Ottawa Valley Golf Association (OVGA) Women Celebrate 100 Years of Competition

Helen Holmes (nee Helen Paget). Source: Volume 15 of Canadian Golfer.

by Joe McLean, Flagstick Editorial Team

It was freely predicted that the inter-club meeting would accomplish much by way of promoting an event which is expected to become a permanent institution in the development of golfing in Ottawa.

The Ottawa Journal, Tuesday, June 13, 1922, page 1

How prophetic were these words from an unknown writer in assessing the first women’s championship golf tournament run by the new Ladies Branch of the Ottawa City & District Golf Association? It was organized one year after the Ottawa City and District Golf Association was formed in 1921 by members of the Ottawa Hunt and Motor Club, the Rivermead Golf Club, the Royal Ottawa Golf Club and members of clubs situated in Eastern Ontario. 

Formation of an Organization

According to the OVGA Women’s Division minutes, a meeting was held on June 1st, 1922 for the purpose of organizing a Ladies Branch of The Ottawa City & District Golf Association.

In attendance at this initial meeting were Mrs. C. S. Smith and Miss Edythe Brownlee from the Rivermead Golf Club; Mrs. S. G. Lugsdin from the Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club and Mrs. J. F. Kidd, Mrs. T. F. (Norah) Ahearn, Miss L. McGee, Miss Helen Paget and Miss K. Ewart from the Royal Ottawa Golf Club.

The 1922 minutes state that the new organization “…be formed for the purpose of and with the object of holding an annual Competition amongst the lady members of the three local clubs and of other Golf Clubs in the Province of Ontario at Kingston, Brockville, Perth, Gananoque, Carleton Place and Cornwall.”

The first officers of the new organization were elected with Mrs. J. Franklyn Kidd as the President, Mrs. C. S. Smith as the Vice President and Miss Kathleen Ewart as the Secretary Treasurer. 

Planning the First Competition

Following are a few excerpts from the minutes of the formative meeting: 

“It was decided that the Competition for the season of 1922 be played on the Links of the Royal Ottawa Golf Club on Tuesday, June 13th, 1922, starting at 9 A.M., that all entries must be received by the Sec’y-Treas by Saturday, June 10th and that no lady may take more than one prize.”

“It was moved that only members in good standing of a recognized Golf Club in the City or district will be eligible to play in the Annual Competition, and that the entrance fee for 1922 for each competitor will be $1.00.”

“Mrs. Ahearn offered to present to the Association a Championship Cup to be played for annually and the offer was gratefully accepted.”

Note – The Ahearn Trophy is still in play and awarded to the winner of the City & District Division 1 Championship for women and it has been awarded annually since 1922 except for the war years of 1943-1945. Norah Ahearn was the wife of Thomas Franklin (Frank) Ahearn, co-owner with Tommy Gorman of the Stanley Cup Championship Ottawa Senators Hockey Club (1920-1923) and a Canadian Member of Parliament. Norah was also the Lady Club Champion at the Royal Ottawa Golf Club on four occasions (1914, 1916, 1919 & 1920).

The Ahearn Trophy (Photo: Joe McLean)

It is interesting to note that in a final meeting before the tournament, all of the final details for handicaps, billeting, transport and making the draw were made. It can be assumed that competitors arriving from out of town may have arrived by train, thus requiring transportation to their billets as well as back and forth from the golf course, something that current organizers do not have to consider.

The First Tournament

“MISS HELEN PAGET WINS DISTRICT GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP FOR LADIES” was the headline on page 7 of the Wednesday, June 14, 1922 edition of The Ottawa Journal. “With a gross score of 89, Miss Paget added an additional honor to her performance of last year when she won the ladies’ championship of the Royal Ottawa Golf Club.”

Note: Mrs Helen Paget Holmes was a member of the first class of inductees into the Ottawa Valley Golf Association Hall of Fame in 2021. Her record included championship wins in the Canadian Amateur Closed in 1925, Quebec Amateur wins in 1926 and 1927 as well as five Ottawa City & District wins in 1922-1925 and 1928. Helen was also the Royal Ottawa Golf Club’s Lady Champion five times (1921-1924 & 1926). 

Helen Paget Holmes

On the front page of the Tuesday, June 13, 1922 edition of The Ottawa Journal, an article described the day’s activities:

“Finer weather could not have been chosen for the day’s play, clear and chilly with just sufficient wind to make it interesting. All the events were kept right up to time. Mrs. W. McLaren, of the Brockville club, and Mrs. H. P. Hill (Royal Ottawa), who left the first tee at nine o’clock, were followed at regular five-minute intervals by the rest of the contestants. Karl Keffer was the official starter, and Jimmy Clay, of the Rivermead, and Harry Towlson, of the Hunt and Golf club, made themselves generally useful with warnings on the golf course.”

The entry list for the championship tournament held at the Royal Ottawa Golf Club included 37 women from the Royal Ottawa Golf Club, 15 from the Ottawa Hunt & Motor Club, 14 from the Rivermead Golf club, 10 from the Cataraqui Golf Club in Kingston, 7 from the Brockville Country Club and 3 from the Links O’Tay Golf & Country Club in Perth.

Apart from the Ahearn Trophy being awarded to Miss Helen Paget for her Championship win, ten other cups were donated by the District Ladies’ Golf Association and awarded at the conclusion of the event by Lady Perley, wife of the Canadian High Commissioner assisted by Mr. Warren Y. Soper, President of the Royal Ottawa Golf Club.

The Prize List

Championship runner-up, Mrs. R. B. Law, Rivermead (92)

Handicap Score, 18 holes, Mrs. Hicks, Kingston Cataraqui (73)

Gross score – first nine, Mrs. Harold Pinhey, Royal Ottawa (42)

Gross score – second on first nine, Miss Edythe Brownlee, Rivermead (44)

Net score – first nine, Miss Lillian Monk, Royal Ottawa (35)

Net score – second nine, Mrs. W. C. McLaren, Brockville

Driving – first place, Miss Helen LeSueur, Royal Ottawa (635 yards)

Driving – second place, Mrs. Guy Toller, Royal Ottawa (469 yards)

Putting & Approaching – first place, Miss Blanche K. Dibblee, Rivermead

Putting & Approaching – second place, Mrs. S. G. Lugsdin, Ottawa Hunt & Motor

Also included in the Wednesday, June 14, 1922 article in The Ottawa Journal was the following:

“The club spirit, which the District Association is endeavoring to develop, was distinctly in evidence and, while the more experienced players were well represented, it was an encouraging feature of the meet for the committee to receive so many entries from those ladies of all the clubs in the district who have but recently taken up the sport. The list, which exceeded 86, was creditable even in comparison with some of the outstanding district contests for men players held in recent years, and it afforded striking evidence of the increasing interest in the Royal game among lady members of the several clubs.”

Through the years, the Ladies Branch of the Ottawa City & District Golf Association has prospered and continues 100 years later to look after the needs of the women golfers within their jurisdiction. The organization became a district under the Quebec Branch of the Canadian Ladies’ Golf Union in 1939, then the newly named Canadian Ladies’ Golf Association in 1966.

In the Fall of 2008, the Ottawa District Ladies Golf Organization merged with the Ottawa Valley Golf Association to form the corporate body known as the Ottawa Valley Golf Association (OVGA).

We at Flagstick Golf Magazine congratulate the hundreds of women past and present who have volunteered their time and effort to the OVGA for their century of service to the needs of women golfers in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec.

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