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  In the photos, he is first a handsome, confident young Harvard man, hands wrapped around the top prize in American amateur golf: the 1904 U.S. National Amateur Championship.

And then suddenly he is a middle-aged man in plus-fours, dark hair going gray, face lined from the sun and teeth clenched on the ever-present pipe.

In between, we find no photos, no record chronicling his disappearance from the game or his barnstorming return. No glimpses of him among the blossoms of his apple and pear trees, no captured moments of concentration as he planned a rolling fairway on one of the many golf courses he designed. Something like a quarter of century passes unrecorded—half of the too-short life of Henry Chandler Egan.

He was born into a socially prominent Chicago family in 1884, with a silver spoon, if not a mashie, in his mouth. As the 19th century was ending, the Midwest had become the center of American golf—the first 18-hole golf course in America was built in 1893 just outside of Chicago. At age 12, Egan played his first game of golf in Lake Geneva, Wis., where his family escaped the steamy Chicago summers. Three years before the founding of Eugene Country Club, the man who would design the “new” course nearly three decades later had found his game.

“The next summer,” Egan recalled, just before his death, “my brother and I, aided by other boys in the neighborhood, built a nine-hole course up and down the street parkway, over the neighboring lawns and through the Egan cow pasture. With two irons, which cost a dollar each, we had a lot of fun on the makeshift course for two summers, until 1899, when my father joined Exmoor Country Club.”
By the time Egan went east to Harvard in 1902—just six years after he first touched a club—he was one of the best golfers in the country. At 18, he was slightly built, but blessed with enormously strong wrists that gave him tremendous (and occasionally wild) power. He could snap the ball out of rough that could pass for a wheatfield. He thrilled galleries with his prodigious recovery shots. (He was also a fine tennis player, and years later he won the Oregon State Tennis Championship.)

Egan’s first major victory on the golf course came at the 1902 Western Amateur, played in Wheaton, Ill. It was a family affair—albeit played at a venue much improved over the neighbor’s cow pasture—and he defeated his cousin Walter Egan, also one of the leading American golfers of the time. “Chan” was Western Amateur runner-up in 1903, when Walter had his revenge, then regained the title in 1904 and again in 1907.

From 1902 through 1904, Chandler Egan captained what may well have been the greatest golf team in the history of Harvard University. He won the national intercollegiate championship in 1903, but his eyes were on a higher prize: the U.S. National Amateur.

In September of 1904 Egan took his classical swing, long-hitting power and solid all-around game to Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey to play the U.S. Amateur, which had been dominated for several years by the great Walter Travis. The 20-year-old Chicagoan won the 54-hole qualifying event going away, then took the match-play finals with a 54-hole total of 242—a low score in those days wood-shafted clubs and less-than-lively golf balls.

A year later, he defended his national title at the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Ill., the site of his first Western Amateur victory. Egan had now, at the age of 21, captured two Western Amateurs, two national amateur championships and the intercollegiate title. All while studying at and graduating from Harvard. He would finish second at the national championship in 1909. For the first few years of the 20th century, Chandler Egan was the greatest amateur golfer in America. Only one title slipped from his grasp: the gold medal at the 1904 St. Louis Olympic Games.

Olympic golf in those days meant playing 36 holes a day for six days, 18 in the morning and 18 in the afternoon. In the Olympic tournament (a meeting at the Glen Echo course of 70 Americans and three Canadians, the British players having chosen not to come), the final matched the smooth young Egan against a 46-year-old Canadian named George Lyon, possessed of an odd, unwieldy swing (described by one golf reporter as “a man heaving coal into a furnace”) and nerves of steel.

Lyon was the surprise of the tournament, hitting with incredible distance and accuracy, and putting with a previously unrevealed precision. Egan had arrived at the finals with predicted ease, and was favored to end the upstart Lyon’s roll. Observers of the event found it unthinkable that the 20-year-old national champion, “the epitome of style,” could fall victim to the much older and far less graceful Lyon.
They played the final in a torrential downpour. So much water pooled on the course that the players used irons on the green, chipping over puddles of standing water to get near the hole. The greenskeeper borrowed a broom from a street car conductor standing just over the boundary fence and furiously swept water off the greens as the twosome approached.

Although Egan was used to hitting his drives past everyone, Lyon consistently out-hit him on every hole. Several of the older man’s drives passed 300 yards. In response, Egan began swinging too hard and grew wild off the tee. On the 33rd hole he was down two and in trouble. He knocked his tee shot into the rough and his second shot into a tree. His third shot flew dangerously right and hit another tree. It was all over—Lyon quietly put the match away, carrying home a gold medal the size of a salad plate and a massive gold-plated Olympian cup—considered in those long-ago days to be the finest prizes ever awarded in the game of golf.

After finishing as runner-up in the 1909 nationals, Egan abruptly disappeared from competition, as well as from the historical record. Then in May of 1911, he surfaced several thousand miles and several lifestyles west in the small town of Medford, Oregon. He’d decided to abandon the comforts and excitement of the big city for 115 acres of apples and pears.

The front-page-top headline in the Medford Mail-Tribune read “Noted Bates Orchard Sells for $75,000.” This printed above the news of a killer heat wave in Chicago and a visit to Portland by then-Governor Woodrow Wilson. One of the area’s finest orchards, according to the story, heavy with Newton and Jonathan apples and D’Anjou pears, had been sold to the “famous amateur golf champion and Chicagoan.”

So, for awhile, Chandler Egan found himself a long way from the nearest golf course (which at that time may well have been the first Eugene Country Club course). But it wasn’t long before he was asked to design a golf course in the Medford area, and his 25-year tenure as a golf architect began. The Tualitan Country Club in Portland was next, and in 1918 Egan designed the Eastmoreland course in Portland, followed by courses in Seaside and Coos County. ((add characterization of his courses, if ya got it))

One summer day in 1914, the 30-year-old orchardist, who hadn’t played competitive golf in five years, dusted off his clubs and entered the Pacific Northwest Amateur championship. He finished second, rekindling his tournament fire. The following year, he won the Pacific Northwest championship, as he did in 1920, 1923, 1925 and 1932. In eight appearances in the event, he never failed to reach the semi-finals. At the 1921 Northwest, in which he finished second, Egan hit what one golf magazine of the day called “the greatest golf shot we ever saw.” On the tenth at Waverly, Egan decided he could pick up some ground by attacking the green, which required hitting the ball over a large stand of trees and carrying it over the greenskeeper’s cottage. His shot soared over the obstacles, landing on the green three feet from the cup.

Egan was coming to dominate golf in the Northwest as he had in the Midwest. He went south to win the California Amateur in 1926.

Early in the Roaring ‘20s, Egan was approached by a group from Eugene who had just purchased a beautiful, tree-covered, occasionally flood-prone tract of farmland. Egan created the wonderful new course at Eugene Country Club over the same productive years that he designed or remodeled Waverly Country Club, Oswego Lake Country Club and Riverside Country Club in Portland. His work at ECC was some of his finest.

Egan fell in love with the Monterey Peninsula in the late 1920s, eventually moving to Del Monte to undertake a significant renovation of the famous Pebble Beach course, working with Robert Hunter. He completed the redesign in 1928. Through Hunter, Egan met internationally acclaimed British golf architect Dr. Alister Mackenzie, and the two partnered for a short time. When they announced thier affiliation, a golf magazine described Egan’s principle occupation as “pear rancher,” which calls to mind tiny little lassos and very careful horses. Egan’s work at Pebble Beach was his highest profile architecture, praised at the time by the early 20th century’s most famous golf architect, A.W. Tillinghast. Today, however, Egan is seldomed credited with the design of the famous course.
The 1929 U.S. Amateur, played for the first time on the west coast at the Pebble Beach course Egan had remodeled for the event, marked the return of H. Chandler Egan to the national golf scene. At the age of 45, he reached the semifinals and was the talk and the toast of the championship.

The following year, Egan was named to the U.S. Walker Cup team and in the words of Northwest Golfer traveled “across the pond to the old sod” of England, playing some great golf on the way to the cup title. He was selected for the Cup team again in 1934, three decades after he first won the U.S. Amateur championship. Fifty years old, Egan was legendary for both his sportsmanship and his play—and fresh from an upset win over the young U.S. Open champion Johnny Goodman, whom he defeated in the first round of the 1933 U.S. Amateur. Both Egan and Goodman, also a Walker Cup team member, played brilliantly as America took the cup at St. Andrews. The sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote of Egan: “He represents one of the most remarkable figures left in golf. [Egan is] a fine swinger and a cool, stout-hearted competitor.”

Egan returned to great acclaim and “grand old man of golf” status after his second Walker Cup, splitting time between homes in Medford and Del Monte. Much in demand, he designed North Fulton Municipal Golf Course in Georgia in 1935. He began work on West Seattle Golf Course early in 1936. Shortly thereafter he went north to Everett, Wash., to design a course for the American Legion Memorial Park. It would be his last.

On March 30, 1936, Chandler Egan came down with pneumonia while working on the Everett course. He was hospitalized, but his condition continued to worsen. Baffled, the doctors tried several treatments. Nothing worked, and Egan grew progressively weaker. On April 5, he died. It was an unexpected shock to everyone familiar with the game of golf. “My heart bleeds when I think that H. Chandler Egan is no more,” wrote golf author and magazine editor D. Scott Chisholm in the rich prose of the time. “There was a champion to the very core. He possessed every fine and gracious quality; he represented the very essence of what a champion should be. In the heat of battle, he preferred to help an opponent, never to hinder him. He was an outstanding credit to golf and a grand example for our youth to follow.”
Another golf magazine wrote: “When Chandler Egan passed to the Fairways Beyond, golfdom lost one of its most lovable characters.” And the editors of the Oregonian wrote: “In a more delectable land than our own, and far more spacious, the native meadows and swales would be naturally adapted to use as greens and fairways. It is a reflection that comes to one with word of the passing of H. Chandler Egan, a champion of the game called golf—a great champion and a courteous one.”

In the final photo, taken after his death, Chan isn’t even there—just two men in heavy coats looking at Egan’s model for a lovely green on the West Seattle course. But somewhere just out of sight, it’s easy to believe there is a confident man in plus-fours, club in hand, planning to lift the ball high over the trees.
   
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