Henry Chandler Egan most likely left Chicago to get away from his father, who thought golf was “indecent.” He was pushing Chan into a nasty struggle to become a successful businessman.
“My father was torn between duty and pleasure,” recalls Chan’s daughter, Elinor.
Chan was one of the most talented golfers in the nation – a national amateur champion in 1904 and 1905 and a silver medalist at the 1904 Olympics. He loved golf from the first time he learned to swing a bat in the pasture. for cows in Illinois.
He had married a girl with good connections from Chicago, whose father was the brother of Andrew McNally, co-founder of Rand McNally’s card company. A month after the birth of their daughter in April 1911, Chan arrived in Medford and bought an orchard near Futhill Road. There he personally designed a pine bungalow in the property.
With his new home built, Chan returned to his wife and daughter in Chicago and announced that he was moving permanently to Rogue Valley and giving up golf forever. The relocation was constant; however, golf was too important in Chan’s life.
In Medford, he found former Harvard classmates Alfred and Leonard Carpenter, who were in the process of building the city’s first golf course. They asked Chan for advice, and he got into golf again.
A few years later, when that first course failed, Chan set out to design another and better course on Spring Street. This marks the beginning of a new career as a golf course architect. Over the years, he will design more than 30 courses nationwide, help modify and improve the famous Pebble Beach course in California, and still find time to design and build the Rogue Valley Country Club in Medford.
Between construction projects, he continued to play competitive golf and managed to win a number of amateur tournaments. When he faced professionals in tournaments from The Masters to Pebble Beach, his skill confused many people. He played so competitively until he was in his 40s that many called him “the great old man of golf.”
Some would laugh at his golf clubs, saying they were “old enough to vote.” These were the same sticks he had worn since he was a teenager, and they were indeed older than most of his cadets.
At the end of March 1936, while on a course he had designed in Everett, Washington, Chan, 52, collapsed and was taken to hospital, where he died on April 5 from a severe case of pneumonia.
A year later, in August 1937, a memorial service was held at the Rogue Valley Country Club. Golf greats, including the immortal Bobby Jones, his personal friend, were available to dedicate a water fountain in Chan’s memory.
Designed by the same architectural firm that recently designed the new Capitol building in Salem and made of granite from Southern Oregon, the fountain reflects the simplicity of man with a bronze likeness of his favorite athlete mounted on its base.
“It’s a shock to know that such a great man and such a good golfer does not exist,” said Bobby Jones during the memorial service. “We will all miss her terribly.”
San Francisco Chronicle sports editor Harry Smith said Chan has always been a gentleman with character. He plays golf out of love for sports. That he was a good loser when things went against him and the best athlete when he won. He’s one of the best gentlemen I’ve ever known. “
Chan’s ashes were scattered near the home in Medford, which he loved.
Writer Bill Miller is the author of five books, including History Snoopin ‘, a collection of his previous historical columns and stories. Contact him at [email protected]