Mount Union has history with oldest par 6

MOUNT UNION – The American Legion Country Club, one of the oldest 18-hole golf courses in central Pennsylvania, will host its 40th annual best-ball tournament this weekend.

Huntingdon’s Scott Ulrich and Dustin Border will be back to defend their title from last year after scoring a two-day total of 13-under par, 135.

This picturesque semi-private club located near Mount Union has quite a history – one that stretches back to 1926, when local businessman R.P.M. Davis led a group of prominent citizens in spearheading efforts to build a large club along the Juniata, where members could enjoy all types of outdoor activities.

Stock in the new venture was sold to raise the capital necessary for this ambitious plan, which included construction of the golf course, a clubhouse, swimming pool, tennis courts, horse stables and a large dam that would stretch across the Juniata River.

The remainder of the vast club grounds would be divided into nearly 1,000 building lots. The lots would be available to stockholders for the purpose of building cottages, which could also be offered as rentals to guests.

The name of this new organization reflected the optimistic ambition of its founders – the Juniata Valley Colony Club.

The Colony Club prospered from its beginning. Stock options sold at a tremendous rate, and some of the earliest members included Pennsylvania governor William Sproul, PRR president General W.W. Atterbury and Penn State University president Ralph D. Hetzel.

When the golf course opened in 1927, the club boasted an impressive 644 members, with a long waiting list in tow. At that time, a tremendous amount of work was being done to complete additional club projects.

By 1928, the country club had 200 men on its payroll – at the going rate of 25 cents per hour.

The club was prospering for nearly a decade when disaster suddenly struck. On March 17, 1936, the infamous St. Patrick’s Day flood washed out the club’s dam, several cottages and did extensive damage to the golf course.

As a result of this disaster, the Juniata Valley Colony Club was forced into bankruptcy. Club member Robert Yocum purchased the distressed property in 1936 and eventually sold it in 1937 to its present owner, the American Legion.

For more than 70 years, the American Legion has successfully managed the club, making it one of the top sporting attractions in Huntingdon County.

The club is well-known for having the oldest par-6 hole in the country. Mount Union’s seventh hole is a lengthy, uphill monster that stretches out to a strenuous 638 yards from the back tees. This unusual hole is just one of the club’s 18 scenic holes that add up to a stout par of 74.

Additionally, the club is known by central Pennsylvania golfers for its annual best-ball tournament, held each year at the end of June.

“It’s our busiest week of the year,” club manager Dave Hummel said. “We’ll have a full field again this year, with a total of 128 teams.”

In addition to local golfers, the tournament attracts many teams from York and Fulton counties, along with several from Maryland. A significant amount of golfers also travel from Altoona and other Blair County areas.

Mount Union resident Chris Whitsel will be playing in his seventh tournament this year.

“I love the atmosphere and camaraderie of playing in this tournament,” Whitsel said. “They have a great group of guys here at Mount Union. I love the fun, fellowship and enthusiasm of the entire weekend.”