Glen Garden Country Club is known as the place where Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson once worked as caddies, but the circumstances of its founding are still a subject of debate more than a century later.
The story that has been passed down is that the club’s founder, H.H. Cobb, was denied membership by River Crest Country Club, Fort Worth’s oldest, and started Glen Garden.
It has been repeated in several Star-Telegram articles in the past two years, as well as in a recent book about Hogan and Nelson’s time at the club. It is also posted on Glen Garden’s website.
But Hollace Ava Weiner, author of River Crest Country Club: The First 100 Years: 1911-2011, says the oft-told story simply isn’t true.
In her research for the book, Weiner found that Cobb was listed in River Crest’s bylaws and roster on Oct. 24, 1914.
Weiner also noted that “Cobb’s stockholder certificate was No. 21, ahead of newspaper publisher Amon Carter’s No. 26,” a reference to the former Star-Telegram publisher.
It was a different era and Cobb certainly would have had the means and the associations to be part of River Crest.
“River Crest was not as exclusive then as it later became,” Weiner said. “The main bar to membership, besides race, was the initiation fee. Its membership derived largely from the ranks of the downtown Fort Worth Club. River Crest’s initial roster for 1912 listed seven Jewish men, among them Sam Levy, founding president of Beth-El Congregation, the Reform synagogue. Exclusion came in the early 1920s with the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. Two women became stockholders in 1913.”
Despite Weiner’s research, the story of Cobb’s supposed rejection at River Crest persists around Glen Garden, the city’s second-oldest country club.
Glen Garden is under contract to be bought and converted into a distillery, but the sale is contingent on a zoning change by the city. Some neighborhoods around the club oppose the plan.
Club historian Wendell Waddle, 83, who once shagged balls for Nelson, can’t recall the first time he heard the story about Cobb. But whenever he has talked to sportswriters or club members about Glen Garden’s storied past, the tale always comes up.
“I really think there’s some truth to it, but I can’t prove it,” said Waddle, who started working as a Glen Garden caddie in 1939 and became a member in 1963. “It is something that was passed on through the years, and deep down I feel there was something to it.”
Fort Worth historian Quentin McGown has tried to get to the bottom of the story and agrees with Weiner that it’s nothing more than a legend passed down by members.
“There’s no complete history of Glen Garden,” McGown said. “The only place where I could trace back that rumor was to the club’s history on the website. It just didn’t make sense that Horace Cobb was denied entry. He was too well-connected to be denied membership.”
McGown pursued the angle that Cobb had a disagreement with River Crest that led him to start a new club.
“It was a reasonable leap from denying membership to ‘Why are you leaving this great club to start your own?’ ” McGown said. “But there was nothing to back it up. Things like that usually grow out of some kernel of truth, but if there was something to it, I couldn’t find it.”
Weiner added: “I don’t think there was ever a falling-out.”
Waddle, who still plays golf at Glen Garden three times a week, is more concerned about what will happen to the club than about how it began.
“I’m hoping some avid golfer with a pocket of money will come forward and say, ‘I’ll buy it,’ and we’ll continue,” Waddle said. “If it closes, it will make me sick.”