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Daniel Willard Eckman Jr.

The Rev. Daniel Willard Eckman Jr., son of Daniel Willard Eckman Sr. and Ada Viola Jones Eckman, entered into glory on February 28th, 2015. Read more.

BIRDIES FOR THE CLERGY: Biennial golf competition brings together priests of Anglican Church

Tom Ely of the United States, left, and David Sceats of Scotland, right, started the Cranmer Cup competition for clergymen of the Anglican Church in 2000. Shawn Griffith, pastor at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Gastonia, center, has participated in the past four competitions.


The Cranmer CupGASTONIA — Nothing goes together quite like golf and … men of the cloth?
That’s the case for a group of clergymen who have carried on the tradition of a Ryder Cup-like event for 14 years.
Every two years, a group of priests from the United States and Canada golf against a team of priests from Great Britain and Ireland in five rounds of match play. They’re all connected through the Anglican Church, so they vie for the Cranmer Cup, named for Thomas Cranmer, former Archbishop of Canterbury and author of the first Book of Common Prayer.
The event came this week to Gaston Country Club, where the United States and Canada prevailed.
“Winning is important but not as important as the fellowship,” said Shawn Griffith, priest at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in downtown Gastonia. “I mentioned during our reception (Thursday) night, for most of us this has become about relationship and as soon as this one is over, we already start making plans for two years from now.”
In fact, those plans are already made as the group has determined that the 2016 tournament will take place at The Celtic Manor Resort in Wales.
Tom Ely of the United States and David Sceats of Scotland started the event in 2000. The two first met in 1998 at a church conference in Nevada, where they played a round a golf.
“The Church of England played matches each year against the Church of Wales, the Church of Scotland and the Church of Ireland,” Sceats said. “I was telling Tom about that and I can’t remember where the idea came from now but we said wouldn’t it be neat to have an event that involved the USA and the churches in Britain?”
When Ely took a sabbatical in England in 1999 with Sceats as his host, Ely had a chance to fill in for an injured Wales golfer in a match against England.
“That was my first experience with that kind of interchurch competition and after that I was hooked,” Ely said. “So then David and I sat down while I was on sabbatical and cooked this up.”
The original competition took place in England, with the United States winning.
“It was just such a success,” Sceats said. “We said after, we can’t just stop there. We’ve got to go on. The rest is history as they say.”
In 2002, the event moved to the United States, specifically at Bagby State Park in Georgia. Every two years, the site alternates between the United Kingdom and the United States. Other stops in the United States have been Seabrook Island, S.C., and Knoxville, Tenn. Griffith was the group’s connection to Gaston Country Club, as he’s been a member for eight years.
“The people out here at the country club were just outstanding in the way that they welcomed and cared for our people,” Griffith said. “Gaston Country Club should be very proud of the way that they welcomed this group.”
This year’s competition pitted two groups of 16. The golfers aren’t always the same from one Cup to the next. Sometimes the expense (usually $4,000 to $5,000) can make it difficult to recruit new golfers.
From the original Cup in 2000, four from the United States/Canada team five from the Great Britain/Ireland team played this week. The United States/Canada team ranged in age from 50 to 80, with their golf handicaps as low as seven and as high as 26. The Great Britain/Ireland team included golfers of ages 51 to 74 with handicaps from eight to 24.
The United States, which added Canada to its team in 2012, leads the series 6-1-1. This side of the ocean won the first three Cups and the last three. Great Britain and Ireland won in 2006, and the two sides tied in 2008.
The winner of each tournament receives the Cranmer Cup, a brass jug that sits on a wooden base adorned by a name plate. The results from each tournament are engraved on smaller plates.
The Cup is a coveted thing for these golfers, but not as coveted as the fellowship.
“We need this kind of time together,” Ely said. “It’s the relationships, I think, and the spirit of the competition.”
Phillip Gardner: 704-869-1843;