History Walk – Golf From 1910-1919 in Eastern Ontario/Outaouais

A snapshot of the founding members of the PGA of Canada in 1911 (plus a couple caddies)
A snapshot of the founding members of the PGA of Canada in 1911 (plus a couple caddies)
A snapshot of the founding members of the PGA of Canada in 1911 (plus a couple caddies)

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 –

1910-1919

This decade would probably prove to be the most important one in the history of the sport in Canada.  The organization of formal groups relating to golf would continue and again Ottawa and the region was the host for many of these events. Despite growing unrest in Europe and the Great War that would intervene, golf continued to play a vital role in the social circles of Canada.

After twenty years, Links O’Tay in Perth finally saw a member have a hole in one. Mr. Fred McEwen, a popular and active player would record the feat.

1911 would be special year for golf in the region and the Ottawa Golf Club set a new precedent when it hosted three of Canada’s major golf tournaments in a single season as well as being the host sight for one of the most important organizations in Canadian golf.  Young and influential professional Karl Keffer came to the Ottawa club that year and his impact would be a very strong one on golf in the region for many years to come.

The first of the important tournaments in 1911 was the Canadian Amateur. Eleven locals players qualified for the tournament with Jack Devlin of Ottawa being the youngest in the field. He would eventually lose in the second round.   The champion was G.H. Hutton of Beaconsfield wins on 39th hole after three playoff holes with A.E. Austin of Lambton GC.

Following the amateur was the Open Championship that would see Charles Murray of Montreal shoot 314, the highest Open winning score in history for four rounds. The locals played well with Davie Black of Rivermead finishing second, despite scores of 81,79,80, and 76, and Keffer placing fourth.

The triple was completed with the Canadian Ladies Amateur. Fifty competitors played over the Ottawa Golf Club on a shortened course.  The scorecard for the event appeared like this:

Hole                 Name                Bogey              Length

1                      St. Andrews      6                      430

2                      Tall Timbers      4                      140

3                      Woodside         5                      335

4                      Laurentian         6                      420

5                      Out of Sight      5                      290

6                      Sandy               4                      165

7                      Penninsuila       5                      330

8                      Plateau             4                      250

9                      Halfway                        5                      290

44                     2650

10                     Spring              5                      265

11                     Little Misery      3                      105

12                     Bide-a-wee        4                      160

13                     Thirteenth          6                      410

14                     Orchard            6                      460

15                     Mount               3                      90

16                     Brookside         4                      190

17                     The Bunkers      4                      160

18                     Home               7                      540

42                     2380

  • 5030

Capping off what was probably the greatest year in the club history, on July 11th, 1911, George Cumming, Head Professional of the Toronto GC and Karl Keffer, Head Professional at Ottawa joined 14 other head pros and eight assistants to form the Canadian Professional Golfers Association (Now the PGA of Canada) at Ottawa Golf Club. Keffer served on their executive as honorary secretary-treasurer from 1914-1928.  He was also the captain from 1934 to 1937.

Soon after the tournament events at Ottawa in 1911 one of the first golf advertisements appeared in the Citizen. It promoted Dunlop Golf Balls, the Manor ball for 35 cents and Orange Star Balls for 50 cents.  It what was to become an industry standard of promotion it proclaimed, “used to win Canadian Amateur.”

The Rivermead Golf Club had opened their first nine hoes in 1910 and by 1911 the papers were reporting some of the first annual events for the club. The Birkett Cup Handicap Competition drew an entry of 46 players. Nearby 58 players were playing for the Perley Cup, Symbolic of the Handicap Championship at the Ottawa Golf Club. W.M. Southam takes the ’11 title with a net of 153.

George Sargent, the professional at Royal Ottawa wins the 1912 Canadian Open at Rosedale. He would also win the U.S. Open during his playing career. The year would also see the playing of the first championship of the C.P.G.A. The tournament would eventually have great significance for the region with many of our fine professionals winning the title or finishing strong through the years. The Ottawa Golf club was also given a Royal decree and now claimed the title of the Royal Ottawa Golf Club.

Ladies golf was really taking off by 1913 and the ladies felt it was time for them to have a more formal organization as well. The proliferation of inter-club matches was continuing and the Canadian Ladies Golf Union began. This was also the year that saw Gerald Lees lose in the final of the Canadian Amateur, 1 Down to G.H. Turpin of Montreal. The three-time club champion at Royal Ottawa (1910,1911,1912) would be killed in action during World War I. The City & District Championship Trophy was named in his honour.

A recovered scorecard dated for 1914 shows the layout at the Links O’ Tay in Perth

  1. The Elm 335       Bogey 5

2.Maples             260       Bogey 4

3. Horseshoe        360       Bogey 5

  1. Over The Tay 275       Bogey 5
  2. The Sunset 225       Bogey 5
  3. Midway 235       Bogey 5
  4. Forest 245       Bogey 5
  5. The Ashe 185       Bogey 3
  6. Home 180       Bogey 4

In 1914 Karl Keffer, now the professional at Royal Ottawa, wins his second Canadian Open at Toronto GC with a score of 300. George S. Lyon wins his eighth and final Canadian Amateur at Royal Ottawa. The match is a rout with him destroying Bruce Evans of Boston 8&7 in the 36-hole final.

June 29, 1915 marks the opening of the 18-hole course at Rivermead measuring 5830 yards. 82 persons played matches with teams captained by Hon. Martin Burrill, Minister of Agriculture vs. Mr. J.A. Ruddick, President of Rivermead. Burrill won his match. Ruddicks team won by 23-17 (6 matches). The club had expanded from 9 holes to 13 in 1913 but 1915 is the debut of the full course. Despite the new course, they are only twenty entries for the club championship. Many members are away at war and the others remaining are not too concerned with sporting activities. War-time restrictions on materials also means equipment, especially balls are extremely rare. The Royal Ottawa ladies invite the Rivermead ladies over for a match and defeat them 8-3.

In the fall of 1915 the final round match for Royal Ottawa Club Championship sees Lieut. Norman Scott wins 3&2 over H.C. Monk before leaving for the front at Flanders in Europe. He was also a Canadian and International Figure skating champion.

One of the longest traditions in golf began in earnest in 1915. Bogey Matches to benefit the Red Cross Society were run throughout the region generated money and supplies for the war effort.

While the War was still raging in Europe many people were still playing the game.  By 1917 the people of Kingston had been without a course for some time and the newly organized Cataraqui G&CC opened that summer. The Kingston paper, the Daily British Whig, began to cover more golf, as the publisher of the paper was an early member at the new golf club in town. The following poem appeared in the Monday, April 16th edition of the paper.

The ball that zips up to the green,

And skids against the pin,

Is hooted at as duffer’s luck.

Should it halt and then go in,

Let experts knock one of the tee

That screams of driving skill,

Yet hops o’er the bound’ry fence-

Tis’ a darn unlucky pill

It’s funny how a hole in one

Is viewed as unearned graft

Tho drives that die beside the cup

Mark heights of linksman craft

By 1919 the first stirrings of golf were happening at the Ottawa Hunt Club.  A temporary nine holes were in play and plans were in the works for something more permanent. Professional Harry Towlson starts work at the club, a position he would have until retirement in 1950.

A couple of other new clubs that started in this decade were the Brockville G&CC in 1912 and the Carleton Place Expositor Golf Club (Mississippi G.C.) in 1915.