Claude Gendreau, owner of Ravisloe Country Club, holds a silver golfing trophy given to him by the relative of a woman who won it at the country club more than 100 years ago. | Casey Toner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 5, 2013 6:13AM
A century-old piece of Ravisloe Country Club’s history has returned home thanks to one woman’s trash being another man’s treasure.
Catherine Levy, 63, of Arnprior, Ontario, was getting rid of some stuff in her home when she took a second look at a tarnished golf trophy that had been in her family for more than 100 years.
“It was my mother-in-law’s mother-in-law’s trophy,” Levy said.
She said Blanche Shire Levy, the original owner of the trophy, was the paternal great-grandmother of Levy’s grown children, Camilla, 38, and Brandon, 35, but Levy otherwise knew only that Blanche was a Chicago native born in 1882 who married, moved to Canada and took the trophy with her.
Levy said the trophy remained in the family of golf lovers, and when she first found it 10 years ago, she cleaned it up and put it on a trophy stand “with the rest of our golf trophies.” But when she decided to clear the clutter in her home, the trophy was destined for the trash until she noticed its wording — which revealed the name of Ravisloe Country Club, the 1905 date and “Ladies Club Champion B Flight.”
After a search on the Internet revealed that Ravisloe still existed — Dr. Claude Gendreau purchased the private club in 2008 out of bankruptcy and reopened it as a public course in 2009 — Levy emailed to ask if club officials would want the trophy back at the Homewood club.
“I (was) pretty excited about this, especially to give it back where it came from,” Levy said.
Kurt Uniek, the head golf pro at Ravisloe, informed Levy that the club was very interested in having the trophy come home. He also he wanted to compensate Levy for its return but wasn’t sure how best to do that.
“I’ve been in the industry for about 20 years, and it’s the most selfless thing I’ve ever seen anyone do,” Uniek said of Levy’s gesture. “When I found out where she lived, I thought, ‘I guess a trade for golf is out of the question.’ ”
So Uniek offered to have Ravisloe pay the shipping costs. But Levy told Uniek she “might have a better idea.”
Levy decided to take a road trip with her friend, Brock Sine, to return the trophy in person.
“We’ve never seen that part of the country,” she said. “We’ve never been in Chicago, and we thought why not just make it a holiday? So we drove down and went right to the golf club and everybody was so gracious … and so appreciative, especially Dr. Claude.”
Gendreau said he greatly appreciated the couple making the trip to personally return the trophy, but more important to him was their concern about retaining the history of Ravisloe, 18231 Park Ave.
“I think it reinforces our beliefs that it is important to maintain traditions and extend the life of those venues that are so important to so many, many people … a big part of their lives growing up,” Gendreau said.
Levy and Sine, who played several rounds of golf during their stay, “thoroughly enjoyed Homewood and the country club,” Gendreau said. “They said it was one of the best courses they ever played.”
Gendreau is planning a special visit for the couple when they return to Homewood as his guests when his current renovation project is done — an 18-room boutique hotel, Le Banque. Work on the 1920s building, the former Great Lakes Bank on Ridge Road, has been “moving a little slower than expected,” Gendreau said.
“People can’t wait for it to be open,” he said. “We’re taking the time to do it right.”
When it does open, Gendreau promises that Le Banque will have a “symbiotic relationship” with Ravisloe.
“It’s important to perpetuate those memories, to preserve those iconic places that tie us to our past,” he said.
Gendreau remarked on Levy, a Canadian, returning a 108-year-old trophy to its 112-year-old American home, now owned by Gendreau, a fellow Canadian.
“The fact that the course still existed blew them away,” he said. “It was very exciting that they had such an interest in the history.”