Philadelphia Golf Legends: Aronimink’s Trip O’Donnell
Although his name may suggest otherwise, William “Trip” O’Donnell, III didn’t stumble onto the Golf Association of Philadelphia scene.
At age 14, he earned medalist honors in the 1960 Junior Boys’ Championship at St. Davids Golf Club. The budding Brookside Country Club member lost to legend R. Jay Sigel, 2&1, in the quarterfinals, but established his footprint on the Junior circuit. He finished as runner-up in consecutive years, falling to Stephen Probst, 4&3, in 1961 and Thomas Hyndman, 2&1, in 1962. O’Donnell also achieved runner-up status in the 1962 Pennsylvania Golf Association Junior Championship, when he again lost to Probst, this time in 19 holes at Lancaster Country Club.
But O’Donnell shed his silver status a year later. He earned medalist honors in the GAP Junior Boys’ Championship on his home course and defeated clubmate Michael Rowland, 4&3, for the title. O’Donnell knocked off Tom Hacket, 3&2, to win the state crown at Hershey Country Club.
During the 1960s, O’Donnell gained match play in six GAP Amateur Championships. His longest run came in 1966 when he reached the final at St. Davids. O’Donnell lost to Chicago transplant and former pro Jim King, 2-up. He also finished as runner-up in the Pennsylvania Amateur to Sigel at Lancaster that year.
O’Donnell, a Pottstown, Pa. native, qualified for the U.S. Amateur in 1964 and 1966. He attempted to qualify in 1968 at Wilmington Country Club, but incurred a two-stroke penalty on the 17th hole and then fell in a playoff after Buena Vista Country Club’s Vallier Anderson holed a 100-yard shot.
O’Donnell played in the No. 1 spot on Duke University’s golf team. Post graduation, he attended the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1970, O’Donnell joined Arnold Palmer’s newfound golf course design company, serving as his liaison in the business’s New York City office. Through that opportunity, he accompanied real estate developer Peter Rummel to Florida and founded the golf resort at Amelia Island. O’Donnell turned professional to manage the facility’s golf operations.
In 1977, he regained his amateur status and relocated to Chicago for a position with Wilson Sporting Goods. Family and business, though, kept competitive golf on the backburner. In 1979, O’Donnell moved to Newtown Square, Pa. and joined Whitford Country Club. He and clubmate Jack Holland won the 1982 GAP Four-Ball Stroke Play Championship at — you guessed it — St. Davids. O’Donnell also competed on Whitford’s triumphant GAP Team Matches squad that year. A decade later, he and son Will captured the Father & Son (Younger) at Plymouth Country Club.
Today, O’Donnell works in the hospital software business. He is a member at Pine Valley and Aronimink Golf Club, serving as chairman of the latter’s traditions committee. O’Donnell enjoys playing golf for fun — with a decorated competitive career in his rearview.
The Legends video series features prominent local players recalling their experiences and accomplishments both on and off the golf course. This is the 12th installment in the series.
Founded in 1897, the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) is the oldest regional golf association in the United States and serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. Its 150 Member Clubs and 55,000 individual members are spread across parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. As Philadelphia’s Most Trusted Source of Golf Information, the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.