From his start as a caddy at the Royal Ottawa Golf Club in 1912 until he passed away in 1981, Harry Mulligan became an accomplished golf professional in the Ottawa Valley. He was a friend and teacher to dignitaries, his fellow professionals, his members and many green fee players.
The late Ottawa Citizen Columnist Eddie McCabe wrote the following about his friend Harry Mulligan in a January 20, 1981 farewell piece – “He was a fine player with a fluid, picture swing, but he never won any major tournaments because his emphasis was on teaching. He taught the high and mighty, like the Prince of Wales who later became King Edward VIII, and the Rockefellers, and also the legions of common hackers who sought him out for a ‘tune-up’ as he used to say.”
“Harry was small in stature, maybe 5 foot, 6 inches and 120 pounds, but always a natty dresser, with plus fours and, as was customary in those days, Argyle socks.” This description of Harry was made by his friend and boss at the Glenlea and Kingsway Park Golf Clubs Lyn Stewart in an article for the Golf Historical Society of Canada.
Davie Black at the Rivermead Golf Club was the first to hire Harry as a shop boy. Harry then moved over to the Royal Ottawa where he caddied for many dignitaries including Sir Winston Churchill, the Duke of Devonshire and Sir Robert Borden.
Mr. Mulligan began his professional career as an assistant to Karl Keffer at the Royal Ottawa Golf Club and then became the head professional at the Chaudiere Golf Club (now Chateau Cartier) in 1924 and in 1929 moved across the Upper Aylmer Road to the Glenlea Golf Club (now Champlain Golf Club) which he and Karl Keffer designed. In 1973 Harry became the Director of Golf at the new Kingsway Park Golf and Country Club.
During his professional career, Harry also serviced other golf clubs including Rivermead, Britannia Hotel, Fairmount, Gatineau and Links O’Tay Golf Clubs. For many years Harry also accompanied his Royal Ottawa boss Karl Keffer during the winter months to Jekyll Island in Georgia at the Millionaire’s Club. For three years (1926-29), Harry served as the private tutor for the family of R. J. Crane, Jr. at their private golf course at Ipswich, Massachusetts.
As a teacher, his emphasis was on timing and rhythm and thousands of golfers in the Ottawa Valley benefitted from lessons with him. In full disclosure, I have to report that the first and only lesson I received was from Harry Mulligan in 1970 and the grip and swing he taught me still serves me well today.
As a professional, Harry spent most of his time teaching but he enjoyed friendly matches with the likes of Craig Wood, Walter Hagen, Henry Cotton and Ben Hogan. He also enjoyed his Sunday outings with his fellow Ottawa Valley Professionals and was in demand at golf clinics as a trick-shot artist. Call the shot and Harry would make it while maintaining a constant conversation with his audience. He would finish his performances with a special tracer smoke ball never failing to “wow” his audiences.
In his 1981 column, Eddie McCabe touched on a few stories about his friend.
“He got stock market information from some, and used it shrewdly, and always carried a big roll. One day, when the roll was bulging way out in his tight, pale green slacks, Hughie Riopelle said to him – ‘Harry, why bother getting special slacks made to measure, and then get them all out of shape with a pocketful of golf balls?’ ‘Golf balls,’ Harry snorted, ‘I’ll show you golf balls.’ And he drew out this great, fat roll. ‘Harry’, he was told, ‘not to insult your people here (at Glenlea), but you shouldn’t be carrying that much money around. Somebody’ll hit you on the head with a pipe, and take it.’ ‘Well,’ Harry said without a second’s hesitation, ‘I do the best I can, I empty it every hour’.”
“Harry never took a mulligan.” As he said, ‘I never needed a free shot in my life. Why would I? The first one was down the middle. Isn’t that the game?’
In another Ottawa Citizen Column by Bernie Nellis in 1955, Harry talked about his prize possession – a letter of recommendation from Byng of Vimy, former Governor-General of Canada.
Here is the text of the recommendation letter:
“I have known Harry Mulligan for the past two years as Assistant Professional and club maker at the Royal Ottawa Club. I have always found him extremely obliging and helpful in any matter connected with the game and the care of golf clubs. I believe him to be a first-rate instructor and a fine player. I have the pleasure of recommending him, and have every confidence he will give others the same satisfaction that I have received.”
Eddie McCabe, in his story, gives the best description of Harry Mulligan. “He was a quiet man, witty and a beloved character in golf. If one were to be given two words to describe Harry Mulligan, they would be ‘golf professional’.”
/ Joe McLean @FlagstickJoe