It’s been a century since the Miami Valley Golf Club, Dayton’s first 18-hole course, opened on Salem Avenue.
A crowd of 500 “happy men, women and children” turned out “on a perfect day in June,” to celebrate the formal opening on June 3, 1919, according to a front-page story in the Dayton Daily News.
Black-and-white photographs show founders Walter and Georgeanna Kidder receiving a floral tribute at the dedication while five golfers decked out in knickers and caps smiled for the camera.
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As Walter Kidder drove the first ball of the tee, Gov. James M. Cox addressed the crowd and touted the health benefits that came from “contact with nature.” The club opened with 335 members.
The Kidders’ gift to the city, born in a billiard room full of golf enthusiasts at their Dayton View home in 1913, was a donation of 157 acres at Salem and Hillcrest avenues. Perfectly situated along the interurban line, the farmland had been used for Gypsy camps for many years.
Donald Ross, the premier golf club architect of the day, was hired to design the course. Ross believed the best design for golf clubs was in the shape of a fan and designed MVGC in that style — the clubhouse at the fan’s handle and two loops of nine-holes each spreading out away from it.
The club’s park-like feel is credited to the Olmsted Brothers, sons of the firm’s founder, Frederick Law Olmsted, who worked on the design of the entrance, location of the original clubhouse and design of a picnic grove.
The stately clubhouse, still the centerpiece today, was built in Jacobethan Tudor style and designed by local architect Rollin Gebhart. It opened in 1931. In 2015 the clubhouse and golf course were listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A number of Ohio Open tournaments have been held at the golf club through the years and in 1957 the club hosted the PGA Championship. “The Lean Bobcat from Ohio University” (Dow Finsterwald) would battle the “Fat Frenchman” (Lionel Hebert), wrote Dayton Daily News sports reporter Ben Garlikov.
The tournament finished a five-day run in Dayton on July 21, 1957, with a 36-hole championship match, the last time the PGA Championship was settled in match play. Hebert prevailed, winning his only major.
One-hundred years after Walter Kidder addressed the crowd on opening day, families across the Miami Valley still enjoy the private golf club.
“Today Mrs. Kidder and myself are supremely happy in the realization of our dream and to feel that it is appreciated in the spirit in which it is given.”