Sunday, March 14, 2010

George Hughes

On October 10, 1938, George E. Hughes, of 36 Lafayette Drive, Port Chester, New York, died in a tragic car accident on Bowman Avenue; Mr Hughes' sedan hit a telephone pole. It appeared to those on the scene that Mr. Hughes lost control of the car and made no effort to slow his car down prior to striking the pole. He may well have been on his way home -- he had promised his wife the three girls he had a surprise for them - tickets for a winter cruise.

Hughes was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Hughes - he was born in Rhode Island (Pawtucket)His obituaries describe him as a a product of Port Chester schools and began caddying at 9 years of age (1894) for Apawamis Club in Rye. When he was 21 years old, he was promoted to caddy master.

At Apawmais, Mr Hughes taught Gene Sarazen to golf, along with Tony Manero, John Farrell, Paul Runyan, and Morton Dutra.

During his career, other clubs to employ Hughes included Green Meadows County Club, in Harrison, New York (1916-1936) and Tamarack County Club (1936-1938).

While at Green Meadowns, Hughes taught Babe Ruth to golf; Mr. Ruth brought his team mate, Lou Gehrig for lessons as well. He also provided golf instruction to A.K. Bourne, head of Singer Sewing Machine Company.

Some suggested Mr. Gehrig's adoption of golf affected his swing; see Lank Leanard's commentary on that topic.  Hughes merits a mention on this web page by the USGA Musuem (research credit, Meghan Anne McLane Mathis - great great granddaughter of George Hughes)

Hughes married Mary Ellen Gagan in 1912. They had three daughters - Anne Theresa Hughes (McCarthy);Mary Hughes (Stone); and Rita Hughes (Beluk). Both Anne and Mary were known to be solid golfers and were each champions in their own stead. At the time of Mr. Hughes' death, Anne and Mary were graduates of the College of New Rochelle and all three girls attended Ursuline Academy, also in New Rochelle.

Mr. Hughes worshiped at Our Lady of Mercy in Port Chester and was buried from that church on October 13, 1838. Local and State leaders attended is funeral mass; both Ruth and Gehrig sent flowers. He is buried at St. Mary's Cemetery on Ridge Street.

Family folklore says a bit more than the obituaries -- many in Port Chester knew of the accident -- and a few of them saw my grandmother (Anne) and her mother (Mary Ellen) at a store -- none of them mentioned the tragedy -- as they knew Anne and Mary did not know yet. When Anne and Mary arrived home, their family priest gave them the sad news.

Supposedly, George's widow took to her room for a year after his death. When she emerged, she wrote a letter to Mr. Bourne, of the Singer Sewing Machine company, seeking employment. He wrote back and gave her a job as a seamstress demonstrator in New York City. I have made it one of my many goals with this project to pursue that line of the story -- could that letter still exist? Stay tuned.

George Hughes cast a long shadow in the family -- I don't think his daughters ever got over his passing. His widow, my great grandmother, never remarried and when I once asked my mom why -- she gazed at me in near horror -- I don't think the thought had ever occurred to her.

I have an interview he gave "30 Minutes with George Hughes" , talking about golf and how to best teach someone to play -- his speech patterns and word choices demonstrate a respect or awe for golf -- he focused a great deal of the time in this interview detailing hand placement -- "ask a golfer which hand they hit the ball with..." he prompts -- and he explains most would not know.

It strikes me, reading this interview, how much time he must have spent playing golf. And that to me, seems like solitary time -- walking, thinking, hitting, walking again. How many rounds of golf would a pro play in a week? Was it lonely -- or did he love the game that deeply? Was every round unique - most golfers are likely nodding yes -- but I can say, with complete confidence, I don't think I have anything in my life I want to do that often -- or frequently.

What kind of person has that level of interest in one thing? What was George Hughes like? Was he interesting to talk to - or was he interesting only if you were talking about golf?

As always, I jump in, do some research, and end up with more questions. I read once, in a book that inspired me by Amanda Foreman, about Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire - that one night, Georgiana came to the author in a dream -- who among the many I am pondering will visit me?


  1. I noticed something - Bowman Avenue is right across from WestChester Country Club - I wonder if Nan and Mimi thought about the accident a lot - living near the site of it and all. How haunting.

  2. Amy - the interview you mention above, "30 min with..." is that written or audio? Can you post it? From what you wrote it sounds like it's an audio recording? If so that would be really cool. Either way, can you post it? MHM

  3. Papa Hughes did die on Bowman Avenue. Ther has been a great deal of development since 1938. I know that my mom always avoided going on Bowman. I believe the Port Chester Junior High School is on the site of the accident today.
    Do any of you have the story of Papa walking from Green Meadow CC to Rye in the middle of a blizzard & returning with a record and very few supplies?

  4. Hi Thank you for this page I came across it doing research on my Dad, Joe Yusi, He was the Caddy Master at the Apawamis Club since well before I was born in 1958 and may have taken over following the death of George Hughes. My dad passed away in 1968. In the 1930 The Green Meadow CC in Harrison backed on to the Apawamis Club in Rye. I know this because I found this golf story by Albert J. Riccioon on the net it involved My Dad, Joe Yusi
    Albert J. Riccioon writes:

    THIS INCIDENT occurred in 1930 when I was a caddie at Apawamis Club in Rye, N.Y.
    The Apawamis Club and Green Meadow Country Club (as it was known then) were separated by a stone wall and many bushes and trees.
    I was caddieing with Joe Yusi for a group consisting of Otis Guernsey (the elevator heir), John Hanes (of hosiery fame), a Mr. Flowers and Marvin Pierce (Barbara Bush’s father).
    To the right of the Apawamis ninth, a par 3, was the stone wall and greenery, and on the other side was Green Meadow’s 11th, a par 3 running parallel to Apawamis’s ninth but in the opposite direction.
    When the group arrived at the tee, Mr. Guernsey hit a shot high and way right. The other caddie (Joe Yusi) went to look for the ball, and when he returned I asked him why it took so long.
    He said the group playing the 11th at Green Meadow found a ball (Mr. Guernsey’s Ball) in the hole when they arrived at the green. Such a shot today isn’t possible because of the growth of the trees, and if I hadn’t seen the shot myself I wouldn’t have believed it. None of the players in Mr. Guernsey’s group was told of the incident; at that time caddies kept to themselves and so did members.
    A hole-in-one from a tee and green on separate courses is one thing, but what makes this story additionally interesting is that Apawamis Club is in Rye and Green Meadow is in Harrison—two different towns.
    —Albert J. Riccio
    Wilmington, Del

    Albert may sill be alive and if so may be able to help with your research. I located his phone number once about 4 years ago but his daughter advised he was sleeping and couldn't come to the phone.

    Good luck