FROM A 28 HANDICAP TO A 2 IN ONE SEASON.
THE BARBARA “BABS” MARYGOLD DAVIES STORY.
Prior to 1947 at Marine Drive only Frieda Melton could consistently score in the low nineties. For this reason Marine Drive women had no success in the local, provincial, regional, and national championships. What event occurred in i947 that changed the women’s golfing fortunes at Marine Drive?
In May 1947 issue of the British Columbia Sports Review (BCSR) Hal Straight published an article referring to the fact Marine Drive attracted champions to their club because the club had the best male players in the City. He argued, “Champions attract Champions”. Perhaps this rule applied to the women. In the June issue of the BCSR, Straight recognized the new rising star at Marine Drive. “Babs Davies of Marine Drive, who is emerging as one the season’s most threatening new stars, took top honours in the women’s section of the Pro-Ladies tourney at Quilchena. The copper haired youngster, who started the golfing season at 28 has lowered her handicap to 5.” The 1947 CLGU Annual reported Babs as a 2 handicap at the conclusion of the ’47 golf season, the lowest handicap for any woman golfer in Canada. Babs went from 28 to 2 in one season. Wow! Almost instantly, Babs Davies definitely placed Marine Drive on the golfing map for women’s golf in the city and the province. Membership records indicate her success began to attract the best women golfers in the region. Within three years, Babs led a core of seven women players with 6 or under handicaps: This group of new golfing stars included: Mrs. Jean Knox, Mrs. Margaret Hutton-Potts, Mrs. Mildred Renwick, Mrs. Irene McCracken, Miss. Donna Ross, Miss Sheila Ross, and Mrs. Melda Buchanan.
Who was this golfing phenomenon?
Born in Vancouver on May 11th, 1925, her parents, Meirion and Marguerite Davies, lived at 3692 West 33rd from 1924 – 1948. Babs grew up on the south side of Dunbar Park (West Memorial Park) one block off Dunbar on the west side. She had siblings. (Unclear how many at this time). Her parents, with Welsh roots, arrived in Vancouver in 1924. Her father worked as a draftsman for C.H.E. Williams. The Vancouver City Directories illustrate his rise in the company to assistant manager, vice –president and president. The directories indicate he left around 1940 to open his own business, Langley Manufacturing. He died in 1948.
When we began the renovations to the old University Golf Course clubhouse in 1986, Harold Davies, a close neighbor, became fascinated by the project. Over several years, always with a twinkle in his eye, he reminisced how he had a famous golfer working as his secretary in his westside realty office from 1948 – 1953. Her name was Barbara Marygold Davies, no relation. From his stories it became evident, Harold enjoyed having his clients believe his secretary, Babs, the local golfing sensation, was his daughter. Perhaps this relationship increased sales.
Although Harold never played golf when asked about Babs’ golfing background, He believed her baseball skills enabled her to become a very good player very quickly. Living directly across from a baseball park, perhaps Babs did play baseball. Note this aspect of her golfing career is still unknown. She graduated from Lord Byng in 1943. Immigration records indicate she crossed the border frequently during the summer in 1942 and 1943. One could speculate she may have been a member of a team.
Babs’ friendly outgoing style on the golf course made her an instant success in 1947. A memorable incident at the 1949 Canadian Ladies Closed at Capilano typifies the laid back, crowd friendly manner in which she approached the game.
The Vancouver Sun Headline “Babs came through –By A Sneeze” illustrates; “ Inwardly nervous as the proverbial kitten, but outwardly steady as a seasoned veteran Babs skips around the front nine in 41. …. A few minutes later up stalks the immensely popular Marine Drive star, on the green and needing a four-foot putt for a total 241. Babs knew this was the putt for the title. Man was she scared. She lined up the putt, bent carefully over the ball, stroked back slowly – and from out of the deathly still there came a violent, resounding, shuddering sneeze that sent the horrified air wide open. Miss Davies froze in her backswing, paused momentarily, then turned ominously toward the scarlet old gentleman smiled engagingly and said “God bless you.” Then Babs relaxed and as carefree as a two year old turned she calmly stroked the four footer into the cup for the title. The hundreds of spectators erupted. You never heard such cheering.”
Babs after winning the 1949 Canadian Ladies Closed Championship at Capilano G&CC
Also during these championships at Capilano, Babs showed she could go low. During the provincial team competition, she threw a scare into the old guard members as they searched for the women’s course record. She stood three under par after fifteen. She bogeyed 16. But on the tortuous 18th her third shot rolled back into one of the bunkers on the slope in front of the green. After holing out, she scored a double bogey. With her first round score of 82 plus her 78 she won the O’Keefe Trophy for low individual score in the team competition.
1950 Vancouver City Amateur at Marine Drive
Babs & Bob Bourne after winning the City Amateur at Marine Drive.
Babs reached the 17th hole in two shots – an incredible feat for a woman
Challenged by a spectator who said: “twice a bridesmaid nay a bride” referring to her runner-up finishes in the 1947 and 1948 City championships proved the gentleman wrong. Babs, a protégé of Stan Leonard, did the unheard of feat. In the qualifying round, she reached the 17th green in two on her way to a back nine score of 36 three under par for women. Women’s par for the course was 78. She defeated Rene O’Callaghan in the final for her first City amateur title.
The 1952 USGA Women’s Amateur at Waverley illustrates where luck of the draw can be detrimental. She qualified fourth, but drew one of the pre-tournament favourites, Miss Shirley McFedters from Virginia, California. In the medal round, Shirley had an uncharacteristic high qualifying score. Babs battled her to the 19th hole in the best first round match of the day.
Basically Babs began an era where Marine Drive woman dominated woman’s golf in BC. One could argue Champions do attract champions. In July 1951 Babs announced to the club she would be moving to California after the 1951 Canadian Championships in Quebec. To recognize their star Canadian Woman golfer, the club honoured her with an Honorary Life membership. “Always a favourite with her fellow club member Miss Davies will be missed around Marine Drive. From the caddies to Pro Stan Leonard, everyone agreed, Babs always has a pleasant smile and a friendly welcome. An amateur comedienne of some merit Babs rarely played in a match without keeping the gallery and her opponent relaxed. She is so easy-going in finals a few members advise her to stop conceding foot and a half long putts. In even her most important matches she always brings smiles to her rival despite how tough the going is. She set a new course record for women last month with a record 78 five under par.”
But she postponed the departure for two years. Perhaps she learned at the 1951 national championships the CLGU planned to send their first oversea team to Great Britain in 1953 for a series of matches prior to the Woman’s British Amateur.
In 1950 Bob Kidd and Ann Smith joined Marine. Babs developed a lasting relationship with the future couple. In fact Ann and Babs developed a sister like bond. The two did everything together. They were inseparable. Even when Babs moved permanently to California Babs returned each summer to be with her best friend Ann. When the Penticton GC appointed Bob their new head professional in 1967, Bob enticed Babs to return to BC to be his pro shop manager. Ann and Babs remained life long friends until Babs’ death on April 15th, 1996 in Penticton, BC.
At the 1991 Vancouver Golf Show, Babs dropped by the BC Golf Museum booth. She visited for only a few minutes, but promised to bring her 1949 Canadian Closed and her replica O’Keefe Trophy to the Museum. She never came.
One perplexing mystery surrounds the Babs Davies story. Research indicates Babs played her last competitive round of golf in London, ON in July 1953 at the Canadian Ladies Championships. No golf references for Barbara (Babs) Davies appear in any San Francisco Chronicle newspapers. Why would a prominent golfer like Babs suddenly quit the game? According to the San Francisco County City Directories from September 1953 until 1970. she resided at various locations usually related to her secretarial jobs where she worked.
I have exhausted all the standard newspaper sources such as genealogybank, Fold 3, NewspaperArchive, LibrayNews, Familysearch.org, and Ancestry.com searching for a golf reference for Barbara (Babs) Davies in California from 1950 – 1970. There are none. It is very hard to believe a player with such an impressive resume would suddenly quit golf after the 1953 Canadian Women’s’ Championships.
Barbara Babes Davies posted a short but impressive playing record. Every accomplishment represents a first time event for a Marine Drive woman member. In fact just playing in a championship flight in any championship was a first time.
1947 Vancouver & District (V&D) Championship medalist (Her 1st golf championship)
1947 & ‘48 V&D Championship finalist
1947 Vancouver City Mixed partner Jack Ellis
1947 Low Lady in the Quilchena Pro/Lady Tournament
1950 & ’51 V&D Champion
1949 Canadian Ladies Closed Champion
1949 O’keefe Trophy Champion low individual score for Provincial Team competition
1950 BC Ladies Medalist
1950, ’51,’52 BC Ladies Champion
1950 BC Ladies Championship medalist
1951 Canadian Ladies Open Championship winner of the consolation flight. (first round losers play in the consolation flight)
BC Team 1947, ’49,’50,’51
1950 Canadian Team member against Great Britain Curtis Cup Team
1953 Canadian Team member that toured Great Britain.
1947 – 1952 Hunting Cup Lower Mainland Team member
1949 – 1952 Marine Drive Business Team member
1947 – 1952 Marine Drive Macadam Team member
I would like to communicate with a relative, a friend in California, a former caddie, a former schoolmate, or a neighbour who could add further information to this article. The Babs Davies story contains numerous mysteries.