From the Archives
The rich history of the Canadian Amateur
Some interesting facts you likely didn't know about the Canadian Men's Amateur Championship
Alyssa Reynolds, Interim Curator of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame
Published on Friday, Aug. 17, 2012 10:20AM EDT Last updated on Friday, Aug. 17, 2012 10:23AM EDT
It was in early June of 1895 when six clubs gathered to hold Canada's first national golf championship and also, it turns out, to form the Royal Canadian Golf Association - now Golf Canada.
As the story goes... a week or so before the first annual Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship, a city engineer planned to lay a new railroad track along the road that lead to the Royal Ottawa Golf Club which would interfere with the transportation to the event, especially for the Governor General, Lord Aberdeen, who was to attend. The Club president at the time visited City Hall to ensure they delayed the road work, and succeeded with the tournament taking place as planned.
Also of note is Canada’s best Amateur player of the era – Andrew Smith – was unable to attend the tournament. He was in court answering to the accusation of having been found playing golf on a Sunday and breaking the Lord’s Day act.
The first playing of the Men’s Amateur Championship was a match play event that took place at Royal Ottawa the afternoon of June 7th, 1895. Only eight players competed. Thomas M. Harley of Kingston Golf Club won the inaugural event beating Alex Simpson of Royal Ottawa.
Thomas M. Harley was a carpenter from Aberlady, East Lothian Scotland who had made his way to Kingston in the 1890s to practice his trade. He became a renowned golfer around this time, but eventually gave up the sport to continue his trade, most likely in his home town, passing away in 1943 at the age of 88.
The trophy that was awarded had been donated by the Governor General at the time, Lord Aberdeen, naming the trophy the Aberdeen Cup. In addition to the trophy, the champion was awarded a gold medal.
Here's an interesting fact about the Aberdeen Cup. The cup was awarded to George S. Lyon -yes, the same George S. Lyon who is the reigning champion of Golf in the Olympics- in perpetuity when he won the Men’s Amateur Championship three years in a row, 1905-1907. Unfortunately, the cup was eventually lost.
The following year, in 1908, a new trophy was donated by the then Governor General Earl Grey. And this is the trophy that has been awarded annually ever since.
Here are some other interesting statistics on the Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship:
The Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship is the third oldest national amateur championship in the world with the British Amateur having started 1885, the Australian Amateur in 1894. The U.S. Men’s Amateur did not start until later in the year of 1895.
George S. Lyon has won the most Men’s Amateur Championships with 8 (1898, 1900, 1903, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1912, 1914), Sandy Somerville has won the second most with 6 (1926, 1928, 1930, 1931, 1935, 1937).
Toronto Golf Club has hosted the most Canadian Amateurs, with 8 (1898, 1901, 1903, 1905, 1909, 1913, 1926, and 1995), Royal Ottawa Golf Club with 7 (1895, 1899, 1906, 1911, 1914, 1925, and 1951) is tied with Royal Montreal Golf Club (1897, 1900, 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1931).
To date, only four players have won both the U.S. and the Canadian Amateur: Honoured Member Sandy Somerville, Dick Chapman, Harvie Ward and Honoured Member Gary Cowan. Dick Chapman and Harvie Ward have also won the British Amateur Championship, an event that a Canadian has yet to win.
With its rich history, the Men’s Amateur truly remains one of the most renowned national amateur golf championships across the globe.