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BENNINGTON — The Mount Anthony Country Club celebrated 125 years of continuous operation on Saturday, with a golf tournament in the afternoon followed by a reception, live music and dinner in the evening, attended by over 100 members.

Prior to dinner, Bennington historian Phil Holland took on the task of encapsulating a century and a quarter of the country club’s history and its unbroken chain of ownership throughout. Holland began with a reminder of where the club had come from, recounting its humble beginnings as just several holes laid out on a farm by visiting sportsmen, who were disappointed that there was nowhere to play the sport that was booming in popularity with people of means.

Holland highlighted that Mount Anthony Country Club was always open to women, a point of pride at the club. 

The bulk of Holland’s presentation chronicled what, in many ways, was not just the story of the country club, but of Bennington itself. The trials and tribulations that the club endured, both nationally and locally, are what make its 125-year run so impressive.

The Mount Anthony Country Club has withstood two World Wars, a fire that burned down the clubhouse in 1957, and Hurricane Irene and the resulting flood in 2011. The club was almost forced to close its doors amid the strains of the Great Depression in 1939, but several Bennington-area businessmen came together to pay for a revitalization that attracted new members.

Holland also struck a chord among the crowd with a quote from Bronze Star recipient Jay Jerome, who was instrumental in the expansion of the club after returning from service in World War II.

“My greatest satisfaction comes from making Mount Anthony truly a course for the people of Bennington — a poor community when compared to the wealthy summer visitors and residents of Old Bennington who founded the club,” Jerome had stated.

That spirit of accessibility is something that the club prides itself on, both in being open to the public for anyone that pays greens fees, and being the first course to open and last to close in the state of Vermont every year.

While the club is happy to be the golf course of choice for the everyman, it is also where some of the best golfers in the area have learned to play. Most notably, PGA pro Keegan Bradley, who is ranked 43rd in the world, played much of his golf in high school right here in Bennington.

David Griffin and Maru Leon-Griffin are the club’s current owners, and have been for the past 16 years. Maru Leon-Griffin decided that such a significant anniversary was worthy of commemorating in style, but also of reflection on the club’s origins and how it survived (and thrived) through adversity. Unfortunately, they didn’t possess much in the way of photos to tell that story.

“When we purchased the club, there was very little left as far as archives. So we had nothing to go by to build the history,” she said. “I really needed to hire a professional to help.”

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Enter Holland, who worked in Bennington College’s English department for 12 years. 


Holland’s presence in front of the audience, coupled with his research skills, made him the perfect choice to tell the club’s story.

Even without knowledge of Holland’s previous occupation, one might guess from his presence in front of the room that he was an experienced lecturer. His promise of a presentation of “90 slides in 12 minutes” was only broken by pauses for laughter or applause .

He drew some laughs when he quoted a 1932 report from the Vermont Commission on Country Life that recommended Vermonters find recreational activities in their downtime, but that “... golf is too much like going after cows to be compensating recreation in the routine of a farmer.”

A roar of approval also sprang from the crowd when Holland reached the slide that covered the country club allowing the sale of beer in 1933.

Ultimately, as those in attendance at the country club learned from Holland’s research, the club has a rich history and a seemingly bright future. Holland was grateful for the help of the Price and Jerome families, as well as Bennington Museum, and photos from Greg Nesbit, Logan Ripley and David Barnum.

“Everyone cooperated, and I just kept learning more,” he said. “The story kept getting better, and I’m pleased to be telling it.”

Leon-Griffin was also humbled by the events of the day and the remarkable fortitude that it took to make Mount Anthony Country Club one of the oldest courses in the country, and the second longest-tenured in the state to only Dorset.

“We feel very fortunate and very proud to be the keepers of this beautiful piece of land,” she said. “My husband is very passionate about golf courses and their care. … When we purchased this business, we were like, ‘OK, we know we have a mission.’”


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