Golf Historical Society of Canada

Karl Keffer (1882-1950)

Above: Karl Keffer at a tournament

Karl Keffer 

(by Doug Marshall)

We know Karl Keffer as the first and only Canadian born winner of the Canadian Open. This he accomplished in 1909 and again in 1914. Karl was another graduate of the George Cumming training program at Toronto Golf Club. He had been there at the same time as the Murray brothers and Nicol Thompson, and stayed three years during which he won the first caddy championship showing championship potential.

In our Jigger Magazine of Dec. 2013 – Bulletin 92 is an excellent and very complete essay on his career and accomplishments. I encourage our members to refer to that piece and I will only add some pertinent facts to to his very interesting life in golf.

After leaving Toronto in 1910 Karl spent some time in the US competing and working as an assistant pro at the Albany Country Club in upstate New York. While there he became more widely known for his skills as a player. Walter Travis the great amateur recommended him for a winter job at the Jekyll Island Club near Savannah. He took this job and laid out a nine hole golf course.

This was the beginning of a 32-year association with the Millionaires Club on Jekyll Island off the coast of southern Georgia. It ended in 1942. With German submarines cruising the waters off the East Coast of North America, the millionaires left the island, eventually donating it to the State of Georgia (It remains a top tourist attraction with three 18 hole golf courses and the original nine redone in 1912 by Walter Travis aided by Karl).They would move on in time to have their own club jobs, and were highly desirable employees having been trained by master teacher George Cumming. Some of these young pros were also very fine players and made their mark in the competitive world of tournament golf in the early years of the 20th century. Not every champion of this time in Canada was from the caddy yards of Toronto Golf Club but for a while it seemed as if that were the case.

Above: Karl Keffer with caddies, Jekyll Island

After his first winter in Georgia, Karl returned to Ottawa in the Spring of 1911 where he assumed the head pro position at Ottawa Golf Club. In 1912 the golf club was designated as Royal Ottawa Golf Club and Karl stayed here for 32 years of distinguished service retiring in 1943.

Above: Corporal Karl Keffer, WWI

Along the way he helped found the CPGA in 1912 and served as Hon.Sect. Treasurer 1914 to 1928,and was President from 1938 – 1940. He gained great respect and praise for his work with this organization as it grew to the important modern governing organization of Professional Golf in Canada. As a player Karl continued to play at a high level till the late 1920’s with his last important win being the 1927 Quebec Open.

Above: Karl Keffer at the height of his playing career

Retired and still affiliated with Royal Ottawa as a respected advisor Karl died on October 22,1950. He was voted into the RCGA Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame in 2000.

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