Toronto Golf Club - 1900-1950
by Doug Marshall
George Cumming was the template for the perfect Canadian Golf Professional. He did it all for 50 years as Head Professional at Toronto Golf Club. Hired at age 20, he was a championship player, a great teacher, and most of all trained numerous Assistants who went on to distinguished careers of their own. Trained by Cumming these men were the best players of their era and represented the top Golf Clubs in the early days of Canadian golf history.
George had a good start toward his remarkable career. Born in 1879 in Bridge of Weir Scotland, at age ten he began Caddying at Raefurley Castle Golf Club where he often caddied for Willie Campbell,the pro and one of the best players in Scotland. He was apprenticed at age 14 to the Forgan Golf Co. in Glasgow. At 16 he moved to Dumphries as pro. Here he came in contact with Stewart Gordon the Honorary Secretary of Toronto Golf Club.
This led to an offer to come to Canada as Professional at Toronto Golf Club and on March 20. 1900 George arrives in Toronto as a 21 year old to begin his distinguished 50 year career that ended with his death on March 26, 1950. He was succeeded by his son Lou Cumming.
As a player George won the Canadian Open in 1905 (score 148 ) and was second four times. He was 6th at the US Open at Myopia Country Club in 1905 and the next week won a 36 hole event at Brookline in Boston. He held course records at two sites of his own Club, a 63 at Dixie and then a 65 at the Etobicoke site.
He was a great partner and had great success in 4 ball matches with George S. Lyons. In 1913 he partnered Percy Barret in the famous match versus Harry Vardon and Ted Ray (that the GHSC just helped recreate in Sept of 2013). He was described as a shorter hitter with a pretty swing and strong hands who was solid in all departments of his game.
However it was as a teacher of golf and also as a mentor who trained many young assistants to perform the tasks of a club professional where he really made his mark. In a day when the Pro had to make and repair clubs as part of his duties George Cumming turned out dozens of young pros who not only won tournaments but made and assembled clubs to sell to their membership.COLLECTOR CLUBS
In those days a pro would often make his own wooden headed clubs from scratch, shaping the heads and attaching them to wooden shafts which they made themselves. As to irons, most of the heads were ordered fom Scotland, made by the Tom Stewart Golf Factory in St. Andrews. The name of the pro and his Golf Club would be stamped on the head and the pro would then assemble the club with shaft and grip.
Stewart clubs have a pipe logo on the back of the head. Most Canadian pros ordered them from the Stewart factory in St Andrews with the Golf Club name and the professional's name already stamped on the back of the club.There are many such clubs available at trade shows and golf auctions. There is a second advantage to aquiring Stewart clubs. They are of the highest quality and usually weighted properly to be used for hickory play.
Two Clubmakers dominated the market in those days. The second was George Nicol Co.of Leven and most serious players assembled their play sets using one or the other brand of club. In Canada by far the most common were Stewarts.
Source books that catalog these clubs have come out in the last few years. The late Ralph Livingston completed a wonderful source book on the Stewart Company and Roger Hill authored a similar book on the George Nicol Company. These books are available by contacting Roger Hill. Address and E mail are in the GHSC and GCS roster books. For help on this drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.PRE WW1 PROS TRAINED UNDER GEORGE CUMMING
Some of the most prominent of Cumming trained professionals were Charles Murray, his brother Albert, Karl Keffer, Frank and Willie Freeman, Norman Bell, Kearney Marsh, Willie Lamb,David Spittal, Dick Borthwick and Gord Brydson. There were many more of course but this group were all champion golfers. The Murrays and Kal Keffer accounted for 5 Canadian Championships themselves after growing up competing and learning together in The Toronto Golf Club back shop.
More on them in the next installment
* An essential source for this topic is James Barclays second book published in 1997 on the 10th anniversary of the GHSC, titled Canada's Professional Golfers - The Scottish Invasion - 1881-1993. Copies can be obtained through Bill Macdonald or myself.
Next: Charles & Albert Murray