Chapter 17: Club Golf

       The men of Essex County Country Club enjoy a full golf calendar that includes five one-day Member-Guests and a three-day Invitational Member-Guest in July.  The tournament schedule includes the Club Championship tournament, the President's Cup, a three-day competition on the Labor Day weekend, and the McMillen Tournament, a spring tradition since 1953, where 16 two-man teams advance to match play.
       Special events include Twilight Golf, a Yellow Ball tournament (each member of the foursome must use the yellow ball at least four times), a match between the odd and even lockers, and in the fall, a cross country contest and a turkey tournament.
       Mixed competition is highlighted by the Blauvelt Trophy, a Husband and Wife Pinehurst, and a Jack and Jill tournament.  On Bill Nash Day, the members have the chance to match cards with club professional Bill Nash.
       The Charles Bank tournament, an inter-club competition among Essex County, Rock Spring, Hackensack and Forsgate honoring the four clubs' common architect, was first held in 1992, and won by Essex County.  Our "men's golf team" also competes each fall for the Julian Curtiss Cup with other clubs that have reached the century mark in age.  The tournament honors Julian Curtiss, founder of the Greenwich Country Club, and was inaugurated there in 1992.  The Essex County team of Sal Cimbolo, Tony Cuccolo, John DiVenuto, Rich Holle, Jim Mulligan, and Rick Westwood won in 1996 at the Baltimore Country Club.
       Women's golf at Essex County continues to flourish.  The group showed a tremendous growth spurt during the 1950s, expanding from 72 members in 1954 up to 150 in 1961.  For many years, the 18-hole group plays on Tuesday mornings, the 9-holers on Thursday.  the latter crowned its first champion in 1955, and had a membership count in the 70s by 1967.
       The season traditionally begins with the annual WMGA team competition in the spring.  The ladies' team enjoyed its greatest success in the late 1960s, competing in Series I.  Mrs. Henry Cross served as president of the WMGA in 1973.
       The ladies, of course, also enjoyed Member-Guest days as well as inter-club competition with Montclair, Rock Spring, Fairmount, Essex Fells, Canoe Brook, Spring Brook, Glen Ridge, Mendham, Panther Valley, Upper Montclair and Raritan Valley.
       The Women's New Jersey Golf Association was founded in 1922 and held its first championship at Essex County the following year.  The Garden State Women's Golf Association, a group of individual women with low handicaps, was founded in 1954, with Essex County's Mrs. Mary Kelly among the founding members.
       On May 20, 1958, the ladies were entertained by LPGA Tour star Patty Berg, who gave an hour-long clinic, then played several holes with the members.  She passed along one piece of advice of their (well meaning) husbands and boyfriends, and learn the game from a professional.
       Winter golf has become popular at the club.  About 70 men participate in Saturday morning shotgun scrambles each weekend.  The program begins just after Thanksgiving and ends on the Saturday of Masters weekend, a dinner is held the preceding Wednesday night when prizes are awarded.  Joe Cataldo runs the program.
       Essex County has a thriving program for senior golfers, with a group of 120 men participating in informal Wednesday morning groups.  The annual spring and fall tournaments attract 75 to 80 participants.  The fall tournament is run in conjunction with a dinner, and numberous prizes are awarded, including a car for a hole-in-one.  The group also has a guest day each August.  The Harold Litchfield family donated the trophy for Senior championship, which was first held in 1963.  The seniors now compete in two divisions, "senior" and "65-up."
        The club's commitment to "the encouragement of athletic exercises and sports" begins with the children.  Since World War II the Junior Golf Program has been given top priority among the many social activities in which the children are involved.  The program consists of many activities, including an eight-week summer Golf Clinic for specialized golf instruction, as well as numerous inter-club tournaments and field trips to such places The USGA Golf Museum in Far Hills and the Westchester Buick Classic Junior Golf Clinic.
       An average of fifty juniors are enrolled in the program each summer, which is run by club member John O'Leary.  Their season concludes in August with a Junior Golf Championship Tournament in 3-,
9-, and18-hole categories, followed by a deluxe outdoor barbecue and awards ceremony, in which the entire club participates.
       Juniors also have the opportunity to compete in the club's annual Father and Son and Father and Daughter tournaments.