University Golf Golf Course & Harry Winder

Biography of Harry “Low Tide” Winder &University Golf Course

This article was generated by an Ebay acquisition. We acquired the 1937 Spalding Exhibition program held at the University Golf Course. In all his interviews, Harry Winder, the University Golf Course professional from 1930 – 1971, referred to this match as one of the highlites during his career.  This article answers questions associated with the University Golf Course history. Who designed the golf course? When did the golf course open for play? When did the clubhouse, (the present-day Golf Museum), open?

The Beginnings for the University Golf Course

In 1925, Shaughnessy Heights Golf Club, located on the present grounds of the Eric Hamber High School and the Van Deusen Botanical Gardens, faced a dilemma created by their landlord the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), the CPR warned the Shaughnessy Board of Directors their  fifteen year lease, signed in 1911,  may not be renewed.

Vernon Macan, the busiest golf architect on the Pacific Coast in the 1920’s, renovated several holes on the Shaughnessy course in the early 1920’s. Logically the Shaughnessy Board hired Mac to find a new site for their golf course. He selected 180 acres on the University Endowment Lands (UEL) as the best possibility. Macan rejected the present-day Oakridge Shopping Centre site because the land was too rocky. Also Macan declined the present-day Shaughnessy site on SW Marine Drive because of the high cost to clear the first growth timber. Vernon Macan proceeded to design an 18-hole golf course for Shaughnessy Heights GC. on the UEL lands. The Shaughnessy Board decided to remain on their present site signing a new thirty-five year lease with the CPR. To protect his design for the UEL lands, Mac had Shaughnessy sign an agreement the club would not transfer his design to any prospective developers on the UEL lands.

After the construction of the first public golf course in BC on the Hastings Exhibition grounds (presently the PNE), the CPR decided to build a second 18-hole public golf course on their Langara lands located at 49th and Cambie. These two enterprises proved to be so successful that towns throughout the province planned to construct public or semipublic golf courses.

The BC Government, under Premier John Hart, joined the golf explosion. Since Macan’s plan for an 18-hole golf course on their UEL sat on Macan’s shelf, the government invited him to oversee the design and construction of the University Golf course. In 1927 Vernon Macan wrote a letter to the Shaughnessy Board requesting free playing privileges to their course while he lived in Vancouver to oversee the construction of Gleneagles, University, and the North Shore G&CC located near Cates Park on Dollarton Highway on the north shore. During his four-year residency in Vancouver, Mac also designed the bunkers and the greens at Peace Portal. The original architect, Francis James, laid out the Peace Portal course, supervised the clearing, and constructed the tees and fairways. For some reason James left in 1929 during the final phase of construction.  The enterprising Mac also found time to write a column for the society page in the Vancouver Sun titled “THE TALK OF VANCOUVER”.  He obtained his material by following the social life of the prominent sports people in Vancouver. He also reminisced about building early golf courses, the early players, and the rules of golf especially the Stymie rule. Periodically he would compare golf in Britain and America. He attended many of the high-profile marriages and the high-flying social parties for visiting dignitaries. Politics of the day regarding national, provincial, and local topics came under his sharp pen.

John Boyd, owner of General Construction Company seated in front

John Boyd, a member of Shaughnessy Heights and originally a member of Westward Ho in England, owned the General Construction Company (GCC). Due to Boyd’s close ties to the government GCC constructed most of the major highways throughout BC., the government awarded Boyd the contract to build the University Golf Course under Macan’s supervision. Since the UEL did not want to operate the new public golf course, John Boyd assumed the lease. He formed the Westward Ho Golf Links Company to operate the public University Golf Course.

The first nine holes informally opened on May 24th, 1930. Major McPherson, from Chilliwack, established the nine- hole course record at 39. On August 10th, 1930 the course formally opened the full 18 holes plus the new clubhouse. Two hundred people attended the ceremony that featured an exhibition match between Alex Duthie, the Jericho CC professional, and Davie Black, the Shaughnessy Heights professional versus Dunc Sutherland, the Point Grey professional, and Harry Winder, the new University professional from the Victoria Club in Riverside, CA.

The Harry Winder ‘s family roots

At least three generations of Winders worked in Glasgow, Scotland as an upholsterer. John Winder, the oldest son of Tom and Mary Winder, was born on June 30th 1863.  At age eighteen, John Winder decided to venture to Montreal to apply his upholstering skills in Canada. Shortly after John’s arrival,  he married a fellow Scot , Margaret Cundell in 1883. John and Margaret had seven children – Mary the first and Harry the last born in 1904. Young Harry never knew his father John who died on March 19th, 1905. Until his untimely death in 1905, John is listed in the Montreal City Directories as an upholsterer. Around 1895 the directories added furniture dealer to his occupation. This probably indicates he owned his own business location.

David Lambie Black, golf professional from Troon, Scotland, arrived in Montreal on September  5th, 1905 to assume the head professional position at the Outremont GC in Montreal. In 1909 Mary Winder, Harry’s oldest sister, married Davie Black. The couple resided in Montreal until the Rivermead GC enticed him to Ottawa in 1911. Ken Black was born in Ottawa in 1914.

In Quebec at this time, all young boys played hockey with the dream to be a member of the Montreal Canadians. Probably around age ten, young Harry began spending his summers in Ottawa with his sister, Mary, and uncle, Davie. Naturally Davie began teaching his nephew the art of golf club making.  Working in Davie’s shop and caddying for the Rivermead members, probably changed Harry’s future desire from hockey to golf. Research indicates Davie spent some time in California and Scotland during the war years 1914 – 1918. Davie returned to Rivermead in 1918 and 1919. Then Davie made a major change. He accepted the lucrative contract offered to him by the Shaughnessy Heights Golf Club in Vancouver, BC. Little can be found about Harry’s activities from 1914 – 1921. A few news clippings indicate he worked in Frank Grant’s shop at the Whitlock GC in Whitlock, Quebec.

Because of his clubmaking skills, Davie encouraged Harry to join his staff at Shaughnessy in 1921. Harry began his five-year apprenticeship under his uncle’s watchful eye.  On November 1, 1926 the Victoria Club in Riverside CA offered Harry his first head professional position. Research implies Davie and his older brother John may have worked for the Victoria CC prior to WW1. The Victoria club members adored Harry. During his stay he set the course record and played many exhibitions matches against the national professionals who wintered in California. One year prior to his departure to the University Golf Course in Vancouver he married Jean Marie. Harry and his new bride arrived in Vancouver on May 1, 1930. (Note Harry Winder could not have been the architect for the University Golf Course because he was the head professional at the Victoria CC during the construction period. Also, there are no records indicating Davie Black ever designed a golf course in BC, Ontario, or Quebec.) Harry and wife had two daughters Mary-Lou and Nancy – Lee. Both worked in the clubhouse while their father served the golf course as the head professional.

Although Harry never achieved the tournament success that his brother – in -law Davie accomplished, he developed a city-wide reputation for his teaching ability. He setup a driving range in the area between the right side of the 1st fairway and the par three 18th hole. When Sports Illustrated published Ben Hogan’s Five Fundamental of Golf, Stu Keate, the golf reporter for the Vancouver Province said “Harry Winder, my coach, has used these five fundamentals to teach golf for twenty years. On the short par 3 outside the clubhouse, he had his most spectacular shot. Finishing in the last group on a cloudy rainy day playing in one of the Friday afternoon sweepstakes, Harry was one down to Davie. In spectacular finish he aced the 165-yard final hole to win.

L to R Horton Smith, Harry Cooper, Jimmey Thompson Lawson Little

In the mid 1930’s golf companies realized the possibilities for selling their merchandise through the big name PGA stars. In 1937 history was made on the University course. On August 18th,  1937 Spalding hosted the first exhibition match using PGA touring professionals in BC. to sell golf equipment.  Harry “Lighthouse” Cooper, Horton Smith, the first Masters winner, long hitting Jimmy Thompson, and Lawson Little did not disappoint the 4500 spectators. Horton Smith lowered Harry Wiinder’s course record 65 shooting 64.

In 1939 Harry in conjunction with the Vancouver Province newspaper introduced the Province Publinx golf tournament. This tournament targeted players who consistently shot around 90. During the summer months players 18 years and older submitted scorecards from the public golf courses throughout the lower mainland and Fraser valley. By using a Stableford scoring system, Harry and the Province officials invited 144 players to compete for prizes at the end of the golf season at the University Golf Course. This popular event ended in the mid 1990’s.

In 1969 the Boyd family posted a sign. “No More Annual subscriptions would be sold.” This signaled the end of an era for the golf course. Harry echoed a fear. “I hope my departure is not forced.” Rumors circulated the course would close for housing developments. When the Boyd lease expired on May 31, 1970, the UBC Endowment Lands office assumed control of the course. Harry retired on August 19th, 1971. Under the leadership of Ron Willey, the professional ,and Jack Reimer, the architect, the course underwent a total renovation. The Endowment people foresaw big plans for their public golf course. They hoped to upgrade the course to become the permanent home for the BC Open Championship.

As fate would have it ,when the newly renovated course opened in September 1974, Harry aced the 164 yard 5th hole. That was probably Harry’s last round before his passing on December 31, 1979. To recognize Harry’s deep dedication and devotion to the University Golf Course ,the West Point Golf Club, his daughters, and the course officials planted a pine tree with a marker on the right hand side of present the eighth hole.

Harry’s pine tree on the right hand side of the present 8th hole. (the original 1st hole).

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