Over the coming months leading into the 100th season at Glenboro Golf & Country Club, I will be taking you through the decades that have moulded the rural Manitoba golf club into one of the top 9 hole golf courses in North America. This information comes from numerous articles and first hand accounts from long time Glenboro Golf Club members. The first part, "Pasture Pool" chronicles the humble beginnings of GlenboroG&CC through the Great Depression.
Part 1 - Pasture Pool
The year is 1922. Gene Sarazen won the US Open with a four round score of 288 (+8) defeating Bobby Jones & John Black by 1 shot. Sarazen earned $500 for his first major victory. The Toronto St. Pats won their first Stanley Cup over the Vancouver Millionaires. George Vezina was between the pipes for the Montreal Canadiens and Punch Broadbent finished the season with the most points and best name in the NHL. The New York Giants defeated the New York Yankees to become World Series Champions. The homerun leader that year was not named Babe Ruth and if you can name who did lead the MLB in homeruns in 1922 you have an extremely impressive knowledge of baseball history. In Manitoba John Bracken of the United Farmers of Manitoba was elected Premier of Manitoba. The first combine harvesters are on the horizon and will gradually replace the 3.5 million horses across Canada currently used by almost every farmer.
One year prior, in 1921, in one small corner of one of the thousands of fields across Manitoba are gentlemen tearing up the terrain with something not usually seen in a Manitoba field, a golf club. On the W. Witherspoon farm just outside of Glenboro, MB a small group of young men were striking golf balls on their own home made driving range. Having tried the game first on the fairgrounds in Glenboro these men quickly realized their shots needed more room to fly and asked permission to construct a driving range on the north east corner of the Witherspoon farm, to the north of where the Esso station lies today. It is written that local residents scoffed at this “sport” and that the young men were ridiculed for taking part in this “Pasture Pool” game. Despite this disapproval by many the game began to rise in popularity with more and more joining in.
It isn’t known how long this driving range lasted but judging by the ambitions of these young men it wasn’t long, as by the end of 1922 they would have far more than a driving range.
G. McNamee, A. R. “Dick” Cline, Otto Sigurdson, Dick Mott, Dudley Cline, Fred Frederickson G. M. “Bay” Smith and others according to numerous articles found from the 20s and beyond were among these individuals dreaming of one day having a course of their own to call home rather than just a driving range. Mr. McNamee and company decided that a formal golf course was needed and began exploring the surrounding area for a suitable area for a golf course. Knowing firsthand what the land north of Glenboro Manitoba offers as far as terrain suitable for golf I can only assume that the hardest part of this process would have been deciding which piece of land to use or being granted permission to do so. Eventually they settled on the perfect piece of land that Glenboro Golf & Country Club currently sits on and arranged a lease with A. E. Johnson for the land. Once this was ironed out, they were granted permission to begin construction of their very own golf course.
Once given the green light, the committee wasted no time and began the process of building a golf course in late 1921. Rather than laying out the course themselves the group decided to seek the advice of someone who may have more insight and expertise in the game of golf. This was a very educated decision for as passionate as these men were, they had only been playing golf for a short time and rarely, if ever, on a real golf course. This simple decision may have been the most important one in Glenboro Golf Club’s history.
At the time, James Pringle was the golf professional at Brandon Golf Club and although the architect of Glenboro Golf Club has only ever been described as “a good Scottish Fellow” it has become known through archives and research that James Pringle was indeed that man. Mr. Pringle was a product of North Berwich, Scotland, home of a who’s who of the Old Guard of golf. After serving in the first World War and a 2-year stint as professional in Scotland, Pringle came to Canada in 1921 and joined Brandon Golf Club. What timing. Along with an impressive playing career and professional resume over his time in Canada, Pringle can now be credited with laying out the Glenboro Golf Club as well as Souris Golf Course in the two years he was in Brandon.
It is not known what the Glenboro boys said to convince Pringle to come to Glenboro but he was sure happy he did, stating that the land in which they stood was as close to Scottish links land that he had seen not on the ocean. Pringle laid out the holes over rugged old sand hills of the ancient Lake Aggessi combating the ground cedar that those who cleared the land would come to loath. Pringle spent 3 days in Glenboro and once the holes were decided upon and mapped out, the community of golfers began clearing the land to make room for greens and fairways in late 1921 into the winter months.
The first organized meeting of the Glenboro Golf & Country Club was held at the Union Bank which is today where the Municipal Office stands in Glenboro. With about a dozen men in attendance W. G. McNamee was named the first President of the GlenboroG&CC. Other officers elected were vice president John Olafson, second vice president C.K. Rogers, secretary-treasurer M.J. Sharpe. The Executive Committee consisted of E. R. Kennedy, F. M/ Ferg, G. Lambertsen, & E. W. McKerlie. At this meeting it was announced that the ground had been procured and the nine-hole course would be ready for play shortly. The enthusiasm the men received lead them to believe that the club would boast a membership of 50 before long.
Glenboro soon became recognized as one of the most beautiful courses in the province, owing much of this to the fact that it was just the way nature made it. The greens were made from sand that was just below the surface along with crude and old cylinder oil drained saved from local vehicles in the spring. This combined with an opening membership cost of $2 for men & $1 for ladies made Glenboro one of the most economical courses of the time. Each member was accountable for the condition of a specific hole in the early days before a permanent Groundskeeper was hired. “Friendly” exhibition matches were held annually between the President & Vice President of the board, golfers from all over the province flocked to tournaments at Glenboro Golf Club and interclub matches were conducted with other clubs such as Killarney. With the main knock on the course being its shaggy nature, the golf course purchased a proper mower in 1927 which replaced the equivalent of a haybine that was used prior.
Eventually it came time to hire a groundskeeper for the course but there was no place for them to establish themselves at the golf course. Once again, the members volunteered their time and banded together to construct a small clubhouse at the center of the golf course. The small clubhouse, which originally sat roughly where the present day ninth tee is, did not offer much in the early years as most golfers carried their two or three hickory shafted clubs around, wood tees were not used and merchandise sales were not a priority. However, throughout the years, members slowly improved the clubhouse area to the point where they could offer light lunches and golf equipment. It is imagined that the sale of hickory shafts were popular since the reports of broken clubs over the ground cedar roots are plentiful. It is not officially known by many, if anyone, who the first groundskeeper or caretaker of the course was. However, in 1939 Jonas Bjarnason was tasked as caretaker for the season and is the earliest record of an official name being attached to that job title.
Things were looking good in Glenboro. Even through the depression years the course survived and persevered, although not without some struggles. Course conditions suffered as money became harder to come by and extreme drought conditions plagued the prairies and it would have been easy to let the course go through the height of the depression. Annual dances were held as fundraisers and members volunteered more time than ever to ensuring the course did not become a financial burden. In 1934, a push was made by the board and the caretaker at the time to remodel some greens and ensure the course was in proper shape for that season. It seemed to pay off as by the end of the decade reports of record numbers of members and an increase in prices to a whopping $6 for local men to become members.
The Great Depression was behind them and Glenboro Golf Club was inching towards it’s 20th season in the early 1940s. However, the 20th season at Glenboro Golf Club would be one everyone in Glenboro and across the globe would never forget, for all the wrong reasons.