The groundswell of interest in H. Chandler Egan’s storied golf career has yet to abate.
It was resurrected with the return of golf to the Olympic Games last summer, kept rolling locally with a ceremony last month dedicating a course at Rogue Valley Country Club in his name and got another shot in the arm with the recent announcement that gold and silver medals he won at the 1904 Games in St. Louis are up for auction.
Egan was the country’s best golfer in the early 1900s. He moved from Chicago to Medford in 1911 to become an orchardist and continued playing at a high level. He gravitated to course architecture and made his mark there until his death in 1936 at the age of 51.
He designed the first nine at RVCC in 1924 and the second in 1927. He did 20 courses, including a remodel of Pebble Beach prior to the 1929 U.S. Amateur, and a dozen in Oregon. He was working on two Washington courses at the time of his death.
Morris Everett Jr., Egan’s grandson, was there when the rare Olympic medals were discovered in a cabinet in his mother’s Cleveland-area home in 2012.
He was also present May 12-13 during the ceremony to rename the Original Course at RVCC to the Chandler Egan Course. The route incorporates nine holes of the Rogue Course with the nine-hole Oaks Course on the 27-hole property.
Four Oaks holes — Nos. 1, 4, 5 and 8 — as well as the Hillcrest Road practice green, remain as Egan built them.
The weekend celebration included a Friday night presentation by Don Holton, the historian at Exmoor Country Club in Chicago, where Egan spent his formative years, followed by a ribbon cutting Saturday morning and a tournament over the newly-christened Egan Course.
Holton is also the the family biographer of Egan. His presentation included many photos spanning Egan’s life, as well as newspaper articles, scorecards, past and current photos of the former Egan home on Foothill Road and poignant letters between Egan, his wife and his mother as pneumonia set in and eventually took his life.
“Chandler Egan was many things,” said Holton. “He was a son, a brother, a Harvard graduate, a father, a husband, a businessman, a national golf champion, an Olympic medalist, a Walker Cup teammate, a golf architect and a member of (six) different Halls of Fame.
“He was a very accomplished man.”
Holton is writing a book on Egan, and he considered his trip to the Northwest a “pilgrimage.”
As he made his way to Medford, he stopped at Egan-designed courses at Waverley Country Club in Portland, Eugene Country Club and Bend Country Club.
“Chandler Egan was a golf purist,” said Holton. “For more than three decades, Egan was the consummate amateur player, a gentleman who played strictly for the love of the game and the next silver cup.”
Holton shared the Egan family letters.
In March 1936, Egan wrote to his mother in Highland Park, Illinois, that he “rashly undertook two design projects this winter in Seattle and Everett, Washington.”
Both were backed by the Works Progress Administration.
He had finished 27 of the 36 holes and wrote, “but they’re calling for me to hurry.”
Egan caught a fever while working at Legion Memorial Golf Course in Everett.
His wife wrote: “Dear Mother Egan, Chandler has taken a chill. They found a small patch of pneumonia.”
It was fatal. Egan died on April 5.
Holton said Egan was considered a man of high character and values “worth remembering and emulating to this very day.”
The morning after Holton’s presentation, the dedication ceremony was held near the first tee, where a plaque in his honor has been installed.
Everett, brandishing an oversized pair of scissors, did the ribbon cutting.
“I certainly know Medford was very special to my grandfather,” he said. “This is where he wanted to start a new life.”
He said his mother, Eleanor, cherished her childhood here and “would ride her horse, Midget, across the valley to see her dad.”
“It’s just a very special place and you’re lucky to live here,” Everett told the gathering. “It’s a beautiful club and I thank everybody.”
After the cutting, Everett confided that his grandfather’s Olympic medals would soon go to auction on Lelands.com.
Egan captained the Americans to the team championship at the 1904 Games in St. Louis — the second and last time, until 2016, that golf was an Olympic sport. He lost to Canadian George Lyon in the individual final.
St. Louis was the first Games to offer gold, silver and bronze medals, and it was one of only two Olympiads to award solid gold medals.
The whereabouts of Egans’ medals weren’t known until they turned up in his daughter’s home. Last year, they were on display at several major golf venues leading up to the Olympics, and now they are being auctioned.
No other individual Olympic medals are known to exist. Lyon’s has not been discovered.
Egan’s team gold medal is one of three known to be out there. One of them, Robert E. Hunter’s, brought $272,580 at a Christie’s auction last year.
The opening bid on Egan’s gold medal is $100,000, and it has not been bid on. One bid is in at the opening of $20,000 for his silver medal.
The medals are part of an impressive array of sports articles up for auction at Leland’s. Others include the New York Yankees contract acquiring Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox in 1919, Ruth’s 1927 World Series ring and the ball Pete Rose hit when he set the record of 4,192 hits.
The auction closes June 30.
Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or firstname.lastname@example.org