2016 IS THE 90TH ANNIVERSARY FOR PUBLIC GOLF IN BC
ON SATURDAY APRIL 16,TH 2016
AT THE BC GOLF MUSEUM
2545 BLANCA STREET,
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM
The Museum will be holding a celebration to mark the 90th anniversary opening of the
LANGARA GOLF COURSE –
BC’S FIRST 18 HOLE PUBLIC GOLF COURSE
EVERYONE IS WELCOME
WE WOULD LIKE EVERYONE ASSOCIATED WITH LANGARA TO ATTEND.
BRING YOUR STORIES AND YOUR MEMORIES
CELEBRATING 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE OPENING OF THE BC GOLF MUSEUM
MAY 6TH 1989.
John Boyd Lease Expired
As the original University Golf Course lease expired between John Boyd and the B.C. Government speculation flourished about the course’s future. “The lease now owned by Mrs John E. Baldwin, daughter of John Boyd, expires on May 1, 1970. Minister of Lands Ray Williston will then decide whether to extend the lease, consult with the University Endowment Lands (UEL) as to whether that authority would buy the course, or throw the 105 acres up for grabs.”
The lessees expressed strong interest in renewing the lease for another 10 or 20 years. “The group realized a considerable sum is required for improvements.” “Harry Winder, the original University professional estimated $75,000 for an irrigation system and another $75,00 for remodelling. Most important the rubber mats needed to go. The course needed to be returned to first class condition to be recognized as one of the Lower Mainland premier public golf courses.” Williston decided to place the course management in the hands of the Endowment officials.
Torrey Pines of the North
In early 1972 the UEL management attracted Ron Willey, a forward thinking enthusiastic young professional from Marine Drive Golf Club, to oversee the renovation of the University Course. Ron knew the course well from playing many Vancouver City Match Play rounds over the old course. As an amateur he accumulated a stellar career locally, provincially, nationally and internationally. He strongly expressed his vision. “What this town requires desperately is a first class public golf course. We think University will be to Vancouver what Torrey Pines is to San Diego.” He ultimately wanted to create a first class public facility to be the permanent home for the prestigious local BC Open Championship. The local private clubs had no desire to annually donate their course to host the provincial open championship.
“The old lumpy fairways, devoid of grass during the summer, needed replacing. Jack Reimer of Surrey commenced the transformation in May 1972. He blended the new holes into University’s magnificent golf course setting by creating subtly flowing fairways and greens. The redesign created three new holes in the northwest section of the property. The course had three tees, greens averaging from 8,000 – 10,000 square feet and a site for the new clubhouse. (never constructed).”
Ron Willey left in 1976. Unfortunately probably due to financial restrains, the renovation only included nine holes.
Bill Bennett Elected Premier in 1983
In the early 1980’s the course stood in sad condition. The clubhouse no longer operated a thriving restaurant to attract customers to the legendary putting green where golfers and non-golfers played for quarters during lunch hour breaks. Vending machines supplied the golfers need for drinks and chocolate bars. Professional staff no longer maintained the fairways and greens. The renovations completed in the mid seventies returned to the pre-reno days. How could the course be revitalized to the vision of Ron Willey and Jack Reimer?
“When the present Social Credit administration announced plans to divest itself of a number of recreational facilities in 1983 the University Golf Course was put up for grabs. Thirty-eight groups entered the bidding last September (1984) and the Lecky group was declared the winner two weeks ago.” The Province March 6th, 1985.
Several local recognizable sports people such as: “Sports commentator, Greg Douglas and his partner Ron Gardner; University of BC Athletics Director, Bob Hindmarch; former General Manager of Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club, Gill Gillespie; Shaughnessy Director of Golf, Jack McLaughlin; engineer and developer, Ivan Kraemer; and chartered accountant, Bill Humphries.” comprised the successful bidding group. Upon receiving notification from the government, the leader of the group, Robin Lecky outlined his vision for the University Golf Course:
“When we met with the government we were told one of the criteria was to keep the course for the public. There is no reason why the University course cannot be the finest public golf course in Canada”. The group negotiated a 20-year lease renewable for another 20 years after each 10-year period. “ Our plan is to start immediately building a new clubhouse to be finished in March of 1986.” Similar to the 1970’s renovation, the clubhouse occupied the land near the original 14th tee. Renovations to the course extended over three years. The first step in the renovation removed the dreaded old mats.
Kim Campbell Elected MLA for Point Grey
Standing on the old first tee looking back at the abandoned clubhouse, Mike Riste envisioned this building as a golf museum. The concept of a Museum gained momentum at an Inter-Club Golf Committee meeting soon after the new clubhouse opened. Dick White, Harry White, and Mike Riste started the wheels in motion to transform the dream into reality. First the idea gained the support of the Lecky group. Next the trio formally applied to the UEL office. The manager indicated several other groups expressed interest in the building also. Through various sources the founders identified four potential competitors. The strongest group appeared to be the one that wished to move the structure to a location in Pacific Spirit Park and transform the heritage building into a nature centre. This proposal failed because the building could not be moved. Next a group wished to renovate the building into a restaurant or a pub. The neighbours circulated a petition against this proposal. Finally a renovated clubhouse could become a neighbourhood day care centre. The renovation costs scared this group away. By the summer time it appeared all the proposals had died. No word came about the Museum concept.
Immediately after the fall 1986 provincial election the founders approached Kim Campbell the newly elected MLA. She enthusiastically endorsed the proposal. Within three weeks the visionaries had the keys to the structure.
On November 20th, 1986 Mike Riste entered the abandoned structure. Immediately the pungent odour of soap contained in the hand soap dispensers in the bathrooms struck you. The roof leaked. With no heat mildew covered the walls and the original Tudor like panelling on the walls. Garbage, garbage and more garbage filled every corner on the main floor. “Wow what have we inherited here.” Because of the sound foundation and well-constructed structure the project proceeded.
The Renovation Commences
Working with only a small core of volunteers Riste oversaw the initial stages of the renovation. Working with no money and no renovation permits the small core of volunteers began to rid the main floor and basement of the garbage. Ten 30-yard containers left the building over the next three months. Fortunately the Endowment Lands office supplied the original 1930 drawing by Frank Mountain. The structure resembled a British India bungalow with a large veranda on three sides and the two-foot overhang on the roof definitely illustrated a Samuel Maclure influence. The renovation returned the main room to the original 1930 design.
One Saturday in early February a stranger appeared in the doorway of the main floor. “What are you doing in here?” Is this the building inspector? Peter Wardle, the saviour, inquired if we required architectural services to apply for the necessary permits. Over the next four years Peter consistently appeared with assistance when a snag arose.
As the work progressed Dick and Harry attrracted a group of fellow golf club members to the group. Mary Williams, the Vancouver Island liaison; Ron Okada, the accountant; Ken Atkinson, the lawyer; Joe Fast; Michael Bentley formed the initial Board.
Ron soon discovered Revenue Canada believed the Golf Museum would only be used as a front to issue tax receipts to golf collectors. He stressed the Board planned to operate a fully functioning golf museum with the mission statement “to preserve, to collect, to display and to research BC’s rich golfing history as well as to recognize the achievements of BC golfers.”
Ken’s biggest dilemma rested with the fact the provincial government did not want to be the Society’s landlord. Ken solved the problem by rewriting the original University Golf Course lease to contain a clause that the BC Golf Museum would be part of a sublease to the University lease. The BC Golf Museum would rent the premises and land from the University Golf Course for the sum of $1.00 per year. The BC Golf House Society operated the premises and land as if the Society actually owned the property and building. The Society raised the money to renovate and maintain the premises.
Dorothy Brown calls
The BC Golf Museum experienced many significant moments over the past twenty-five years. Without doubt the most significant event occurred when Dorothy approached the Board asking if she could operate the Museum for the Society. During the early months of the operation The Courier newspaper carried monthly summaries outlining the progress of the renovations. Because Dick lived in Tswassassen The Delta Optimist ran an article about the new golf museum that would be housed in the old University Clubhouse. Dorothy read the article and asked if we were hiring staff. Dorothy met the Board. Everyone agreed she was perfect because she was Scottish. Dorothy came to the Society with experience as a volunteer for the Delta Museum and as its President.
In the fall of 1987 Dorothy began working at the Museum on a daily basis. With no water and no heat she oversaw the transformation. The government supplied workers through the training program for recovering addicts and alcoholics. Volunteers from the golf community formed the labour force. The golf community donated the materials. As an example the Pella Corporation (Hunt corporation) donated $35,000 worth of windows that matched the originals.
In October 1988 Dorothy sat down with the PROVINCE sports reporter Don Harrison to express her vision for the future home of the BC Golf Museum. Her statements then still form the basis for the Museum’s vision.
“I want this to be a research and preservation centre and active display area of B.C. and international golf. We intend to be an archival centre. We have over 6,000 books in our library. We are going to be a folk museum, not a hushed place, but a fun place. Brown paints a picture of the museum’s piece de resistance: six rooms evoking the eras of golf. Beginning in the 1500’s in Holland with ‘colf’ which the Dutch played on ice, then the ball makers kitchen where the ball maker is stuffing a new feather ball with a top hat full of feather, next the old Tom Morris golf shop showing the equipment from the hickory era, a woman’s parlour because the collection contains so many feminine artifacts, Bobby Jones giving a lesson in front of a clubhouse façade for golf in the forties and a television showing the Shell Wonderful World of golf. This did more to popularize the game than anything else. A functioning clubmaker’s shop and replica of a blacksmith’s workroom complete the main floor.”
Clearly the Society required funding to complete the renovation. At the 1987 BC Open Dick and Harry approached one of the main supporters of the tournament to assist with fundraising. George Yen immediately proposed the Society sell the rooms in the Museum for $25,000 each. He convinced his friends George Williams and Norm Edgar to purchase a room. Later the Bentley family followed. The Society now had the necessary funding to build the golf museum. Basically the Society operated on a simple principle. “You donate one dollar to the Society and the Society will turn that dollar into two dollars of value”. That philosophy still forms the basis of the museum’s fundraising efforts today – twenty-five years later.
To provide long term financing for the Society Les Paterson and Ernie Brown approached the Board suggesting the Society conduct a yearly fundraising golf tournament. In 1987 Richmond CC and Quilchena G&CC hosted the inaugural BC golf Charity Tournament (The Tradition Golf Classic) today. This tournament has raised in excess of $600,000 for the Society from 1987 – 2014 Prior to 2008 the BC Lotteries Corporation supplied funding for special projects and capital expenses for the Society.
Opening Day May 6th, 1989
While the university community celebrated the opening of the Simon Fraser downtown campus the who’s who of British Columbia Golf met to officially open the BC Golf Museum. Dave Barr returned from the PGA Tour to strike a replica feather ball perched on a sand tee with an original 1790’s track iron to officially open the premises. A dream for three visionaries came true.
As the original lease between the University Golf Course and the B.C. Golf House Society ceases on April 1, 2015 the Society waits with positive anticipation. Hopefully the powers in control we allow the BC Golf Museum to remain in the original University Golf Course building. Today the Museum plays an integral roll in golf in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. The Museum maintains and accumulates information for the golf clubs (alive and dead), the players, and the tournaments. Today the “little house of memories” serves the community as a tourist attraction, as a research centre, and as a preserver of B.C. golf’s artifacts. The BC Golf Museum is still the only stand-alone state or provincial golf museum in North America.
If the Society is successful in signing in new lease the Society will excavate the remaining 1200 square foot basement to create new display space, new bathrooms and a new kitchen area. The displays will be upgraded focusing on golf after 1950 utilizing the Museum’s vast collection of artifacts from the period 1950 – 2000.