Originally created 04/02/00

Foursome introduced city to golf



As the game of golf is growing in popularity, we may look to the day when ... the city shall crowd the links.

-- Augusta Chronicle, 1902

This time each year the Masters Tournament attracts thousands to this part of the world.

Golf brings them to Augusta, but who brought golf here to begin with?

Most of you know the story of Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts and their idea of a golf course that became the Augusta National.

It opened for member play in December 1932, and there was soon talk of holding a U.S. Open.

But Jones and Roberts thought it might be better to put on their own tournament. The result is this week's Masters.

That story is often told, but have you ever wondered who first showed up in Augusta with clubs and ball and suggested a game?

You would think no one would know.

But this is Augusta, a city proud of its history, and when that question was asked almost 30 years ago, someone had the answer.

That someone was the late Joseph B. Cumming, whose family is one of the town's oldest.

In response to an account in a local history publication, the elderly attorney told this story.

In the 1890s, he reported, four men showed up one day on the sweeping lawn of Mrs. Jane Cumming Verdery's home at what is now Milledge and Pickens roads.

They were neighbors, Mr. Cumming said, who dropped by to socialize and take advantage of the grounds to demonstrate the newly popular game of golf.

He even provided the names of that "first foursome" -- Dr. William H. Harison Jr., his brother Morley, Henry H. Cumming and Louis Berckmans.

It was a group that quickly became enthusiastic about the sport.

They were the core of those who organized the Augusta Country Club with its first nine-hole course on the east side of Milledge Road, about half a mile from that first recorded demonstration.

Dr. Harison became president of the Augusta Country Club.

After 1900, land was purchased from the estate of Henry H. Cumming across Milledge and two 18-hole courses were constructed; first the "Lake" course and, several years later, the "Hill" course.

Such courses attracted many, including a young Atlantan named Bobby Jones, who often came to town to play.

Banner headlines, for example, touted his 1924 match with the British, French and Southern amateur champs at the Augusta Country Club.

And "Louie" Berckmans?

His family owned a plant nursery out on Washington Road.

It was a great piece of property that was sold 30 years later to a group of investors led by Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts.

They built a golf course, created a tournament and, well ... you know the rest of the story.

We begin to write its latest chapter this week.

But the story began a mile away and a century ago when four guys strolled onto a neighbor's lawn, clubs in hand, to demonstrate a game called golf.

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 107.