South Shore golf course has intriguing history

It was long after the Indians departed from the Huguenot…Rossville area that a large group of local businessmen, with a flare for the game of golf, purchased a tract of land on the South Shore of Staten Island.

That purchase led to the start of building what they hoped would become the Mayflower Country Club.

With historical records sketchy at best, this reporter relied on the memory of a good friend, Julius J. Deak, who passed in April of 1993 at the age of 75. Deak was a lifetime resident of the area, living just behind what is today the second tee (originally the 11th tee) at the South Shore Golf Course.

During a delightful several hours of chatting with Deak on a bench on that same second tee four years before his passing, a lot of the holes were filled in.

The genial gentleman puffed away on a cigar and told us how the golf course was built in the mid-1920s; and how plenty of dynamite was used to shape the 18-hole layout into one of the best courses on the Island.

Unfortunately, the crash of the stock market in 1929 altered the plans of club members, who were ready to build tennis courts, an indoor swimming pool and much more. They did, however, construct the 19th century Dutch Colonial Revival building as a clubhouse. This building included a restaurant, catering facility, snack bar and a large locker room which still stands today.

The golf course borders land that, at the time, made up the town of Harrisville. It was later referred to as “Little Africa,” after it became a major destination for former slaves on the Underground Railroad in the mid-1800s. It is said to be the first free black community in the nation, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

From the time of the stock market crash until the City of New York took over in 1966, the South Shore Golf Course had many different operators and offered very reasonable greens fees. Deak, in fact, recalled the weekend fee in the 1950s to be $3.50 per round.

The South Shore course attracted most of the top professional boxers in the country for a tournament known as the “Ray Robinson Open” and renowned fighters “Sugar Ray Robinson,” Joe Louis and Beau Jack were regulars. Local golf professionals like Harold “Skinner” Graham and John Murphy were frequently seen at South Shore playing in the same event, along with professionals Cary Middlecoff, and the famed Jim Demaret, who won the Masters three times.

In addition to the fighters and professionals, South Shore became home to many excellent Island players, such as Eddie Sorge, Roy Faber, Lefty Tedesco, Duke Lanahan, Allie Russo, Lou Manzione and Frank Brandefine, to name a few.

The clubhouse which has been steadily improved and expanded over the years, is currently open for bids with the City of New York’s Department of Parks.


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