WM. DAVIS 1881-1889
The First Professional in North America
by Doug Marshall

In 1881 Wm. Davis was imported by and hired by Montreal Golf Club. Willie as he was known was to become the ONLY golf professional in North America for ten years till 1889. His job was to look after the members, make and repair golf clubs for a fee and look after the greens keeping of the nine-hole course. Willie immediately had a disagreement with his employers re the greens keeping tasks. He had come from Hoylake, a well established Club with over 300 members. He expected to be overseeing a full time greens keeper. However with only 35 members this was beyond the budgetary ability of the fledging Montreal club and at an impasse they parted ways shortly thereafter.

Davis stayed on in Montreal however, working at various other jobs while making and selling clubs to local players. In this period he laid out Ottawa Golf Club and sold a number of play clubs to their members. By 1889 he was rehired at Montreal and did some work on Long Island, laying out Shinnecock Golf Club. Then in 1892 he left Montreal for Newport Rhode Island where authors, Cornish and Whitten in their fine book The Golf Course credit him with designs at Newport CC, Apawamis CC, Rye Golf Club, in addition, of course, to Ottawa Golf Club. Willie was greatly respected in his final years in Rhode Island and mourned at his death in 1902 from pneumonia. He is remembered for his golf ability and especially for his abilities as club pro and golf course designer. Most of his Canadian designs are now designated as 'Royal' golf clubs. As a historical figure Willie Davis was well known and respected and made plenty of clubs - woods from scratch and irons with heads that he imported from Scotland and assembled, as did all the early Scottish pros.

Any clubs that can be traced back to him are indeed of historical value!

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Willie Davis, Circa 1881
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Willie Davis at Newport Country Club, 1899
from Willie's granddaughter, courtesy of The History of Newport Country Club by Frederick Waterman

Next: George Cumming - Toronto Golf Club - 1900-1950