As Royal Montreal prepares for 2024 Presidents Cup, a look back at its prestigious history
Chris Cox/PGA TOUR
MONTREAL – Golf wasn’t what brought Alexander Dennistoun his fortunes. At least not at first.
When the Scotsman first arrived in Canada at the ripe age of 19 in 1840, it was the lumber trade and baron Mosson Boyd that provided him with his primary source of income. And yet it was golf that always seemed to still captivate the Dumbarton native’s attention, no doubt a byproduct of all those afternoons spent back home roaming the fairways of St. Andrews and Royal Liverpool.
In 1866, Dennistoun married Margaret Redpath, daughter of Redpath Sugar founder John Redpath, and together the pair galivanted back and forth from Canada to Scotland, where Dennistoun would once more indulge in his favorite pastime. It was becoming more evident by the day that golf, not the lumber industry, would soon decide Dennistoun’s future.
That became clear in 1872, when Alexander and Margaret purchased a Montreal home on McTavish Street, just a short walk away from Mount Royal Park. Just one year later, that site would become the inaugural location of Royal Montreal Golf Club, with Alexander serving as its first president. Alexander hatched the idea for this course in a dockside office with seven other local businessmen, including fellow Scottish immigrants John and David Sidey. Each member agreed to an entrance fee, annual $25 membership dues and a club capped at 25 members.
Now, 151 years later, that meeting is paying dividends once more.
Royal Montreal Golf Club, the oldest golf club in North America, will again be the site of history, as the PGA Tour announced this week that the course will host the 2024 Presidents Cup. It is the second time in the club’s storied saga that it welcomes the biennial event, having last done so in 2007, when the United States and captain Jack Nicklaus defeated Gary Player and the International Team, 19.5-14.5.
“It’s the history and the tradition that form the architecture of Royal Montreal,” Denzil Palmer, the club’s longtime general manager and secretary, told Golf Canada in 2017. “Every club around the world is concerned about two things: the attraction of new members and the retention of current members. People join our club and people stay at our club because of the historical significance, and there’s great pride at the club from all of its members.”
The picturesque views that await the two teams will be a bit different than the ones Dennistoun first envisioned all those years ago. The golf club began as a six-hole and then nine-hole course on Fletcher’s Field in Mount Royal Park, where members played in their Scottish red coats to distinguish themselves from non-golfers in the park.
The club was famously granted royal distinction by Queen Victoria shortly thereafter, in 1884, and 12 years later it would relocate to Dixie, in the parish of Dorval, where the club added a second course alongside a new clubhouse. Its final move to Île-Bizard came in 1959, when 45 holes were added by American architect Dick Wilson. Rees Jones redesigned its famous Blue Course in 2004, which included the rerouting of two holes, the addition of nearly 275 meters in length and the reconstruction of all greens, as well as greenside and fairway sand bunkers.
Steeped in history as one of the five founding Clubs of the Royal Canadian Golf Association, Royal Montreal is no stranger to firsts. It has hosted the Canadian Open nine times—including the first rendition in 1908, when Englishman Jack Oke won by two strokes—and most recently in 2014, when South African Tim Clark edged Jim Furyk by one shot. It even has a hand in the famous 1954 event at Point Grey, where Royal Montreal head pro Pat Fletcher became the last Canadian to win its national championship.
“I didn’t think I’d ever see the day,” Fletcher said afterward in a celebration at the first tee. “But I can assure you I’m very, very happy. It’s been a real thrill for me.”
Of course, Royal Montreal is also the site of Mike Weir’s famous Sunday singles victory over Tiger Woods at the 2007 Presidents Cup, when the Masters champion broke a tied match at the 18th hole after Woods pulled his tee shot into a pond. Woods would later concede the hole to his Canadian playing partner after his chip for par stopped centimeters from the cup. That win took away some of the sting from the Americans’ overall win.
“I told him I was proud of how he handled himself,” Woods said afterward. “He had to carry an entire country on his shoulders. Not too many people can play as well as he did.”
Those moments only scratch the surface of the history that has been created inside the walls of the Royal Montreal clubhouse. What memories are in story for Canada and Royal Montreal at the Presidents Cup? History awaits in 2024.
Alexander Dennistoun’s masterful creation is, yet again, ready for its time in the spotlight.
RBC Canadian Open winners at Royal Montreal
John Oke, England (1904)
Albert Murray, Canada (1908)
Albert Murray, Canada (1913)
Macdonald Smith, Scotland (1926)
Jim Ferrier, Australia (1950)
Tom Weiskopf, United States (1975)
Bob Gilder, United States (1980)
Steve Jones, United States (1997)
Scott Verplank, United States (2001)
Tim Clark, South Africa (2014)
2007 Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal
United States Team: 19.5 points
David Toms, 4.5 points
Scott Verplank, 4 points
Stewart Cink, 3 points
Jim Furyk, 3 points
Phil Mickelson, 3 points
Steve Stricker, 3 points
Tiger Woods, 3 points
Woody Austin, 2.5 points
Lucas Glover, 2 points
Charles Howell III, 2 points
Zach Johnson, 2 points
Hunter Mahan, 2 points
International Team: 14.5 points
Mike Weir, Canada, 3.5 points
Ernie Els, South Africa, 3 points
Retief Goosen, South Africa, 2.5 points
Vijay Singh, Fiji, 2.5 points
Stuart Appleby, Australia, 2 points
Angel Cabrera, Argentina, 2 points
Geoff Ogilvy, Australia, 2 points
Adam Scott, Australia, 1.5 points
K.J. Choi, Korea, 1 points
Nick O’Hern, Australia, 1 point
Trevor Immelman, South Africa, 0.5 points
Rory Sabbatini, South Africa, 0.5 points