- Canadian PGA
The first professional player in Canada was Scotsman Willie Davis, who arrived in April 1881 from Royal Liverpool, where he had been an assistant professional. Royal Montreal engaged him for the playing season at a guaranteed wage of one guinea a week and he would supplement his income through coaching club members by playing with them, charging an appropriate fee for his services.
By the end of the 1890s, there were around six Canadian club professionals: Tom Smith of Royal Montreal (Davis had long since departed for America); Arthur Smith of Toronto; J. Devine at Royal Ottawa; Davie Richie of Rosedale; John Peacock at Algonquin; and Nicol Thompson (brother of architect Stanley Thompson) in Hamilton.
The face of professional golf was changing dramatically with the influx of men from Britain and the emergence of home grown talent around the country. Ten professionals and seven amateurs took part in the first Canadian Open which was held at the end of the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s Annual Meeting at Royal Montreal on the Dominion Day weekend of 1904.
Seven years later, during the latest edition of the Canadian Open at Royal Ottawa, the professionals got together to discuss ways they could better promote the game, forming the Professional Golfers’ Association of Canada at a meeting on 7th July, 1911. George Cumming, the Scots-born professional at Toronto was elected captain, with Yorkshireman Percy Barrett, the Lambton professional, voted in as vice-captain.
George Cumming had emigrated to Canada aged 21 in March 1900 to take up a position at Toronto Golf Club and over the following fifty years of service to the club he trained dozens of assistant professionals who passed through his workshop, passing on his high standards, values and methods to each and every one of them. If ever a man deserved the title “Dean of Canadian Professionals” it was him.
A year after it was formed, the Canadian PGA held its inaugural championship at Mississaugua, on the day before the 1912 Open tournament at nearby Rosedale. P.D. Ross, a past president of Royal Ottowa, had donated a trophy for annual competition and Charlie Murray, the Royal Montreal professional (who was the current Open champion), became the first winner of this 36-hole event, finishing one stroke ahead of his younger brother Albert, the professional at Outremont, in a field of fourteen players.
Albert Murray finished runner-up to Davie Black at Beaconsfield twelve months later (the first of four titles the Rivermead professional would claim) but Murray eventually did win the CPGA Championship at the same venue in 1924, when the prize purse from sponsorship totalled $950, two hundred dollars more than the money on offer at the Canadian Open.
George Cumming captured the 1914 event, coming from three strokes behind after the morning round to beat Scarboro’s Willie Bell. In addition to pocketing the first prize, he received a gold watch from the Carters Seed Company. Canadian golfers were, by and large, respected as a hard-working group of men who deserved to be rewarded for their efforts.
The Great War halted the competition for four years but when play resumed Davie Black won the first three CPGAs that were contested. After his third win at Lambton in 1921 he was awarded a full-size replica of the P.D. Ross Cup. Still, he wasn’t the only professional to win three championships in a row between the wars as Willie Lamb from Uplands (1928-1930) and Stanley Horne from Ottawa Hunt (1936-1938) also accomplished this feat.
Lamb was one of George Cumming’s many former assistants, working with him for five seasons after arriving from Montrose as a 21-year-old in 1924, and he busied himself in the winters with a job at a club in Mexico. Horne was born in England and had worked as an assistant at Lookout Point, where his father had been hired as the head greenkeeper.
During this period of time, all the CPGA championships and all bar one of the Canadian Open competitions were held at clubs in central Canada, with only a very small number of professionals from the West or the Maritimes travelling to compete. As a consequence, all the leading players came from clubs in Ontario or Quebec.
Stan Leonard, the professional at Marine Drive, secured back-to-back PGA titles at Cedar Brae in 1940 then Islemere in 1941 and after World War II he would win another six CPGA championships to complete a record haul of eight titles. Leonard won more than a dozen events on the Canadian Tour and he was the best scoring native player in nine Canadian Opens.
Two other players dominated the competition from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s: Al Balding won four editions while attached to two different clubs (Credit Valley and Markland-Wood), becoming the first Canadian golfer to win a PGA Tour event in the United States in 1964, while Oakdale’s George Knudson collected the CPGA trophy five times, winning eight PGA Tour events in the US between 1961 and 1972 (beating Al Balding in a playoff for one of his victories in 1964).
The tournament was sponsored by Labatt’s brewing company from 1978 to 1983 and a prize fund of $100,000 attracted many leading American golfers during the six years when it was known as either the Labatt’s International Golf Classic or the Labatt’s International. With a better quality field in operation, it was hardly a surprise that each of these contests was won by a top PGA Tour professional from the other side of the International Boundary.
Lanny Wadkins took the honours at Shaughnessy in 1978, followed by Lee Trevino the following year at the National Golf Club of Canada. Arnold Palmer won at Mayfair in 1980 then Raymond Floyd lifted the silverware at Westmount twelve months later. Finally, Jim Thorpe’s playoff victory at Cherry Hills in 1982 preceded Lee Trevino winning the title for a second time with a 4-round aggregate score of 271.
The only non-North American based golfers to triumph in the CPGA championship in the modern era were both from the African continent. At Rideau View in 1995, Namibian Trevor Dodds’s win helped him towards top spot in the Canadian Tour Order of Merit that year then, in 1998, Tim Clark from South Africa added the CPGA title at Forest City National to his earlier win that year in the New Brunswick Open.
Into the new millennium, and there was no competition played from 2006 to 2010. When it returned in 2011, the format was changed from stroke play to match play, with the top 64 professionals in the PGA of Canada Player Rankings now competing annually for the P. D. Ross Trophy.
DiamondBack and Royal Quebec have both hosted four editions of the tournament and the following four clubs have each staged it three times: Mayfair, Niakwa, Rivermead and Whistle Bear. Twenty CPGA Championship venues are not listed below as they are not yet included in any of our Canadian charts.
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