The rich and colorful history of The Kahkwa Club begins with its founding in 1893 as a social club. In 1899 Kahkwa members introduced golf to Erie and the game has been integral to the club ever since. Our family friendly club has evolved over the years but remains committed to offering something for everyone.
The Kahkwa Club was founded in 1893 with the stated objectives of "social enjoyment and the promotion of aquatic sports." A group of prominent Erie citizens sought a location that was only a carriage ride away from the prestigious "west side" residential area in which many lived. A large parcel of open farmland immediately east of Massassauga Point, a popular summer resort at the neck of Presque Isle peninsula, was purchased for the club. One hundred and five people subscribed to the initial membership offering.
In 1899, 11 years after golf was introduced to the United States, Kahkwa Members formed the Erie Golf Association and secured a lease for a 100-acre parcel of land. In one month, a "regulation" nine-hole golf course was constructed on the property, bounded by today's West Eighth Street, Lincoln Avenue and the bayfront. A new golf clubhouse was built that same year at the northeast corner of Vermont Avenue and Oxford Streets. This original clubhouse from Erie's first golf course still stands today.
In the early 1900s, a new rubber-cored, rubber-wound golf ball added 20 yards to tee shots and caused golf courses around the country to be rebuilt to add length. With their land-locked nine-hole course offering no ability to expand, in 1912 Kahkwa members authorized the purchase of 200 acres west of Erie in the tiny community of Swanville. In anticipation of the move west and construction of an 18-hole course, the club hired Charlie Hymers from Carnoustie, Scotland, to be their head golf professional.
After Hymers reported to Kahkwa in 1915, he recommended a fellow countryman named Donald Ross to design the new golf course. Ross had emigrated to the United States in 1899 and by the time Kahkwa came calling had established himself as the premier golf course architect in the country. Donald Ross began the design of the new golf course on May 17, 1916.
Ross' design for the new Swanville course was for it to be built in two stages, nine holes each. As was typical in golf course construction before 1920, large labor forces using wheelbarrows, spades and shovels did the majority of the work. Earth moving was done by horse or mule-drawn scoops and steam-driven machinery was used to remove tree stumps. The first nine holes of the course opened for play in May of 1918 and the formal opening of the new clubhouse was on the 30th of that same month.
During the 1920s, it was commonplace for winners of big championships to tour the country and play in exhibitions. In 1923, Kahkwa officials were able to put together an exhibition between Joe Kirkwood, Australian champion and Walter Hagen, British Open champion. Upward of a thousand spectators were treated to a new course record of 67 by Hagen and thrilling trick shots by Kirkwood.
Club membership invited Donald Ross back to Kahkwa in 1927 to determine if the course could be improved by the addition of hazards and trees. Ross toured Kahkwa for seven hours, carefully assessing the entire layout. Ross subsequently submitted a hole-by-hole plan that included changes to a number of holes and adding many more bunkers - the result of which would make Kahkwa comparable to any championship course in the country.
As is true for many of Donald Ross' most famous courses, Kahkwa has periodically undertaken changes to improve the playability and challenge of the layout. In 1999, Kahkwa turned to Ronald Forse, a well established golf course architect known for restoration work on Donald Ross courses. Forse's plan for Kahkwa included restoring the original character and integrity to the bunkers, fairways and greens. He added several bunkers that were part of Ross' original plan and added new bunkers on many holes similar to Ross' style. Greens were restored to their original dimensions and numerous new forward tees were added.
As the ongoing improvement in golf ball and club technology continued to change the way courses were playing, in 2009 Kahkwa contracted Brit Stenson of IMG Golf Course Design to develop a new master plan to make additional changes to the course.
Among the many goals of the plan was the desire to improve the playability of the course for higher handicap players and add length to restore Ross' original shot values for the longer-hitting player. Bunkers were removed, reshaped and added, several new back tees constructed and practice facilities improved/expanded.
JoAnne Gunderson Carner won the 1971 U.S. Women's Open at The Kahkwa Club, posting a score of even-par 288; seven-stroke victory. Despite the challenging setup from the USGA with long, difficult rough and fast, undulating greens, Carner said "the minute I saw Kahkwa, I loved it."
The buildup to the 1971 Women's Open was mostly focused on two-time defending champion Donna Caponi and Kathy Whitworth. Caponi was on a quest to become the first to win three consecutive U.S. Women's Opens and Whitworth was the LPGA's leading money winner for the year and all time. In addition, everyone wondered if this would be the year to end Whitworth's quest for her first Women's Open Championship.
A crowd of 2,500 greeted players for Thursday's opening round where Caponi and Carner each shot a 2-under-par 70 to share the lead. Friday brought windy conditions and a very difficult test of golf. A crowd similar to the opening day saw Carner fire a 73 and grab a two-shot lead over Caponi. Testament to the challenge of the course was the 36-hole-cut score of 159, which ended the championship for 82 players.
The weekend belonged to Carner. Her thirdround 72 gave her a five-shot lead and a strong start in Sunday's final round helped her widen the lead to 10 before completing her 73 and seven-stroke victory. Weekend crowds of more than 5,000 each day were amazed at Carner's length off the tee. Although she hit only 29 fairways in the four rounds, her prodigious length left her with short irons into most greens and allowed her to negotiate Kahkwa's deep rough.
Mrs. Carner has never forgotten that week in June of 1971 and her love affair with Donald Ross' masterpiece. Years later she praised Kahkwa as "a fantastic golf course. It's truly beautiful and one of the greatest I've ever seen."
Jane Park, 17, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., won the United States Women's Amateur Championship with a 2-up victory over Amanda McCurdy, 20, of El Dorado, Ark., in the 36-hole final at the 6,365-yard, par-72 course at The Kahkwa Club.
On a brilliant summer day the Park-McCurdy contest lured more than 4,000 spectators to a match that went the distance. It was Park's first national title after having reached the final in three USGA championships; this championship, the 2003 Women's Amateur and the 2004 U.S. Girls' Junior.
Park became the first USA Curtis Cup competitor - she played on the 2004 team - to win the Women's Amateur since Kelli Kuehne in 1996. She also is the fourth player in Women's Amateur history to win after losing in the previous year's final match and the first since Cathy Sherk in 1978.
"Coming in second twice, that's pretty awesome, I think," said Park. "Coming in first is a whole new thing ... and to be able to finally break through. I can't even put into words how happy I am. I'm just not an emotional girl; it's all inside of me."
McCurdy was three holes down with four holes to play and made a valiant attempt to square the match. She captured two of the next three holes and was one hole down going into the 36th green. Then, with Park facing a birdie putt of 12 feet, McCurdy took three putts from 45 feet, made bogey, and saw her dream come to an end.
"Of course I wish I could have won," said McCurdy. "I'm a competitor and I hate to come this far and not come out on top, but second place isn't always that bad ... She's a great champion."
If the testing greens were the undoing of co-medalist Shannon Johnson in the championship final, they were fellow co-medalist Julia Potter’s salvation, as she one-putted eight times, including for the clinching par on No. 17, to give her a second victory in this championship, in her third trip to the final match in four years.
“I tried to be confident over every putt,” said Johnson, 33, of Norton, Mass., whose miss from 3 feet on the 17th green sealed a 2-and-1 victory for Potter, of Indianapolis, Ind., in the 2016 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship at The Kahkwa Club. “Donald Ross got me in the end.”
“When you get to the sixth day of championship play – the eighth day, counting practice rounds – you are starting to get tired,” said Potter. “That’s when you fall back on that short game. I was lucky enough to be able to do that.”
Victory in this 30th Women’s Mid-Amateur seemed anything but assured for Potter when Johnson rallied to win four consecutive holes (Nos. 12-15), all with pars, to square the match with three holes to play. Potter had built a 4-up lead through six holes as Johnson hit a couple of erratic approach shots and Potter made par saves and a birdie on the par-4 sixth.
On the decisive No. 17, Potter found the fairway, Johnson a bunker to the left, and both players missed the perplexing concave green to the left, creating another battle of up and downs. Potter wedged to 2½ feet, Johnson just outside of her, and after Johnson missed her par try, Potter converted.
Potter becomes just the fifth player to win multiple U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateurs, joining Sarah LeBrun Ingram (1991, 1993, 1994), Ellen Port (1995, 1996, 2000, 2011), Meghan Stasi (2006, 2007, 2010, 2012) and Carol Semple Thompson (1990, 1997). She is the only female left-handed champion in USGA history and is now the only multiple left-handed champion.
At The Kahkwa Club, our mission is to create an atmosphere of recreation, fun and camaraderie for our Members. We will accomplish this by maintaining a sustained commitment to quality standards with outstanding facilities, which offer our Members recreation, resource and relaxation. We will provide personalized service that anticipates and satisfies. Our overall belief is that when our Members are treated properly, the Club will be at its best.