History Walk – Golf From 1900-1909 Eastern Ontario/Outaouais

Karl Keffer
Karl Keffer
Karl Keffer

In 2000 Flagstick published a 8500 word article by Editor Scott MacLeod about golf in the magazine’s coverage region, noting highlights from just over a century of golf in the region of Ottawa, the Ottawa Valley, Outaouais, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and Kingston/Quinte.

Meticulously scouring newspapers and journals from the area for months we compiled notable information to share.

For the next little while in our weekly History Walk posts we will share decade segments from the original story.

This week’s instalment –

1900-1909

By golf was becoming more common throughout the region and many informal courses existed.  Many did not have enough members or resources to become more organized clubs and matches consisted of meetings in whatever spaces were available. Sports like cycling, rowing, and lacrosse dominated the sports headlines and there were few mentions of golf in the local papers. The leading story and concern was for the Boer War raging in southern Africa. This would be the first of the wars that would draw many Canadians attentions away from sporting pursuits.  You could buy outdoor sporting shoes at the Slater Shoe Store at 84 Sparks Street in Ottawa for $3.50 with rubber soles and $5 with leather ones. Their advertisement of the day carried a picture with a golfer shown prominently. Golf was growing south of the border as well with the papers reporting 116 entries for the United States Amateur at the Garden City Golf Links in New Jersey.

One of the greatest parts of the game in the region began in 1900; that of the inter-club or inter-city match. These social but competitive occasions would lead to the spread of interest in golf throughout the nation. The big match this year was between the Montreal and Ottawa courses. The Montreal course was being expanded to eighteen holes so the match was held off until mid-September.  The Ottawa team for that season consisted of G.H. Perley, A.Z. Palmer, R. Gormully, N.C. Sparks, A.B. Broderick, S.H. Fleming, G.C. Grant, and Robert Gill. Other matches that season would include a Canadian contingent including J.G. Averell of Ottawa heading to the Rochester Country Club to take on the Americans. While Canada would lose 21up total, it was an important first step. This event and a later match between a Montreal team and a Brookline (Boston,Mass.) team would pave the way for regular matches between the Canadian Golf Association and the United States Golf Association.

By 1904, the Perth Courier records matches between Smith Falls and Perth. This was the first Smith Falls Golf Club that is talked about as early as 1901 but meets its demise in 1951. This year would also see Ottawa Golf Club professional J.H. Oke Ottawa Golf Club win the first Canadian Open with a 36-hole score of 156 at Royal Montreal Golf Club.

The Canadian Open would make its first appearance at Royal Ottawa in 1906 with Charles Murray of Montreal winning at 170. This was over the current location for the Ottawa Golf Club on Aylmer Road.  This was also the first year of the major championship “doubles” at a local course. The Ottawa Golf hosted the Canadian Amateur as well and saw George S. Lyon wins the 5th of his eight Canadian Amateur titles.  The next year would also see the club host the Canadian Ladies Amateur. Across town the eventual Ottawa Hunt & Golf club was born as the Ottawa Hunt Club with no golf in sight for another 12 years. 1907 also was when the Picton Golf Club officially formed providing golfing pleasure for the Bay Of Quinte area for the first time.

In 1909 Karl Keffer, Toronto Golf Club Assistant Professional and soon to be a person that would soon have an impact on Ottawa, won the Canadian Open at Toronto Golf Club. He was and is the only Canadian-born professional to win the Canadian Open.

In 1909 P.D. Ross, the Scottish born journalist and Publisher of the Ottawa Journal is President of Ottawa Golf Club.  He retains this office for two years. He is also made an honorary President at the Ottawa Hunt Club from 1930-1932. Trophies including the C.P.G.A. Championship trophy and championships at both Ottawa Hunt & Royal Ottawa are named after him.

The Fires

In 1909, a tradition started at the Ottawa Golf Club that unfortunately would be repeated far too many times throughout the region for the next century. This was the year of their first clubhouse fire.  Building fires were common at this time due to the mostly wood construction materials and lack of safety awareness by employees and members. Most early fires were totally devastating with fire services being limited and many golf courses being in remote location. The list of fires at golf courses in the region would include clubhouses at Royal Ottawa (twice, second one 1930), Cornwall G&CC, Ottawa Hunt & Golf, Mississippi GC and Cataraqui G&CC to mention but a few. While most courses recovered, it had a deep financial impact on them but usually lead to the construction of a better facility in the end.  One of the greatest side effects of these blazes was the loss of records and trophies.  A lot of history was lost in these fires.