WILLINGDON LINKS MAP 1930
GOLF IN QUESNEL CELEBRATED 90 YEARS IN 2020.
PART 1 The Willingdon Links 1930 – 1956
PART 2 Father of the New Course Lloyd Harper
PART 3 Dragon Lake Golf Course
The Quesnel Cariboo Observer newspaper
Brandee Schutz, Assistant Curator Quesnel and District Museum & Archives. Brandee supplied the museum with photos and maps that made it possible to prepare a course map.
If any reader believes we have made an error in the article or the map please contact us at email: firstname.lastname@example.org
PART 1. The Willingdon Links (Quesnel Golf Club) 1930 – 1956
Colin Ross Malcolm provided the inspiration to construct a golf course and form a golf club in Quesnel. Born on Nicomen Island located near Chilliwack in the Fraser River, Colin Ross Malcolm began his banking career at age eighteen at the Bank of Montreal in Chilliwack. Soon he transferred to Vancouver then Victoria. In 1913 he moved to the Union Bank. The Union became the Royal Bank in 1925.While in Chilliwack he and several friends formed the local tennis club.
Like most young men his age in Victoria with British roots, he enlisted for war service in January 1915. His group of basically civil and mining engineers as well as land surveyors formed the main body of the 48th Battalion. The sportsmen who played golf, tennis, or football formed the 88th Fusiliers. These battalions joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force in July 1915 to specifically defeat the enemy at Vimy Ridge. During the War Malcom also fought in the famous battle at The Somme as an expert rifleman.
Upon his discharge in 1919, he resumed his teller’s job at the Union Bank. Soon the bank promoted him to his first managerial position in Duck, BC located eighteen miles east of Kamloops along the CPR line. In 1925 he arrived in Coalmont as manager of the new Royal Bank to serve the mining communities in Hedley and Princeton. In this position he became active in the local Chamber of Commerce. After the War he maintained his affinity to shoot, so he encouraged a group to form a gun club for competitions. It is unclear if he played golf on the Hedley or Princeton golf links.
In 1929 the Royal transferred him to their newly constructed bank in Quesnel. At this time the local chapters of Chamber of Commerce encouraged local businessmen especially the local bank manager to encourage his fellow citizens to form a golf club. “A local golf course will encourage travelers to stay in your town one more night to play your local links.” The Chamber believed golf-encouraged tourists to visit your area and enhance the local economy. From 1929 – 1934 he served in Quesnel. Next from 1934 – 1937 he managed the Royal at Burns Lake. Finally from 1937 until his retirement in 1944 he managed several Royal Banks in Vancouver. He died in Vancouver in 1945.
The charter members for the newly formed Quesnel Golf Club included: Fred Vaughan the 2nd President, Doug Fraser, George Johnston, Cliff Johnston, Jack Cowan, Charlie Allison, Walter Cotton, Bob Barlow, F.G. Exshaw, Rod MacKenzie, Major Hart, Mrs. Bridgettt, D.R. Kelly, J.G. Hutchcroft, Dave Grierson, E.J. Avison, Jim Pearson, John Cowan, Ted Winder, and Eric Woodburn.
Like most newly formed golf clubs in BC, the Quesnel founders chose an area their citizens presently used for recreation. Since 1910 baseball, cricket, horse racing, and family Sunday picnics occurred on “China Charlie’s field”. Charlie used the flat lands west of the Quesnel River.
Chow Dong (Charlie) Hoy arrived in the Quesnel area seeking employment around 1903. He worked at the Cariboo Hotel as a dishwasher, but soon he discovered the Grand Trunk Railway paid higher wages to the surveying crews in Prince George area. After working on the crew and in the mines at Barkerville, he returned permanently to Quesnel in 1913. He cultivated the leased the flat lands for mixed farming. He supplied Barkerville stores with fruits and vegetables. The locals used the vacant sections for recreational purposes.
Circumstances changed in 1916. Mr. Kennedy from the government announced “Charlie’s Fields are the only natural site in Quesnel for the new PGE rail line and the station. The flat lands provide a level grade for the mainline and the sidings. The station would be only four blocks from the courthouse, the centre of town. Besides the property is owned by the province and very desirable.” Charlie had prepared for this outcome by purchasing property in downtown Quesnel for the town’s first “department store” selling groceries, hardware, and dry goods. The locals continued using the flat ground for recreation during the early years of the rail line. Problems did not arise until the town grew and commercial enterprises located near the rail line.
The golf founders leased from the PGE parts of old China Charlie’s farm area that straddled the PGE line running near the west side of the Quesnel River. Over the twenty-six years (1930 – 1956) the members altered their 2200-yard original course to accommodate the expanding railway.
“A splendid location for the links has been obtained on a lease from the PGE Railway Co., five holes being between the railway track and the west bank of the Quesnel River and the other four being above the west side of the railway track. A little work has to be done to get some of the fairways and sand greens in shape, but taking it all around, the location is one of the best natural sites in the interior.”
During its existence the members proudly advertised their course as one of the most beautiful in the province. “The club is off to a good start and there is no doubt the golf course will be an asset to the town in the way of having travelers stay over to enjoy a game instead of just passing through.” Frequently The Cariboo Observer newspaper praised the local course as a community asset.
Lord and Lady Willingdon made an informal visit to BC in April 1930. The Governor General showed a keen interest in fishing, golf, tennis, skating, skiing, curling and cricket. In 1927 the Royal Canadian Golf Association required a trophy for their new competition among teams from the provinces. The RCGA hoped this team event would create a national participation in the Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship. When approached for a trophy donation, the newly arrived Lord Willingdon responded positively. Hence the Willingdon Cup competition commenced.
Golf appears to be one of the favourite pastimes the royal couple did together. Upon their arrival in Vancouver on April 9th for an informal visit, the duo played golf at four local courses: Jericho, Vancouver, Quilchena, and Shaughnessy Heights. In Victoria the Royals played Victoria and Royal Colwood. Prior to their visit the couple indicated they had a deep desire to visit the interior of BC. The Lieutenant Governor arranged for them to travel by PGE railway to Quesnel then by car to Vanderhoof through Prince George. A special CN train returned them via Edmonton to Ottawa.
From the report in the Cariboo Observer it appears the ceremony to open the new local course was spontaneous.
“ At 4:30 PM Thursday April 24th, 1930, the regal party was met at the first tee by the president of the club Colin Malcolm, committee member J.C. McGuire, and a few members. The ceremony had been arranged in a rather hurried fashion, otherwise there would have been a larger turnout.
The president teed up a new ball. Her Excellency selected a driver and stepped into position remarking she had never played in high heels before. However her drive was a beauty of almost two hundred yards down the middle of the fairway. Lord Willingdon followed and his drive went a few yards farther. Three other members of the party hit also. After sinking her putt on the first green Lady Willingdon christened the course The Willingdon Links. She wished the club every success and she would be sending the club a trophy for club competition. His Excellency added a few remarks congratulating the members on the lovely site overlooking the Quesnel River. He added that he and Lady Willingdon had never been given the opportunity to open a golf course before and they would always remember the occasion. The two royal guests initialed the balls they used. Colin Malcolm assured them the balls would be given a special place of honour in the club’s trophy case when the clubhouse opened.”
(Note: During the years the club existed the best male golfer for the season received the Willingdon Trophy for one year. Usually the best player set a new course record during the year or the player won the most club events. )
Many of the founding members donated trophies for various club events. The Malcolms donated the Ladies Club Championship Trophy. The Cowan trophy came from John Cowan, owner of the Cownan Hardware Store. He supplied all the necessary golf equipment for the new club. A.S. Vaughan, the local realtor and 2nd club President, donated the Vaughan Shield. The club held its first competition on August 30th 1930, three months after the royal visit.
In 1937 McDonald’s Consolidated Foods appointed Bob Foulis to oversee their accounts in northern BC. Because the company had a warehouse in Quesnel he settled in the region. Fortunately for the Quesnel golfers Bob carried a five handicap. He began his golf career at Uplands GC in Victoria as a caddie, junior, and regular member. He immediately won the Cariboo Open in 1937 and 1938 receiving the title “thee best golfer in the north”. Most important he began giving the Quesnel members golf lessons increasing the level of play in the inter club competitions. June 1938, “Bob Foulis received word he is being transferred to the New Westminster office. The club will greatly miss the services Bob provided in the training of new players.”
Bob joined the Quilchena GC. He won several company events. His most significant win came in the 1948 Peace Portal Open when he defeated all the local pros and top-flight amateurs including Stan Leonard, Fred Wood, and Bill Mawhinney by two strokes. Finally “after playing in so many Commercial Travelers tournaments I cannot remember the number, ” Bob won the event in 1951.
As the President of the Quilchena GC, he supervised the move of the club from the CPR Arbutus lands to Richmond. For three years he oversaw all aspects of the construction and reorganization of the golf club in to their new surroundings. In the 1960’s he served the BCGA as the rules official at the provincial tournaments.
After the War members began to realize the days on their beloved course could be ending. A planer mill appeared near the fifth green. The sawmill used the area near the tracks on #2 and #3 fairways to store logs being prepared for the mill. Soon stacks of lumber being prepared for shipping by rail to the coast occupied the fourth fairway next to the tracks. Each winter the PGE Company installed additional spurs to store the waiting boxcars.
Each spring when the golfers arrived to prepare their course for the coming season, they found deep ruts and compacted fairways left by the heavy logging trucks that crossed the fairways during the winter months. In 1953 the PGE Railway Company gave the Quesnel GC their notice to vacate by the end of the 1955 golf season. The final blow for their course came in 1955 when the spring floods from the Quesnel River closed the holes along the river. Fortunately Lloyd Harper anticipated this day so he commenced his plan to save the club in 1953.
PART 2 describes the formation and development of the new course by the club’s savior Lloyd Harper.
“The course was located on “China Charlie’s “ farm on both sides of the railway line. Five holes were located between the Quesnel River and the rail line and four holes south of the rail line on the bench land.”
The present LeBourdais Park occupies most of the old golf course. Miss LeBourdais served the Quesnel GC as its secretary from 1930 – 1037.
Hole #1 356 Yards Par 4 Ladies Par 5
– Dunrovin Park Lodge located on the 1st tee and ninth green area.
– Quesnel Museum located on the 1st green
– Bob Foulis, the longest driver in the club hit a 298 drive on this hole.
-Little League Park located on1st fairway
Hole # 2 288 Yards Par 4 Ladies Par 5
– From the 1st green players crossed the railway tracks to the river
– The tee was located next to the Quensel River.
– Players frequently drove all their balls into the river and quit the round.
– One player drove over the green from the tee into the horse corral
-Out of Bounds in the stockyard
Hole # 3 183 Yards Par 3 Ladies Par 3
– Out of Bounds in the stockyard
Hole # 4 236 Yards Par 3 Ladies Par 4
-The hole has trees on the right next to the river and the railway tracks on the left
-Out of Bounds on railway tracks
-1946 a hotel company wanted to construct a lodge on the4th fairway next to the river. The lodge would also serve as a clubhouse.
Hole # 5 343 Yards Par 4 Ladies Par 5
– The only dogleg hole on the course
– It was possible to drive over the 90-foot cottonwood trees to reach the green
– The trees on the right of #4 extended down the right side of #5
– Players played a right dogleg hole with the green located near the river
– Lloyd hit into the trees and still managed to set the course record for nine holes 27 strokes
Hole # 6 315 yards Par 4 Ladies Par 5
– Most difficult hole on the course
– The tee was located near the river and headed west toward town
-Out of Bounds on railway tracks to the east.
– Shots landing on the slope “may be lifted and thrown back with no penalty.”
Players crossed the tracks to reach the 7th tee.
Hole # 7 79 yards Par 3 Ladies Par 3
– Players had to play over a deep gulch to reach the green
Hole # 8 111 yards Par 3 Ladies Par 3
Hole # 9 285 yards Par 4 Ladies Par 5.
– In 1942 the club negotiated with the town to lease three town lots to extend the ninth hole so the green is in front of the clubhouse.
– In 1948 the hole extended to the new green beside the clubhouse.
– Out of Bounds on the railway tracks
– A player rolled down the hill to the railway tracks while playing his 2nd shot
-McDonalds Consolidated Foods warehouse was located near clubhouse and 9th green.