In 1895 Charles Sands joined the Saint Andrew’s Golf Club and began playing the game of golf.
In October of that year, just three months after taking up the game, he completed in the first official U.S. Amateur Tournament, held at Newport Golf Club. Intending merely to gain competitive experience, Sands emerged from the initial group of 32 contestants and four rounds of match play to reach the finals and meet Charles Blair Macdonald of the Chicago Golf Club, who was heavily favored to win the Championship. Played over 36 holes, Sands’ inexperience finally showed through and he was defeated by MacDonald 12 &11. Nonetheless, Charles Sands, in his first year of play, had made a remarkable start in the game of golf and his potential for future success was recognized.
Later in the fall of 1895, Sands defeated another notable amateur of the time, Winthrop Rutherford, in a high-stakes grudge match played at New York’s Meadow Brook Golf Club. Talking about the just-completed U.S. Amateur Tournament, Rutherford had commented that Sands “was not much of a player,” which led to a $1,000-a-side challenge match that Sands won 3&2. The contest drew a large gallery and tremendous media attention, elevating Sands to celebrity status in Eastern amateur golf circles.