Dan Davies recalls the remarkable stories of the 17-year-old prodigy from Chicago who won a team gold medal on the last occasion golf featured at the Olympics, and the 46-year-old champion who celebrated victory by walking on his hands
Consolation for Egan came in the team event, in which the 10 men representing the Western Golf Association, including Robert E. Hunter, ran out comfortable winners. Each of the team’s members received a solid gold medal — the St Louis Olympics was the first to award gold, silver and bronze medals, and one of only two Olympics to offer medals of solid gold.
The 14-carat golf medals had been designed by Colonel George McGrew, founder and president of Glen Echo C.C. and the driving force behind the Olympic event being staged at the course. When called up to receive his gold medal and ornate silver trophy at the awards dinner, Lyon shocked those present by walking the length of the room on his hands — a spectacle that is also unlikely to be emulated in Rio de Janeiro.
According to an article by the Golf Channel’s Jason Sobel, after accepting the gold medal upside-down, Lyon told the Toronto Star, ‘I am not foolish enough to think that I am the best player in the world, but I am satisfied that I am not the worst.’
Robert E. Hunter went on to win numerous titles, including two highly prestigious Intercollegiate Championships (now known as the NCAA Division 1 Championship) with Yale University in 1909 and 1910. In the latter, held at the Essex Country Club, he also won individual honours, a distinction he shares with greats of the game including Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Tom Watson. Hunter made his living as an investment banker before passing away in 1971 aged 84.
Chandler Egan went on to successfully defend his US Amateur title in 1905, and represented America in the Walker Cup in 1930 and again in 1934. He also became a highly respected golf course designer, working for a time alongside Alistair Mackenzie, one of the most celebrated golf architects in history and a man who played an instrumental role in the creation of Augusta National alongside the great Bobby Jones. Egan died in 1936.
In 2015 Egan’s Olympic individual silver medal and team gold medal were discovered at the bottom of a bookcase on a farm in Ohio. They had belonged to his daughter, who had lived to the age of 101. The medals are currently on display in a special Olympic exhibit at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Florida.
According to Michael G. Cochrane, author of Olympic Lyon: The Untold Story of the Last (and Lost) Gold Medal for Golf, George Lyon returned home to a hero’s welcome. He went on to win numerous other championships before founding the Canadian Seniors’ Golf Association and being elected President of the Royal Canadian Golf Association. He died in Toronto in 1938, and was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 1971.
The Championship Cup awarded to Lyon after his Olympic triumph now resides at the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in Oakville, Ontario, but his gold medal — the last individual gold medal awarded for golf — has never been found.
Aside from those awarded to Egan and Hunter, there is thought to be only one other surviving gold medal from the 1904 Olympic golf team event. ‘These medals appeal to such a broad audience,’ Mike Trostel, senior curator for the United States Golf Association Museum, toldGolf Digest magazine after Egan’s medals were discovered. ‘You have sports fans, golf fans, and then you have Olympics fans, so it touches a broad cross-section of people. It’s not just something in the golf world. It transcends that.’ In 2016, those golfers competing in Brazil will discover how.