Paul (Pete) Dye, Jr. won the State Amateur while a member at CCI in 1958, and the late Bob Myers was victorious in 1950.
Women's State Amateur champions Mrs. Paul (Alice) Dye and Mrs. Jason (Jane) Weiss were long-time CCI players.
Mrs. Forrest (Cookie) English, also a three-time Indianapolis Women's Champion, won the Women's State Amateur title in 1975. That same year, CCI member Nancy Fitzgerald--seven months pregnant at the time, won the Women's Indianapolis City Open. To add to her laurels, Cookie won the prestigious Women's Western Senior Championship for 1995 in Florida.
Diddel, Simpson, the Dyes, Weathers, English and long-time CCI member Eugene S. Pulliam all have been inducted as members of the Indiana's Golf Hall of Fame.
In recent years, CCI members have captured, or nearly captured, several titles.
Mike Bell became a National Champion by winning the USGA Senior Amatuer title in 2006 at Victoria National, outside Evansville, Indiana. Bell earlier had dominated the annual Spring Four-Ball Championship, having won it six times with CCI partners, Ted Katula (1973 and 1974), Ron Atwell (1980, 1982, 1986, and 1988), and a seventh time with partner Bill Fulford. Joe Kack and Ted Boots won the 1975 Spring Four-Ball, and Dick Cardwell (with partner, John Schutt) won it in 1965.
Bell (with partner Jerry Oliver) also won the State Four Ball Championship in 1977.
Greg Boots, son of 12-time CCI Club Champion, Ted Boots, was runner-up in the 1986 State Amateur Championship, one shot behind champion Dan Olsen, and tied for sixth place in 1988.
Hank Ehlebracht is a past champion of the Indiana State Seniors Golf Association title. He has competed in six USGA Senior Amateur Championships including in 1995 when he was regional Medalist.
Tom Beam competed in the national USGA Mid-Amateur Championship in 1995.
In 1987 alone, CCI teams won the State Team Championship (the third straight time a CCI foursome had taken the title); tied for first in the State Team Scramble; won Regional qualifying for the Oldsmobile National Scramble and participated in the finals at Disney World.
Highly Rated Golf Course
CCI's golf course was rated among the top five courses in Indiana by Golf Digest magazine in 1985, 1987 and 1989. As well as the 100th Anniversary of the Amateur State Championship which was hosted in 2000.
The original acreage was a creation awaiting a golf course. The rolling terrain, traversed by bubbling, meandering Mario Creek and now adorned with more than 100 species of trees, makes the course a scenic and challenging attraction. Members never tire of testing it, and guests praise its beauty and playability.
Tournaments at CCI
CCI has hosted several tournaments, including the first Indiana State Amateur Championship in 1900 (at the original site) and the 100th in 2000. The event is scheduled to return in 2010.
The 1974 Women's Western Amateur Golf Championship was conducted at CCI under the direction of Forrest (Woody) English. It was a success despite the fact a ravaging flood devastated the course a few weeks before the event.
CCI hosted the USGA's Women's Open in 1978. Hank Ehlebracht and Jack Kesler co-chaired the tournament committee. Despite adverse weather conditions (hot and gusty, then rainy), the course conditions were applauded by everyone. Defending Champion Hollis Stacy repeated by drilling a 6-foot downhill putt on the 72nd hole to eke out a one-shot win over Joanne Carner.
The LPGA-sponsored Mayflower Classic began an eight-year run at CCI in 1981. The tournament drew large galleries, and the charitable beneficiary, Riley Children's Hospital, received more than $600,000 for research purposes during that time.
The ladies of the LPGA rated CCI as one of their tour's top courses, and Hole No. 11 ranked as the toughest par 5 on their tour. CCI members voted overwhelmingly in the fall of 1987 to host the tournament again in 1988 and granted Mayflower an option for 1989 and 1990. However, Mayflower chose to discontinue its affiliation with the event in 1989.
CCI received more national attention when McCall's Magazine published a feature article in its February 1977 issue about CCI members and their activities.
In 1990, the Board and President David McNamar appointed a Centennial Celebration Committee consisting of past presidents. The committee named Robert E. Donnelly (1985) as Centennial Chairman; James C. Baldauf (1988), Programs, and Justin L. Albers (1973) Coordinator.
All members of the family were treated to scheduled events. During the celebration held in July 1991, women were feted with a luncheon and a golf tournament. Children were entertained by clowns and magicians, and juniors with swimming events. The men held a tournament, and the celebration was topped off with a Saturday evening dinner and dance.
There was extensive local newspaper coverage featuring extensive interviews with President Dick Wetzel, Golf Professional Larry Bianco and Centennial Chairman, Robert Donnelly.
Golf Course Improvements
Concern about the incidence of play over the aged course and its failing infrastructure prompted the club to embark upon a renovation project. In April 1988, the club accepted a renovation master plan from the golf course architectural firm of Kidwell and Hurdzan of Columbus, Ohio. The first two phases of the improvements--which included building several new tees, renovating other tees, adding bunkers and rebuilding 11 greens--was carried out in 1988 and 1989. Later, the membership authorized Pete Dye (with the able assistance of wife Alice and young architect Tim Liddy) to rebuild all 18 greens, including their surrounding areas, and make other improvements.
Wadsworth Construction Co., among the nation's foremost golf construction firms, completed that work during the fall of 1992.
Tony Altum designed a state of the art irrigation system in 2001. At that time, several acres were cleared to build the pond and cart paths were completed throughout the course.
Facility improvements are constant. Some improvements updated buildings and/or systems; others enhanced the beautiful grounds and facilities. These include the practice tee area and swimming pool renovation.
In 1996, the Board and the Membership voted to construct a new clubhouse. The new facility was dedicated for the membership's enjoyment and use on June 21, 1997.
Responding to member demand, the main dining room was redesigned in 2003 to allow members a full view of our beautiful course. The screened porch was also enclosed at that time to create year round dining in a new Four Seasons room.
Many staff members have been long-time employees. Virginia Hampton came to the Club as a young girl with her father in 1946 and served 48 years as the women's Locker Room attendant and as a friend and confidant until her retirement on March 1, 1994.
Golf Professional Larry Bianco held the position of Golf Pro from 1966 to 2002 when George Arvanitis became the new CCI Head Golf Professional. In 2011, George Arvanitis was named General Manager overseeing the golf and clubhouse operations and Tony Searl, who served as Assistant Golf Professional since 2004, was named Head Golf Professional. Golf Course Superintendent Mike Seaton joined CCI in 2002. The entire staff is responsive to members' needs.
The Tradition Continues
Being a member of CCI always has carried with it a great deal of pride.
Everyone associated with the club cares, and it shows.
For most, the core of interest is the golf course, not only a gem to play, but a pleasure to introduce to guests. All members and their families are provided with a fine swimming pool and a clubhouse with scheduled activities all year round.