A Look Back at Skokie Country Club’s Fascinating History as the Club Celebrates Its 125th Anniversary

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This year Skokie Country Club in Glencoe is celebrating its 125th Anniversary. Founded in 1897, the club has withstood several property disputes, a major fire in 1911, several financial depressions, and two pandemics involving Spanish Flu and COVID-19. Today the Club remains on solid footing, with a world-class and nationally recognized golf course, outstanding dining and recreational facilities coupled with a family-oriented membership culturally rooted in a desire to be a good neighbor.

What many may not know is that Skokie’s founders consisted of the Village Presidents from both Glencoe and Winnetka (James Calhoun and Arthur Jones), a US Secretary of the Interior (Walter Fisher), Winnetka’s largest landowner (George Higginson), and the leader of the North Shore Democratic Party (Heaton Owsley), along with other notable founders such as Fredrick Greeley, George Orde, George Leslie, and John Flanders. Each of these founders, along with Heaton Owsley’s wife, Caroline, established a country club that has earned a well-respected national reputation.

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Through the years Skokie CC earned a reputation for being a causal place for members and their guests to enjoy an unhurried round of golf and engage in social activities without much fanfare. That is why, over the years, such notable personalities from Douglass Fairbanks, Jr. to Bing Crosby to Arnold Palmer to Michael Jordan have visited Chicago and sought a round of golf without being bothered by the press or club members. Skokie’s history is replete with stories of these celebrities and their visits. One that stands out is the time Michael Jordan played the course on a late fall afternoon, and after his round and leaving the parking lot, he returned with a dozen bags of hamburgers and fries from the McDonald’s in Hubbard Woods to share with Skokie’s caddies. After distributing the bags he sat down and enjoyed his post-round snack with those caddies! Later than night, he suited up for the Chicago Bulls and lead them to victory. That story is still talked about to this very day.

This year also marks the 100th Anniversary of Gene Sarazen’s first major victory at Skokie, the 1922 U.S. Open. He defeated the great young amateur, Bobby Jones, by one stroke by famously birdieing the 18th hole in the final round. At the time Sarazen was a 20-year-old former caddy from Pittsburgh, by way to New York. Of Italian descent, Sarazen’s win showcased an emerging diversity in the game of golf not yet seen since the game was dominated by players from Scotland and England. Newspapers from all over the United States heralded Sarazen’s win at Skokie in a fashion similar to the U.S. Amateur win by Francis Ouiment in 1913 at Brookline Country Club in Massachusetts.

Beyond the 1922 US Open, Skokie’s golf course has hosted other prominent champions: the Western Open (1909), the Women’s Western Open (1952), the US Senior Amateur Open (1997), two Western Amateur’s (2012, 2017) and several USGA, Illinois and CDGA events. The club will be hosting its third Western Amateur Championship in 2025.

Since its founding Skokie CC has endeavored to be a good neighbor to the Town of Glencoe. For example, the Club and its members support many local initiatives and charities (i.e., Open Doors and The Glencoe Grand Prix bike race) and has also worked with the town on infrastructure projects, especially those that involve the Skokie lagoons.

The charitable works of Skokie’s members extends to its own employees through its Skokie Country Club Educational Foundation, which awards scholarships to its employees so that they might continue their educational or vocational pursuits. And, Skokie is also a major contributor to the Evans Scholars Scholarship Foundation that supports full-tuition college scholarships for its caddies. Thirty-three scholarships have been awarded to Skokie’s caddies over the years, with over dozen in the past decade!

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Skokie Country Club will celebrate its anniversary with several celebrations throughout the Spring and Summer. The highlight will be the Blue & White Gala (Skokie’s colors) over the July 4 weekend. The Club will dedicate a memorial clock on July 15 which is the anniversary of Sarazen’s U.S. Open win. And, the Club will be distributing an updated history book to all members that includes reference material provided by the Glencoe and Winnetka Historical Societies.

Not many institutions last 125 years these days. Through a combination of good fortune, thoughtful leadership, and community partnership, Skokie Country Club remains a strong club and proud of its connection to Chicago’s North Shore.

As part of our “You Said It” Op-Ed series, we invite contributors to submit their opinion pieces. Have a submission? Contact us.

How to Help:

Charity golf tournaments are a great way to play a great course and support a wonderful cause. Check out two of the Chicago area’s biggest charity tournaments this summer, the Annual Golf Classic benefitting Ronald McDonald House and the Chicago Select Golf Invitational benefitting the American Cancer Society.

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