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Union League seeks Phila golf course deal

Torresdale-Frankford in talks

The Union League has been in talks with representatives of the Torresdale-Frankford Country Club on Grant Ave. in Northeast Philadelphia. A joint venture could give the League a home course just a 20-minute drive from Center City, while also helping Torresdale-Frankford and its 1920s-era Donald Ross-designed course through the current golf industry recession, according to people familiar with the situation.

The Torresdale-Frankford club, like other historic clubs, has had a tough time raising membership contributions to update its buildings. The club had considered a sale of its buildings and parking to Holy Family University, but that deal wasn't consummated, the university's president, Sister Francesca Onley, told me. Club backers now hope the Union League deal would make a sale unnecessary.

The League, whose current "Union League Golf Club" affiliate offers players a Philadelphia-area golf tour through a string of local courses (including exclusive links like Aronimink and Bidermann, though not Torresdale-Frankford), was outbid last year in an attempt to buy the ailing Woodcrest Country Club in Cherry Hill by developer First Montomery Group.

Torresdale-Frankford had a long reputation as one of the area's predominantly Catholic clubs (like Irish-American-oriented Overbrook and Huntington Valley) at a time when many suburban clubs were predominantly Protestant (and Woodcrest, for example, was Jewish). The club was one of the first in the area to admit Asian-American members.

"I hope they can save it. I have a lot of nice memories of my whole family up there," Wendell Young IV, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 and one of many Northeast Philadelphia natives who remembers better times on Grant Ave., told me.