EARLY GOLF IN SASKATCHEWAN: 1908-1919
Many emigrants from Scotland and England brought a love for the game of golf with them to Saskatchewan. The initial meeting to organize golf in Regina took place in March 1896. Four holes were laid out, increasing to nine holes for the formal opening of the Regina Golf Club in 1899. Clubs were formed in Moose Jaw (1906), Saskatoon (1907), Sedley (1908), Prince Albert (1908), followed by two country clubs, Wascana (1911) and Riverside (1912).
1908: Regina Golf Club, October 1-3, 10
The first Saskatchewan Men’s Amateur Championship began on Thursday, October 1, 1908 at the original Regina Golf Club links on the north side of Wascana Creek. The nine-hole qualifying round was to start at 9:00 a.m., followed by the top eight moving to match play at 10:00 a.m. After lunch, the four winners would play matches, with the championship final starting at 3:30. Saskatoon golfers were unable to attend the competition and when the expected Moose Jaw golfers did not arrive that left two from Sedley and six from Regina for the men’s championship. In the all-Regina final on Saturday, October 3, W.S. Gray won 4 and 3 over J.K. Hunter. During the game Hunter had the misfortune to be stymied four times to Gray’s once.
Instead of the club team matches which had been planned for Friday, an Open competition was substituted. After play on Friday, October 2 James Balfour and J.K. Hunter qualified for the final match. This, however, was not played until Saturday, October 10 when Hunter won 3 and 2 over Balfour. Since Hunter and Gray had each won a competition, they played off Saturday afternoon for the competition medal which Gray won 5 and 4.
In 1892 Kelso Hunter came to Regina from Glasgow, Scotland and was a lawyer in the Land Titles office. He was responsible for laying out the original nine holes for the Regina Golf Club and served as the club’s secretary-treasurer for fourteen years. W.S. Gray had recently arrived from Scotland to take up a banking position when he won the first Saskatchewan men’s amateur championship. (Barclay, pp. 73-74)
The women played a nine-hole competition on Thursday and Friday at 1:00 p.m. The two Regina competitors, Mrs. McPherson and Mrs. Kingsley, each lost by one point in the first round so the final match was between two Moose Jaw players. Mrs. George won 2 and 1 over Mrs. Bailey to take the medal. A mixed foursomes competition attracted eight participants.
1909: Regina Golf Club, September 28-30
A meeting of club representatives during the first tournament unanimously chose Moose Jaw for the 1909 provincial tournament but it ended up returning to the Regina Golf Club. A bus left the King’s Hotel both morning and afternoon to transport players and their friends to the course.
When the golf tournament opened with gale-force winds scoring low was difficult. Some of the expected competitors from outside Regina were late or did not appear. In the men’s championship final J.H.H. Young defeated Kelso Hunter, both from Regina. The men’s Open stroke competition was won by Rev. D. Ritchie with 93, the Open handicap winner was James Balfour, and the mixed foursomes’ event was won by Mrs. D.P. McCall and J.K. Hunter.
The women’s Open championship was won by Mrs. G.B. Kingsley who defeated her sister Mrs. Penny for the title. The next day the women’s handicap competition was won handily by Mrs. Penny with 67 over Mrs. D.P. McCall’s 76.
1910: Regina Golf Club, July 1-2
Although golfers were expected from Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Prince Albert, apologies for their absence were sent in leaving only eight entries from Regina competing for the Saskatchewan golf championship. Greens were reported to be in good shape as play commenced Friday morning and continued until the final on Saturday afternoon. Rev. David Ritchie of Francis, Saskatchewan won 4 and 3 over the previous winner J.H.H. Young of Regina. In the men’s handicap event final J. Kelso Hunter won with a net 89 over James Balfour’s net 92, both competitors playing with a handicap of three.
There were four entries for the ladies’ handicap tournament, won by Miss Cockshutt of Brantford, ON with 72 over Mrs. A.J. McPherson, 77. Four couples entered the mixed foursomes event: Countess Von Schwartzenburg and James Balfour, Mrs. A.J. McPherson and W.F. Donaldson, Miss Cockshutt and J.K. Hunter, and Miss M. Martin and A.F. Angus. The latter couple won after a playoff of two extra holes.
Thirty-six years after Rev. David Ritchie won the Balfour Cup, his son related this story to a Regina Leader-Post reporter while he was visiting from Ottawa. His father, a Presbyterian minister posted at Francis, Saskatchewan from 1905 to 1911, was an ardent golfer. Newly married, he started off for the Regina competition in a democrat, with his bride on the front seat beside him and his golf clubs in the back. Somewhere along the way the democrat hit a terrific bump and confusion reigned for several minutes. Straightening himself out, the Reverend glanced back, then calmly turned to his much shaken-up bride and remarked, “Mercy, I almost lost my golf clubs that time!” Rev. J.M. Ritchie, also a Presbyterian minister, reported that his father still enjoyed golfing in Seaforth, Ontario in 1946 but was only able to play nine holes a day. (Leader-Post, 1946, Jul. 12)
[Note: a democrat is a light, four-wheeled carriage drawn by two horses, having two double seats, one behind the other.]
1911: Regina Golf Club, September 4-5
G.F. Donaldson of Regina won the men’s amateur 4 and 2 over Dr. A.M. Young of Saskatoon. The turning point in the match came on the fourteenth hole when “Young foozled his drive and got into the rough grass at the edge of the creek, while Donaldson had a nice iron shot close to the green, and with his mashie pitched the ball into the hole, while Young took three more.” (Morning Leader, Sept. 6, p.6)
In July, Donaldson placed sixth in the Seattle Open handicap tournament when he and two other Regina golfers competed.
There is no record of a women’s competition this year.
1912: Saskatoon Golf Club, August 31 – September 4
Saskatoon hosted the provincial men’s championship for the first time in 1912. On opening day, a cavalcade of motor cars left the King George Hotel, “carrying with them the most enthusiastic golfers of the city and the province”. The Daily Phoenix enthused: “Saturday was a great day for golf, and without doubt the greatest day of golf within the province. Over 40 players were on the course.” (Daily Phoenix, Sept. 2, p.7)
The top eight players in the qualifying round played matches for the championship. Defending champion G.F. Donaldson of Regina won the first prize of a handsome scarf pin donated by Saskatoon Golf Club president J.D. Gunn, while runner-up N.C. Byers of Saskatoon received a gold-headed cane donated by A.H. Hanson. In the handicap event, a playoff was required after two competitors finished with 80. First prize of a club bag went to A.M. McIntyre, while runner-up L.M. Bidwell received a driver and brassey donated by the club.
It was not all serious golf, as the newspaper reported that “One of the most novel games ever played on the course was a match in which six players took part. Refreshments were served on every green, the losers of the hole having to wheel the refreshments to the next green in the greenkeeper’s barrow. This roused no end of amusement”. (Daily Phoenix, 1912, Sept. 2, p.7)
Next year it would be much easier to reach the golf course as the street car line would then be in operation.
1913: Regina, Wascana Country Club, August 30 – September 2
The street car left daily at 9:15 from the downtown post office for those wishing to take in the golf tournament at Wascana Country Club and, since the weather was ideal, many did. The competition was becoming more representative of the whole province as 48 golfers entered the qualifying day; five from Saskatoon, two from Prince Albert and Moose Jaw, one from Swift Current, one unattached, and the rest from Regina. When three scores of 103 tied for the last two places in the sixteen-person championship flight a draw was made to relegate one of them to the second flight. G.F. Donaldson was back home after spending the previous two months in Scotland and he would be able to keep the trophy if he won the championship for the third time in a row. This was not to be, as W.S. Gray of Regina won handily over James Balfour, taking the title on the twenty-seventh hole with a score of 11 and 9. A handicap competition was held on Monday, with post entries and the 50-cent fee taken until the 1:00 p.m. starting time. H.S. Anderson won with a net 79 and two golfers tied for second with net 83. A dance was held Saturday night at Wascana Country Club in honour of the visitors.
The founding meeting of the Saskatchewan Golf Association was held on September 1, 1913 and James Balfour of Regina was elected the first President. Other officers were: Honorary President – Chief Justice Haultain; Vice-President – W. (Bill) Laidlaw; Secretary-Treasurer – N.C. Byers of Saskatoon. The Executive Committee was made up of representatives from Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, Regina Golf Club, Wascana Country Club, Saskatoon Golf Club, and Saskatoon Country Club (Riverside) which was selected as the site for next year’s tournament.
1914: Saskatoon, Riverside Country Club, September 6-9
The Saskatoon Country Club successfully hosted its first tournament. “Four days choke full of good golf, fun and jollity, hospitality of the best, according to the visitors, and a great course. What more could one wish?” (Daily Star, Sep. 9, p.7) Part of the fun was Judge McLorg’s offered prize of twenty-five cents worth of the best cigars to anyone who hit the water tank to the left of the first tee. Chief Justice Haultain came closest to claiming the prize, missing by a mere three inches.
It was customary to play thirty-six-hole matches to determine the provincial champion and it took G.F. Donaldson until the thirty-sixth to win his third amateur title over W. Laidlaw of Saskatoon. Regina won both the men’s and women’s team matches.
The women’s competition was reinstated after not being played in 1911, 1912 or 1913 when the men’s provincial tournament was held. Mrs. W. Parry of Regina won easily over Mrs. A.M. Boyd of Saskatoon 5 and 4 to take the championship.
The Saskatchewan Golf Association re-elected James Balfour as president and formed an executive committee of one representative from each club in the province. Future championships were to be played in August. A proposal was put forward to investigate an interprovincial tournament for the four western provinces.
1915: Wascana Country Club, August 17-20
- Aug. 17 – Gentlemen’s championship qualifying round; and gentlemen’s teams. Ladies’ first round; Ladies’ team (9 holes each)
- Aug. 18 – first and second rounds of gentlemen’s championship.
Ladies’ second and third rounds (9 holes each)
- Aug. 19 – Ladies’ final round (18 holes). Third round of gentlemen’s championship. Handicap competition. Mixed foursomes (9 holes, medal play)
- Friday, Aug. 20 – final two rounds of gentlemen’s championship. Finals in second and third flights. Prize presentation, 5:00 p.m.
Weather conditions were ideal for the tournament. The Regina streetcar was only used that year for the four days needed to take people out to Wascana Country Club. (Boyle, p. 37)
About 52 players signed up for the men’s amateur competition and Bill Laidlaw handily won the final 4 and 3 over J. Craig of Moose Jaw. He was also a member of the winning men’s club team from Saskatoon. The handicap event was won D.B. Winslow of Regina and a Regina couple won the mixed foursomes.
Mrs. G.B. Kingsley of Regina had a “rather easy victory over Mrs. W.D. McBride” to take the Parsons Cup for the Women’s Championship.
The executive of the Saskatchewan Golf Association consisted of: Honorary President – Hon. Chief Justice Haultain; President – James Balfour; Vice-president – W. Laidlaw; Hon. Secretary-Treasurer – C. Wentworth Clarke. The Executive committee consisted of W. Laidlaw, Saskatoon Country Club; N.C. Byers, Saskatoon Golf Club; H.C. Pope, Moose Jaw Golf Club; E.B. Jonah, Wascana Country Club; and J.W. Middlemas, Regina Golf Club. (Reference: Sask. Archives brochure S-G 372)
At its annual meeting the Saskatchewan Golf Association was pleased to report “a tidy balance on the right side” and elected Bill Laidlaw of Saskatoon the new president.
1916: Saskatoon Golf Club, August 22-25
A record-breaking ninety-nine men paid a fee of $2.00 to enter all the competitions. A lunch and supper menu offered daily by various chapters of the Daughters of the Empire raised funds for ‘patriotic purposes’.
Henry Bruce won the provincial championship on the 37th hole over A.A. Weir of Netherhill, but Mrs. Bruce lost her championship match to Mrs. E.S. Martin. The men’s team event was won with a score of 355 by a Saskatoon Golf Club team (Messrs. Laidlaw, Weir, Bruce, and Buchan) and the women’s team event was won by Riverside Country Club (Mrs. S. Martin, Mrs. Geo. Martin, Mrs. Coulthard, Mrs. Hettle). The mixed foursomes event was won by the team of Mrs. Hettle and Mr. Cuthbert. Forty-two men entered the men’s handicap competition.
At the annual meeting last year it was decided to start an open event for professionals and amateurs to compete together but this did not occur until 1919.
A.F. Angus of Regina was elected the new Saskatchewan Golf Association president.
1917: Regina Golf Club, August 14-17
A friendly inter-city match led off tournament week as twenty men from Regina and Saskatoon played. Ninety-two men and ten women registered for the provincial tournaments. J.T. Cuthbert of Moose Jaw had a great week, breaking the course record with a 75 three times. He decisively won the provincial championship 9 and 8 over A.A. Weir of Saskatoon, formerly Netherhill.
Mrs. H.A. Bruce relied on spectacular putting to win the women’s title over Mrs. Kingsley 7 and 6. Saskatoon teams won both the team events: the ladies’ team of Mrs. Bruce, Mrs. Hettle, Mrs. Martin, Miss Macdonald and the men’s team of Messrs. Byers, Miley, Butler, Laidlaw. Rev. Parker of Qu’Appelle won the men’s handicap event with a net 73.
The SGA annual meeting elected Harold Pope of Moose Jaw the new president. The Calkins system of handicapping adopted by the USGA was to be used in future in Saskatchewan, as the par basis was considered much more satisfactory than the bogey basis. Finances of the association were in good condition, and $100 was donated to the Red Cross.
1918: Wascana Country Club, August 6-9
Although it was Saskatoon’s turn in the rotation to host the provincial tournaments the greens at the Saskatoon Golf Club were not in good condition so Wascana was chosen.
Many spectators enjoyed following a match between two professionals: Bill Kinnear of Saskatoon Golf Club and E.H. Brinkworth of Wascana. A close game ended with Brinkworth winning on the final hole.
Another game that received a lot of attention occurred after Alex Weir lost the semi-final. The next day he played with Bill Kinnear and shot a new record for the Wascana course. His 76 was one better than that scored by J.T. Cuthbert the previous week. Although professional W. Stevens once scored 72, the amateur records were made on a longer, more difficult course.
Cuthbert defended his Saskatchewan amateur title, winning over H.S. Anderson of Regina. Mrs. G.B. Kingsley, Regina, defeated Mrs. Hunt of Moose Jaw, 3 and 2 to win the women’s championship. A handicap competition as well as mixed foursomes were played. The prize presentation by Chief Justice Haultain and a windup dance originally scheduled for the clubhouse were rescheduled to the Assiniboia Club due to heavy rain.
1919: Saskatoon Golf Club, August 4-8
Eighty-four players entered the men’s amateur championship. The executive had the power to invite outsiders to the tournament and so reigning champion J.T. Cuthbert who had moved to Winnipeg and previous champion William Laidlaw, now in Montreal, received invitations to compete.
The newspaper report of the semi-final match between J.T. Cuthbert and Dr. Young described how a stymie was played on the first hole. “Dr. Young overran the cup trying for a three, and stymied Cuthbert. Things looked bad for the champion but by a wonderful shot he succeeded in turning the tables and forced the doctor to halve the hole for a five through hitting his ball.” (Daily Star, Aug. 7, p.6) In a repeat of the 1917 final, Cuthbert again defeated A.A. Weir and claimed his third straight provincial amateur title.
The new two-round Open event, including both amateurs and pros, was won by Alex Weir with 161. Four Saskatchewan pros played two games on Thursday for a money prize: Kinnear of the Saskatoon Golf Club, Brinkworth of Wascana, Scott of Weyburn, and Smith of Moose Jaw.
Miss Effie MacDonald had moved from Saskatoon to Regina and was a guest of Mrs. H.A. Bruce for the tournament. The two women met in the final match, with Miss MacDonald defeating her hostess 2 and 1.
As always, a lot of work goes into a successful tournament. “George Underwood, the secretary, is and has been the busiest man in the city for weeks and is so immersed in executive details that he almost forgets what you putt with. Jack Turnbull, president of the SGA, is a veritable live wire, and at all times likely to give a good account of himself. D. McMillan of Regina, the umpire and referee is held in high regard throughout the province.” (Morning Leader, Aug. 6)
Advice to golfers about the luck of the game was published in a newspaper column:
“You must learn to take luck as it comes. A player should especially avoid mourning over the varying luck of the game while it is in progress. If he wants to hold a post-mortem afterward in the clubhouse that is well and good, for that is part of the pleasure of golf.”
(Saskatoon Phoenix, Aug. 11, p. 7, Chas. ‘Chick’ Evans Jr. column)