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Fire destroys golf clubhouse down the road from Merion

January 05, 2016

This year is the centennial of Cobbs Creek Golf Club, a muny in western Philadelphia. It was named after its most diabolical hazard, which also runs along the eastern edge of Merion Golf Club, a few miles away. Merion and the Crick -- as intimates often call the older of Cobbs Creek's two courses -- share an architect as well: Hugh Wilson, who designed Merion's East Course in 1912 and created the Crick four years later.


The photo above is of the Crick's clubhouse as it looked when I visited, two years ago. (You can read about that visit here and here and here.) On Monday night, the clubhouse burned down:

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I learned about the fire from Hank Church and Paul Cornely, who are members of Cobbs Creek's principal men's group, the Cobbs Creek Publinks Golf Club. "What I've heard is that it started around 11:00 last night and took more than two hours to control," Cornely told me. "The cause isn't known, but it looks like the fire started near the lunchroom/beer tap area." That's the area in the back right of the photo below, which shows the Publinks group in happier times:


"It's a sad day for many," Church said. "That was my home-away-from-home for 50 years." When I met Church, in 2013, he'd just had 10 inches of his large intestine removed, and although he wasn't playing again yet he had shown up anyway, to hang around in the clubhouse and show his scar to his friends:


"On Sunday, we had our typical group, 15 players," Cornely said, "and then we had a few laughs and beverages." The players on Sunday included Lou Camilli, who is just four years younger than the golf course. He was in the Marine Corps during World War II, and fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima. Three years ago, his optometrist's receptionist gave him back a form he'd filled out and told him he'd made a mistake, because the birthdate he'd written down would make him 93. "That's what I am," he told her. "And I've still got heat in my oven." He plays more than 200 rounds a year:


Here's a video of the fire, shot by Frank Wesnoski:

"The Temp was 11 degrees with a windchill of -5," Wesnoski writes. "A steady wind was blowing the fire from the front to back. . . . The building was destroyed. Salt crews were requested from both the City and Upper Darby for icing conditions." And here are some photos of the aftermath, which Bob Zecca and Mike Harms, both Publinks members, took this morning:


Great group, great course, great clubhouse. Too bad.