The Bennington, Vt. club marked a century and a quarter of continuous operations with a golf tournament, reception, live music, dinner and a historical presentation. The club has has withstood two World Wars, a fire that burned down the clubhouse in 1957, and Hurricane Irene and the resulting flood in 2011. The club was almost forced to close its doors amid the strains of the Great Depression in 1939, but several Bennington-area businessmen came together to pay for a revitalization that attracted new members. The course began as several holes laid out on a farm by visiting sportsmen.
The Mount Anthony Country Club in Bennington, Vt. celebrated 125 years of continuous operation on July 16, with a golf tournament in the afternoon followed by a reception, live music and dinner in the evening, the Bennington Banner reported.
Prior to dinner, Bennington historian Phil Holland took on the task of encapsulating a century and a quarter of the club’s history and its unbroken chain of ownership throughout, the Bennington Banner reported. Holland began with a reminder of where the club had come from, recounting its humble beginnings as just several holes laid out on a farm by visiting sportsmen, who were disappointed that there was nowhere to play the sport that was booming in popularity with people of means.
Holland highlighted that Mount Anthony Country Club was always open to women, a point of pride at the club.
The bulk of Holland’s presentation chronicled what, in many ways, was not just the story of the country club, but of Bennington itself, the Bennington Banner reported. The Mount Anthony Country Club has withstood two World Wars, a fire that burned down the clubhouse in 1957, and Hurricane Irene and the resulting flood in 2011. The club was almost forced to close its doors amid the strains of the Great Depression in 1939, but several Bennington-area businessmen came together to pay for a revitalization that attracted new members.
Holland also struck a chord among the crowd with a quote from Bronze Star recipient Jay Jerome, who was instrumental in the expansion of the club after returning from service in World War II, the Bennington Banner reported.
“My greatest satisfaction comes from making Mount Anthony truly a course for the people of Bennington — a poor community when compared to the wealthy summer visitors and residents of Old Bennington who founded the club,” Jerome had stated.
That spirit of accessibility is something that the club prides itself on, both in being open to the public for anyone that pays greens fees, and being the first course to open and last to close in the state of Vermont every year, the Bennington Banner reported.
While the club is happy to be the golf course of choice for the everyman, it is also where some of the best golfers in the area have learned to play, the Bennington Banner reported. Most notably, PGA pro Keegan Bradley, who is ranked 43rd in the world, played much of his golf in high school in Bennington.
David Griffin and Maru Leon-Griffin have owned the club for the past 16 years, the Bennington Banner reported. Maru Leon-Griffin decided that such a significant anniversary was worthy of commemorating in style, but also of reflection on the club’s origins and how it survived (and thrived) through adversity. Unfortunately, they didn’t possess much in the way of photos to tell that story.
“When we purchased the club, there was very little left as far as archives. So we had nothing to go by to build the history,” she said. “I really needed to hire a professional to help.”
Holland drew some laughs, the Bennington Banner reported, when he quoted a 1932 report from the Vermont Commission on Country Life that recommended Vermonters find recreational activities in their downtime, but that “… golf is too much like going after cows to be compensating recreation in the routine of a farmer.”
Ultimately, as those in attendance learned from Holland’s research, the club has a rich history and a seemingly bright future, the Bennington Banner reported. Holland was grateful for the help of the Price and Jerome families, as well as Bennington Museum, and photos from Greg Nesbit, Logan Ripley and David Barnum.
“Everyone cooperated, and I just kept learning more,” he said. “The story kept getting better, and I’m pleased to be telling it.”
Leon-Griffin was also humbled by the events of the day and the remarkable fortitude that it took to make Mount Anthony Country Club one of the oldest courses in the country, and the second longest-tenured in the state to only Dorset.
“We feel very fortunate and very proud to be the keepers of this beautiful piece of land,” Leon-Griffin said. “My husband is very passionate about golf courses and their care. … When we purchased this business, we were like, ‘OK, we know we have a mission.’”