This article is the first of a series that documents the history of the golf clubs in the Pacific Northwest that celebrate their Centennial anniversary in 2022. None of the articles is intended to be a complete history of the golf club. Each article identifies the actual formation date of the club, the original location for the course, the routing for the holes, the early competitions, and the first club professionals, and the prominent early members and champions.
How Did Powell River Get Its Name?
Dr. Israel Powell – A capsule biography
When commencing the research for any article that appears in our e-news, one never knows where the initial research will lead. What auxiliary gems regarding the history of the area might be revealed? This first article is a case where the contributions one man made to the social fabric of British Columbia is revealed. The noted early BC historian, B.A. McKelvie, revealed in his essay published in the January 1947 issue of the British Columbia Historical Quarterly:
“Few men have made a greater contribution to the development of British Columbia or served the public more consistently than did Dr. Israel Wood Powell.” Throughout his overview of Dr. Powell’s fifty-year career in BC, McKelvie challenges historians to delve further into several topics where Dr. Powell made significant contributions. One in particular caught my attention. While serving as the first Commissioner of Indian Affairs for BC, he advocated three policies for the betterment of the First Nation people. There should be free education and free medical for all. Most importantly he strongly supported the First Nations people be given the right to pre-empt land on an equal basis with the new white settlers.
As the grandson of a United Empire Loyalist family, Israel came to BC in 1862. Like many young adventuresome men, he sought to make a quick fortune in the Cariboo golf fields. Instead he began his medical practice in Victoria. Soon he advocated for the unification of the two colonies, the Mainland and the Island, into one with a central government located in Victoria. As Confederation came into effect, he urged the settlers of BC to join the Confederation. The residing politicians strenuously opposed this move. But Powell argued directly to the people about the advantages. Throughout his career he talked directly to the people of the province.
As a member of the Legislature, he fought for a free provincial wide education system. He became the first Education Minister and in 1890 the first Chancellor of UBC. To bring law and order to the various areas of the province he established the first provincial militia. It was in this capacity he visited the present Powell River area to settle a murder dispute.
As a businessman he began purchasing real estate in the new Vancouver. He donated the CPR terminal lands to the railway company to encourage them to terminate the cross-country line in Vancouver and not Port Moody. When Vancouver needed land for a new City Hall he donated four lots on Powell Street.
For his many contributions to BC, the Government named Powell Lake and the river draining the lake Powell River. For his contribution to the good of the citizens of Vancouver and Victoria, each named streets in his honour.
Powell River Golf Club Celebrates 100 Years 1922 – 2022
We wish to extend a special thank you to Dave Williams and Hector Beauchesen for their valuable assistance in creating the maps of the early course. Also we used the Powell River Digester, the Vancouver Sun, The Vancouver Province, The Victoria Daily Standard, and the Victoria Daily Times for significant information. The museum collection contains several early Powell River Golf Course postcards.
Brooks – Scanlon Lumber Company
As residents of Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Brooks family began their business enterprises in grain under the name Brooks Elevator Company in 1878. “The opportunities offered by the lumber industry attracted their attention in connection with M.J. Scanlon and H.F. Gipson. By 1901 the two families united into the Brooks – Scanlon Lumber Company beginning a seventy-five relationship. In 1901 the BC Government passed legislation to attract a pulp and paper mill to BC. The first paper enterprise formed in Alberni BC in 1894. The fiber for the paper came from rags. Because of an unreliable supply, the first paper mill closed in 1896.
Why the Brooks- Scanlon Lumber Company began logging operations in the Powell River area is unclear. In 1909 the company decided to construct the first paper mill in BC. The process required an abundant dependable supply of water. Powell Lake proved ideal. “The province was still in the infancy stage of development and the erection of a 250-ton newsprint mill was an outstanding achievement of courage and vision.” In May 1912 the first ton of newsprint manufactured in western Canada was shipped from Powell River. From these humble beginnings the Powell River Mill became of the world’s largest producer of paper products.
“Sports formed a leading part in the industrial life of the paper town.”
Dr. Henderson graduate from McGill University in 1880. Upon graduation the romance of the west attracted the young physician Doctor to join the CPR medical staff in Calgary. Next he appears in Minneapolis as a resident doctor and professor at the University of Minnesota. Because the Brooks Scanlon Company required a resident physician for their new venture in Powell River, the company enticed him to visit the area. He began a life long relationship with the company and the residents in 1909. Because of Henderson’s vision, the towns people benefited in many aspects of their life. The Doctor became a strong influence in the success of the business. He advocated creating a harmonious atmosphere for the employees to succeed. Modern well-staffed recreation facilities proved to be a key to success. As the population grew he convinced the company to finance recreational facilities. By 1921 the village had baseball, basketball, football, cricket, and lawn bowling. The surrounding environs allowed the villagers to hunt, fish, ice skate, and ski. The company subsidized all the recreational facilities. To further care for the citizens’ well being, Dr. Henderson established the first medical plan in Canada under the name Powell River Sick Benefit Society. The employees paid a small fee per month and the company financed the balance of the cost. The Doctor constructed St. Luke’s Hospital and attracted first class nurses and physicians to Powell River.
Formation of the Powell River Golf Club
After establishing the Lawn Bowling Club in 1921, Dr Henderson called a meeting for October 26th, 1922 in the Central Hall for the purpose to form a golf club. Fifty enthusiasts attended. The group elected the club’s first Board as follows; Dr. A. Henderson, President; Robin Bell-Irving, Vice-President; TB Medford, Secretary/Treasurer; Executive Committee, Moore, Lang, Cole, Peacock, Hogue, and Newby. Ed Peacock probably played golf before arriving in Powell River. He immediately became the club’s top player.
Robin Bell-Irving, a member of the Jericho CC in Vancouver, had deep roots in the history of BC golf. His father Duncan, his uncle Harold, and Campbell Sweeny formed the first golf club, the Vancouver Country Club, on the Pacific Coast in November 1892. Harold laid out the club’s first golf course at Jericho Beach. Mr. and Mrs. John MacIntyre arrived from Vancouver in 1921. The couple also Jericho CC members, became active golfers. Mrs. MacIntyre won the inaugural Upper Island Championship at Qualicum as a Powell River member. John served the village as head of the Welfare and Recreation Department for the company.
The golf club conducted their golf season like most clubs in the province. The club commenced their season on October1 and end the following year on Easter Weekend. Basically golf was a winter game in the Northwest until the 1940’s. Why? The golf clubs had no mechanized equipment to cut the fairways. The sheep, cattle, and goats that roamed the courses could not maintain the fairways at a playable length during the spring and summer growing season, In the case of Powell River Golf Club another factor existed. The members of the golf club and the lawn bowling club played both games. The lawn bowling season operated from May 1 until Labour Day. The members played no golf.
The Course/The Clubhouse
The location and expansion of the golf course was directly influenced by the development of the mill. The company paid for all alterations over the years. The club commenced in 1922 with a four-hole course located nears the oil storage tanks and the soccer field. Within a year the course expanded to six holes. The company spent $15,000 to construct the links. Frank Flett arrived in 1922 as a teller in the Bank of Commerce. He related; “The hundred or so golfers met in the old Commerce building. When the new Bank building opened in 1923 we moved the old structure to a location near the oil tanks for our clubhouse.”
By 1926 the course had expanded to 9 holes. On holes three and eight the players drove across the log boom road with their drives. These holes crossed the log road. The members constantly moved tees to expand the length of the course. In February 1927, Dave Ayton, the Point Grey professional, suggested lengthening and bunkering for the course.
In 1929, shortly before his death, Michael Scanlon donated five thousand dollars to the club. The money could be used for any purpose to improve the facilities. The membership decided to construct a new clubhouse on Marine Way near the fifth tee area. By 1932 the company had expanded the mill to force the removal of holes #1, #2, #3 and #4. The club constructed new holes east of the clubhouse. It is unclear if the 1960’s course routing was the layout for the period 1932 – 1960.
In 1973 MacMillan-Blodel announced certain holes on the golf course would need to be used to install the new pollution control system. “Certain control units will need to be located on parts of the golf course. The company will build the three replacement holes at no expense to the golf club. The new holes will improve the layout.” Holes # 5 and 6 became holes # 2 and 3 under the new layout. The three new holes additional holes #4, 5,6 occupied the lands south of the old nine.
Although he was born in North Berwick, Scotland around 1873 Sydney McCulloch could almost claim to be a native British Columbian. His father David opened the first branch of the Bank of British Columbia in New Westminster in 1885. Sid settled in Calgary Alberta with his wife in 1911. From 1911 until his move to Vancouver he worked as an insurance agent and customs agent. First he appeared in the Calgary GC records, then as a founding member of the Bowness GC in Calgary. Very quickly he established himself as one of the best amateurs on the prairies. He culminated his amateur career with a win over Jack Cuthbert, the 1921 Manitoba Amateur Champion, in the 1921 Canadian Amateur Championship.
Sid arrived in Vancouver thinking he would assume the Secretary/Manager position at the newly formed Marine Drive G&CC. But Albert Phillp, the club founder, had already assigned this position to Jock Leith. Sid took the second alternative, the Marine Drive professional position, on February 9th, 1923. After one year the newly formed Powell River GC hired him. He remained a golf professional until 1926, then left the golf business. For the next decade, he traveled throughout BC as a manufacturers agent for hardware supplies.
George Pook 1926 – 1928
On April 6th 1923 Dave Ayton arrived in Vancouver to assume the head professional position at the newly opened Point Grey G&CC. Accompanying him from England was his “highly qualified club maker and teacher “ George Pook. In March 1926 “George Pook who took over the duties of club professional from Sid McCulloch has had quite a busy time making clubs and giving lessons to the aspiring members.” Under Pook’s leadership Powell River began an annual interclub matches with the Point Grey GC. Pook appears to have accompanied Dave Ayton back to England in 1928.
Maurice Boxall 1928 – 1933
In February 1928 Maurice Boxall assumed the professional position at the club. After serving in the British Merchant Navy from 1900 – 1912 Boxall began his professional golf career at the Thames Ditton Golf Club. Prior to arriving in Canada in 1924 from his position at the Todmorden GC in England, Maurice placed an advertisement in the Canadian Golfer Magazine.” WANTED English professional, good coach and club maker, seeks position in Canada. Excellent testimonials and references. Apply M Boxall.” “Maurice Boxall, a most excellent coach and club maker, is assured of a record season at Erie Downs. March 1924.
He arrived in Powell River in February 1928. In the September Digester “Another course record was hung up on the local links last month (August) when professional Maurice Boxall shot a 60 to shatter the record. He was playing with Robin Bell-Irving.” While at Powell River Maurice recorded his 12th career hole-in-one. His memorable shot came in 1928 while playing a match with Davie Black, head professional at Shaughnessy. “Maurice’s tee shot on the first hole almost went out of bounds, struck a tree on the bank (adjacent to the log road) deflected downwards on top of the rear bank, and lazily rolled on to the green and plopped into the hole.”
Ernie Tate 1933 – 1940
Working as Jimmy Huish’s assistant at Marine Drive, Ernie rose to the top of the crop of assistants in the Northwest. He won the prestigious NW Assistants championship three times in four years – 1928, 1931, and 1932. At the ’32 championship in Tacoma he lowered the course record to 66. He began his golf career as a caddy at the Vancouver GC where Jimmy Huish served as professional. Jimmy guided the youngster’s career to the championship status. Powell River landed the best playing assistant in the northwest when Tate signed to be their professional. Following the Marine Drive model, Ernie immediately began a junior program. He knew the strength of the club rested with the juniors. To encourage youngsters to golf, he introduced an adult /junior competition. “The competition is very popular with the juniors. The boys are paired with senior players with the object of promoting steadiness and experience.“ Within three years the junior membership grew to over forty boys and girls. His emerging stars included Malcolm Tapp, John and Frank MacDonald, Alf Tate, and Tommy Hunter. This foursome created a real stir in 1940 in Victoria at the BC Men’s Amateur. The boys “from up the coast” finished second two strokes behind the host club in the Hamber Cup Club Team competition. Ernie did not return to Powell River after his five War service in the army. In 1947 he assumed the head professional job at the Vancouver Parks Board Fraserview GC. In his absence during the War, his younger brother Alf oversaw the pro shop and golf course duties as an amateur.
Laverne Johnson 1946 – 1951
Like many of the homegrown golf professionals in BC, Laverne (Vern) Johnson came from the caddy ranks. Vern began at Shaughnessy before starting his apprenticeship under Bill Heyworth at Hastings Park After his war service in the Boeing plant he assumed his first professional job at Powell River in 1947. To promote the golf club, Laverne followed the common practice among regional clubs outside the lower mainland. He commenced the annual Malaspina Open in 1950. Because he did not play in his own tournament after 1953 one can assume he left Powell River.
Fred Dorman 1954 – 1956
Nothing is known about Fred Dorman’s background. He played in the 1954 Canadian Open at Point Grey as the professional from Powell River.
Doug Morrison 1956
The Morrison brothers, Hugh and Doug, posted impressive amateur careers in local and provincial championships as members of the Marine Drive GC. When the brothers sold their London Men’s Wear Shop in 1955. Doug decided to try his hand at professional golf. Hugh purchased a cranberry farm in Delta to construct the Sunshine Hills Par 3 golf course. After one year Doug returned to the import clothing business.
Lyle Newton 1957 & 1971
Lyle Newton had two stints as professional at Powell River. After serving his four-year apprenticeship at Point Grey under Leroy Goldsworthy, Lyle assumed his first head professional job at Powell River. Research indicates he only remained for one year then he became the plant manager for Golfcraft in Vancouver. When the company closed in 1971, he returned to his old job. “ “Powell River has not had a professional since Lyle’s departure in 1957”. Vancouver Sun 1971.
Blake Cramb 1973
In 1957 Blake won the 1st Annual Junior Sun Masters Championship as a rising junior star from Powell River. He manges to juggle his graveyard shift at the mill and participate in the regional and provincial championships. In the 1963 BC Men’s Amateur he lost in the final to Bill Wakeham at Richmond CC. As the Manager of the Powell River GC he won the 1973 Malaspina Open.
Research indicates Martin may have been the greens keeper after the War until around 1955 when he left for Nelson G&CC. Prior to his arrival at Powell he served the Penticton GC in the same capacity.
Born in St. Andrews New Brunswick Ed began his golfing career as a teenage and caddy. Before 1912 he wandered the east coast searching for a place to plant his roots. Then he decided to head west. After short stops on the prairies, he heard the new mill in Powell River required workers. He has acted as a construction and maintenance foreman for his entire career at the mill. The October 1941 Digester described Ed’s life in Powell River. “Ed has been prominent in community life. He has been president of the Basketball Association and has taken an active interest in lawn bowling. In ‘Ed the Mighty’ has been the name to beat over the life of the golf club.” Ed basically played in the finals every year for over a decade.
Steve and younger brother Harold began their golfing careers as caddies at the Victoria GC. Harold reached the pinnacle of BC golf in 1931 when he won the provincial men’s championship. As a junior he won the City Caddy and Junior championships. When Steve graduated from Victoria College in 1928 he moved to Powell River for his first teaching position. Except for a short period he lived in the area until the 1970’s. Upon his arrival Ed Peacock now had a formidable opponent for the club competitions. In 1935 it appeared the Powell River GC could have its first provincial champion. Steve won the medal in the Men’s Amateur but lost in the first round to the eventual champion Stan Leonard. As a new senior golfer he won the BC Seniors Golf Association title in 1963.
Johnny and Frank MacDonald
Maurice Boxall believed Johnnie had all the tools become a provincial champion – style, steadiness and confidence. At age fourteen he regularly shot in the 70’s over the challenging links. The MacDonald brothers replaced Ed Peacock as the perennial club champion. The brothers shared the title from 1936 – 1941.
The Hunter family arrived in Powell River when Tommy was seven years old. His father, Peter, worked as the Wharf Superintendent. Ernie Tate began teaching Tommy in 1934at age ten. The Digest colorfully described Ernie’s devotion to one of his star protégés “Ernie has him wrapped up in a glass cage, with barbed wire on all sides and cotton wool inside the glass.” The editor gives high praise to Ernie for all his devotion to the junior program. “Powell River has the potential for a future Willingdon Cup Team from the crop of juniors who are smacking the ball around under Ernie’s tutelage. The group includes Harry Donkersley, Bob Parkin, Bob Murray, and Malcolm Tapp. In his first BC Junior championship at Marine Drive Tommy was the star of the show. The 14 year old reached the finals losing to Hugh Morrison. Proudly Ernie named his star “the best junior golfer in Canada in his age group”.
After the War Tommy and four partners formed the Burg and Johnson Builders’ Supply Company in Powell River. The company had a planer mill; sash and door plant, hardware and homebuilders’ yard, appliance store, and a ready mix company. In 1955 he decided the eighteen-hour days were too much for him. In Vancouver Tommy became an Industrial Arts teacher at Vancouver Tech. After retiring he commenced his illustrious senior golf career. From 1984 – 1992 he represented the province on seven teams, won the BC Senior championship in 1990 and finished 2nd on three occasions. At the National Seniors in the C Age Group, he won three times.
Malcolm’s mother reigned as the best woman golfer in Powell River when he literally had hardly attended school. Ernie Tate literally plucked Malcolm from kindergarten to convince him to be a golfer. At the tender age of nine Malcolm began his course on “how to play golf in several thousand not-so-easy lessons” with Tutor Tate. By the time he reached seventeen, Malcolm had whipped all the good players in the Milltown. After the War he attended UBC playing on the varsity team with BC stars like Bob Plommer, Doug Bajus, Peter Bentley, and Dave Dale. Malcolm joined the professional ranks as Ernie Brown’s assistant then landed his first head professional job at Banff Springs GC. He remained there for over twenty-five years.
The Club Competitions
Like most early golf clubs the founders and the prominent citizens of the community donated the early trophies. In the case of Powell River the company executives supplied with club events. Here is a list of trophies the members competed for in 1926:
SD Brooks Cup Men’s Handicap Singles DK Macken
The Powell River G.C. Cup, Ladies Handicap Singles Miss EA O’Hearn
McLennan-McFeely Cup Two-ball Men’s Foursome EA Peacock/RC Mackenzie
WB Zumwalt Cup Two Ball Ladies Foursome Miss O’Hearn/Mrs. G Schuler
AE McMaster Cup Two Ball Mixed Foursome Miss O’Hearn/JA Kyles
Gutta Percha Rubber Cup Four-Ball Men’s Foursome DK Macken/SB Plommer
Bell-Irving Cup 36 Hole Men’s Medal E Peacock
NR Lang Trophy Eclectic Competition AD Armour
FA Dietrich Cup Men’s Club Championship Medal
EA Jamieson Cup Ladies Club Championship Medal
Schwengers Cup Ladies Club Championship
NB Lang Cup Men’s Club Championship
After sixty years on their nine-hole golf course, the membership began the process to move to a championship 18-hole golf course. The movers for the plan chose the 160-acre site at Myrtle Point. The planning committee believed the new course would entice mill retirees to remain in Powell River. A market survey conducted by the club identified prospective members wanted a challenging, well-maintained, and scenic layout. The Les Furber designed course opened in June 1991.
The museum would like to find a scorecard from the 1930’s, or 1940’s to determine if the hole layout matches the 1960’s layout.
If you have any information about the first course please contact the Museum at