May 03, 2017

The Genesis of the Francis B. Warner Cup

Warner (Gross) history | Warner (Net) history |
  The Golf Association of Philadelphia annually conducts the Francis B. Warner Cup (Gross) and (Net) events. The tournament honors one of GAP’s greatest Executive Committee members of the early 1900s.

Francis B. Warner was born in 1864. While little is known of his childhood, he did graduate from Episcopal Academy. He was also a member of the Philadelphia Cricket Club, where he was the chairman of the golf committee for a period of time. Before golf became popular at the club, Warner was a vital member of the second cricket team at Cricket. He had hopes of moving up to the first team before golf quickly occupied most of his time. He soon won a club championship.

Warner became a member of the GAP Executive Committee in 1910. Five years later, he became the organization’s secretary-treasurer. He would hold the position for the next 18 years. In this position, Warner would thrive as a pivotal piece of the growth of the game in the Philadelphia area. It was said that Warner was highly absorbed in “the strategy of golf” and was a stickler in maintaining a disciplined-run golf tournament in which rules were strictly followed.

During his tenure with GAP, Warner helped the Association grow from 30 clubs to 52 clubs. Warner was an avid fan of the annual Junior Boys’ Championship. He worked tirelessly with close friend and “father of Philadelphia Junior golf” J. Franklin Meehan to build the tournament, which grew to be the biggest annual tournament in the area with boys ages 9 to 20 competing. He also dabbled in golf course architecture and was in the photoengraving business.

Warner was a member of the “Happy Foursome,” which included himself, Frank H. Chapman (yes, the Chapman Cup namesake), Henry Strouse (then GAP president) and “Uncle Jim” Hallowell. The men were regulars at GAP events and known for their involvement.

After suffering from heart disease since November 1932 and a heart attack just two weeks prior, Francis B. Warner died on Jan. 16, 1933. He was survived by his wife Elise Withers Caldwell Warner and their son, Francis Caldwell Warner. A testament to his time with GAP, Warner worked right up to his death, helping to arrange the annual meeting of the Golf Association of Philadelphia to be held at the Penn Athletic Club on Jan. 18. At his funeral, Chapman, a close friend, served as an honorary pallbearer.

Two months later on March 24, Strouse announced a Memorial tournament for Warner, a main prize for senior golfers. It was designated as a “championship,” decided on a low-gross basis for 18 holes of medal play. The first tournament was to held on June 16 of that same year. Classification of entries was to be: Class A: 70 years and above in age, Class B: 63 to 69, Class C: 55 to 61. Prizes were to be awarded to low net score based on club handicaps for each division. “Manufacturers have been asked to submit designs for a suitable cup, to be paid for by Philadelphia golfers,” said Strouse. Today, the Warner Cup (Gross), the original event, serves as the first Senior championship event on the tournament schedule. In 2006, the Warner Cup (Net) was created due to overflowing participation.

Warner had been elected to a 19th term as secretary-treasurer before his death in 1933. Theodore F. Therien of Bala Golf Club won the inaugural Francis B. Warner Cup in 1933 with a score of 79. The net event was introduced in 2006.

Golf Association of Philadelphia
Founded in 1897, the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) is the oldest regional golf association in the United States and serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. Its 153 Full Member Clubs and 57,000 individual members are spread across parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. As Philadelphia’s Most Trusted Source of Golf Information, the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.

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