Golf Historical Society of Canada

WM. Davis (1881-1889)

Above: Willie Davis, circa 1881

The First Professional in North America

(by Doug Marshall)

In 1881, William Davis was brought to Canada and hired by Montreal Golf Club. Willie, as he was known, was to become the ONLY golf professional in North America for ten years until 1889. His job was to look after the members, make and repair golf clubs for a fee and look after the greenskeeping of the nine-hole course. Almost immediately, Willie had a disagreement with his employers re the greenskeeping 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 while at an impasse, they parted ways shortly thereafter.

Willie 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 Willie Davis are indeed of historical value!

Above: Willie Davis at Newport Country Club, 1899
from Willie’s granddaughter, courtesy of The History of Newport Country Club by Frederick Waterman


Golf Historical Society of Canada
1346 Clyde Rd.
Cambridge, ON N1R 5S7

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