In 1924, the headline of “The LaGrange Reporter,” one of the two competing newspapers in town, screamed the news, “Harold Callaway defeats Bobby Jones at Highland Country Club.”
The legendary golfer, Bobby Jones, had been defeated by Highland Country Club’s first golf pro, Harold Callaway, in an exhibition game on July 23, 1924. This game was second of three exhibition games Bobby Jones would play here, becoming the first of many well-known golfers to play the course.
“The history of Highland Country Club is inextricably linked with these three exhibition games,” said Doug Cox, who presented his research into the history of the club to a gathering of club members on Monday evening.
Events from the halcyon days of the club’s early history are celebrated in a series of displays created by Doug Cox that were unveiled on Monday night. Hanging in the foyer and one of the halls of the clubhouse, these displays feature images from the club’s early history, copies of the event programs and text from local news reports about the events.
The club was just a year old when Jones appeared here the first time in 1923, having been founded in 1922 by Fuller E. Callaway Sr. The course was designed by Scottish-born Donald Ross, whose nearly 400 courses around the country helped to secure golf’s position in modern American culture.
Besides the golf course, the first club also had a clubhouse, swimming pools and tennis courts. The first clubhouse burned in 1924 and was replaced with a neo-classical styled clubhouse designed by the important Atlanta architectural firm of Hentz, Reid and Adler. This building was demolished in the mid-1960s and replaced with a more modern clubhouse.
Bobby Jones returned to the club and was defeated again in 1925. This time he teamed up with Harold Callaway and they were defeated by Walter Hagen — who would go on to be the first American to win the British Open in 1928 — and noted Georgia golfer, Watts Gunn.
Following World War II, club member Arthur B. “Skin” Edge, Jr. convinced golfer Byron Nelson to play the club’s course. Nelson, who had in 1945 won 18 of the 35 PGA tournaments, played two exhibition rounds at the club. In his first round in 1946, Nelson broke the existing course record with a score of 64. Returning the next year, he teamed up with Jack Murphy against Tommy Barnes and local Cliff Hunter. Nelson and Murphy defeated the other pair.
Following Bobby Jones’ exhibition games here, the golfer would retire in 1930 at the ripe age of 28. He would later found and help design the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, which annually hosts the Masters Tournament.