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The Background

The 1921 U.S. Open was brought to Columbia by a summation of a lot of hard work beginning in 1912. Mr. Emmons Smith became the 4th President of the club that year, and with Mr. L.W. Estes and Dr. Walter Harban served with an iron fist from 1912 to 1920. Mr. Smith pledged to upgrade the facilities and demand “a gentlemanly level of decorum” amongst the membership as a whole. During this time, Smith and Estes, donated a refreshment house at the seventh green, needless to say, an important place that has become an oasis for all. Dr. Harban, Chairman of the Green Committee, announced to the Board that he had succeeded in engaging Fred McLeod, the 1908 U.S. Open Champion to become the Golf Professional at Columbia. 


World War I erupted in 1914 which greatly impacted the Club. Columbia staged an exhibition match with Fred McLeod, Chick Evans, Jim Barnes, and Walter Hagen that raised $5,000 for the DC Red Cross. During all of this organizing, financing, building, and war effort, the integrating force of the Club was its social activity. It promoted the collegiality which is still the hallmark of Columbia today.


The course originally designed by H.H. Barker didn’t really need much alteration to host the Open, but Walter Travis made several suggestions which Dr. Harban devoted his time to those improvements in preparation of possibly hosting the Championship. The result was a course that Harry Vardon and Ted Ray visited several months before, and shared with everyone that Columbia was the best course they had played in our country, and its been said this commendation strongly influenced the selection of Columbia Country Club for the national event.  By the time the ’21 Open was ready to be played, the trees around the clubhouse had matured nicely along with the Club itself. 

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President Harding

In 1921, Warren Harding was the first – and only – sitting U.S. President to award the U.S. Open Trophy. He presented it to champion Jim Barnes, whose nine-stroke victory at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md., remains the third-largest in championship history.


View this video on Harding's historic visit to the championship.

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