Former Club Members and Other Local North Berwick Golfers
The first golfer to emigrate from North Berwick was Tom Warrender in 1896. He sailed for America with 16-year-old club maker Willie Anderson, who went on to win the US Open Championship four times.
According to the Caddie Master’s records, Fred McLeod was registered as a licensed caddie on 29th April 1891, at the age of 10. On leaving school McLeod was employed as a postman but had to wait until he was 18 before he could join the Bass Rock Golf Club. McLeod was so keen to became a member he applied in December 1899 before his 18th birthday. His application was accepted and he was able to play in the Spring Medal the following year. McLeod was selected to represent the club in the Wemyss Country Cup in 1900-02. This was a four-man team event, open to all clubs in East Lothian, which is now recognized as the oldest foursome competition in the world.
In 1901, McLeod won the prestigious Hope Challenge Medal and competed in the Amateur Championship at St Andrews. In 1902 he won the Bass Rock Scratch Medal playing off a handicap of plusfour. This was a local handicapping system which reflected his abilities within the club, and the records suggest that McLeod was not the best player. This distinction went to two youngsters from the Harbour Terrace, George Livingstone and James Souter. Livingstone won the Bass Rock Scratch Medal in 1907 and was later appointed pro at Belle Meade Country Club in Nashville, while Souter won the Scratch Medal in 1901 and was engaged at Tuxedo Golf Club in New York.
McLeod served two years on the Bass Rock Golf Club committee, before emigrating to America in 1903. He sailed with another Bass Rock member, James Hutchison, who was returning to his position as head pro at Philadelphia Country Club. Robert Bolton, the blacksmith’s son from North Berwick, was Fred’s contact in America. Bob Bolton emigrated in 1901 and was pro at the Highland Golf Club in St Joseph City, and it would have been through him that Fred secured employment. McLeod arrived in New York on 18th March 1903 and traveled to Illinois where he was appointed greenskeeper and professional on the nine-hole course at Rockford Country Club, north of Chicago.
Among the other caddies on the West Links at the same time as Fred McLeod were Bob Bolton, Dan Kenny, Harry Gullane, Jack Hobens, George Turnbull and Robert Johnstone. Like Livingstone and Souter, Robert Johnstone came from a fishing family living in the Harbour Terrace. He served an apprenticeship as a club maker with William Park & Son and joined the Bass Rock Golf Club, but as a club maker he was deemed to be a golf professional, and forbidden to play in the club prize competitions. As club making became a recognised trade in it's own right, the club rules were altered to allow the club and ball makers to play in competitions and to represent the club in the Amateur Championship.
Bob Johnstone emigrated to America in 1900 and travelled to California where he laid out the course at Presidio and was appointed pro at San Francisco Golf Club. He won the Pacific Northwest Championship four consecutive years (1901-1904). In 1907 he laid out the course at Seattle Golf Club and was appointed their first pro. In 1910, George Turnbull from North Berwick moved to Portland, Oregon and for the next five years all the major tournaments in the Northwest were contested between the ‘Bass Rock Boys’, Johnstone and Turnbull. In 1922, Bob Johnstone was instrumental in establishing the Pacific Northwest Section PGA and served as its first president. He was inducted in the PGA Pacific Northwest Section in 1982.
George Turnbull won the Bass Rock Scratch Medal in 1899 and emigrated to America in 1904. He was pro at Columbia Country Club and Midlothian Country Club where Fred McLeod was later based. Turnbull was a popular pro and able to pick and choose his next club, never staying more than two years. He worked in the Chicago area in the summer and California in the winter. In 1910 he was appointed to Waverley Country Club in Oregon where he laid out the course for Portland Golf Club in 1918. Turnbull’s course at Portland hosted the PGA Championship in 1946 and the Ryder Cup in 1947.
In the annual match between Bass Rock and Dirleton Castle Golf Club, Fred McLeod’s regular foursomes partner was Willie Nichols. He moved to Edinburgh and was a founder member of Corstorphine Golf Club and won their club medal in 1902,1903, and 1905. Nichols emigrated in 1908 and was appointed pro at Muskogee C.C, Oklahoma after being recommended for the position by Leslie Brownlee from North Berwick. Brownlee was pro at Lakeview Country Club, Belle Isle Lake, Oklahoma City in 1907 and the following year he laid out the nine-hole-course at Muskogee C.C with sand greens. Bill Nichols took over as the club's first pro in the spring of 1908. In 1915, Nichols moved to Lakewood Country Club in Dallas, and then in 1916 to Dallas Country Club.
Leslie Brownlee lived at 40, High Street, North Berwick and worked for the Civil Service in Edinburgh before emigrating in 1905. He moved to Fort Smith Country Club, Arkansas in 1909 and recommended Arthur Kendall from North Berwick as the pro at Fort Smith. Arthur Kendall originally lived at 46 High Street and won the Bass Rock Fyshe Medal (1906) and Dickson Cup (1903, 1904). Kendall moved to Wichita Falls, Kansas, and then to Dennison C.C. in Texas.
In 1907, Fred McLeod was pro at Midlothian Country Club and during the winter he moved south to San Antonio Country Club in Texas. He took part in exhibition matches and invited the 'new kid' in town, Leslie Brownlee to make up a fourball match in Dallas. McLeod would often meet up with the other North Berwick pros at the Metropolitan Open, Western Open and US Open Championship, including Jack Hobens, Tom Anderson, Jack Forrester, James Milligan, Willie Anderson, Dan Kenny, James Ferguson, Robert M. Thomson, and James R. Thomson.
There were four ‘Jimmy Thomsons’ in North Berwick who were outstanding golfers. Three were successful professionals in America and to identify one from another, they all adopted a middle name. The fourth Jimmy Thomson remained in North Berwick and joined Bass Rock Golf Club in 1910. He became one of the clubs most distinguished members.
One of the ‘Jimmy Thomsons’ who emigrated was James R. Thomson, a plasterer to trade whose two older brothers became golf professionals. They lived with their father Alexander Thomson and mother Elizabeth Marr at the Horse Crook, which can be seen today as the white washed building adjacent to the supermarket in Tantallon Road. Originally the property had outside toilets, and was occupied by a number of families who had to draw their water in buckets from the Glen Burn.
James R. Thomson emigrated to the USA in 1905 and followed his brother Robert M. Thomson as pro at Merion Cricket Club, (PA) . James moved to Philadelphia Country Club and then to Apawamis Country Club (NY) where he remained for 25 years. In 1909, Thomson finished second in the Philadelphia Open and that year set a new course record 69 at Merion. In 1911 he finished third in the Metropolitan Open and second in the Eastern PGA championship. In1913 he won the Pennsylvania Open and was the leading qualifier at the 1915 US Open at Baltisrol.
In 1916, James R. Thomson was elected a member of the first PGA of America Executive Committee and that year he was selected as one of the national vice presidents of the PGA. In December 1921 he attended the founding meeting of the Philadelphia Section PGA and was a member of the organising committee. When James R. Thomson died in 1963 his obituary was carried in the New York Times.
Daniel Kenny lived at the Horse Crook at the same time as the Thomson family and was a licensed pro on the West Links. Kenny emigrated in 1907 and won the Canadian Open Championship in 1910. Although Fred McLeod lived in the same stair as Willie Anderson in North Berwick, he did not see much of him due to the disparity in ages, Anderson was three years older - "and that makes lots of difference when you are kids," said McLeod. But Fred saw plenty of Willie and his skill in America, especially when both were attached to mid-western clubs.
Fred McLeod's first tournament victory came in 1905 at the Riverside Open, followed by the Western PGA title, which he again won in 1907. At the Western Open in 1906 McLeod tied for 3rd place with Willie Anderson and amazingly the following year, again they could not be separated, tieing for the runnersup spot. The battle continued at the 1908 Western Open played at Normandie Park G.C. in St. Louis but this time Anderson edged ahead, winning the tournament by a single stroke from McLeod.
The tables were turned on 29th August 1908 at the U.S. Open, played at Myopia Hunt in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, when Anderson was going for his fifth U.S. Open victory. McLeod set out from Chicago on the thirty-six hour train journey to Boston weighing 118 pounds and finished the championship tied with Willie Smith on 322, weighing 108 pounds. McLeod won the play-off 77 to 83, and lifted the national title and $300 prize money.
Jock Arundel won the Bass Rock Scratch Medal in 1906 and was appointed pro at Meadowbrook Country Club in Michigan. Jimmy Livingstone won the Scratch Medal in 1911 and went to Ingleside Golf Club, Atlanta, Georgia. Robert Millar was pro at Milham Park, Kalamazoo. James Wilson winner of the Aggregate Medal in 1908 was based in New Hampshire before moving to Winchester Country Club in Massachusetts where he assisted in extending that course to eighteen holes. William Small was pro at Hay Harbor G.C, Fishers Island (NY) and his brother James Small was at Beacon Hill G.C, Atlantic Highlands (NJ).
The Denholm brothers, Alex, Duncan, Robert and Jock all joined the Bass Rock. Alex and Duncan emigrated to Australia where Alex was Queensland Professional Champion in 1928 and Duncan was pro at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney. Alex and Duncan Denholm are now listed among the earliest golf professionals in Australia.
Robert and Jock Denholm remained at home to continue the family business and both were elected captains of Bass Rock Golf Club. Robert was selected to play for Scotland in the Home International Matches in 1932, 1933, and 1934. He played for his country on 13 occasions and had the distinction of never being beaten in any of his singles matches.
In 1912, McLeod was appointed to Columbia Country Club in Maryland. He accepted the position at fifty dollars a month with no contract being signed for over fifty years with the club. In 1921, Fred McLeod return to Scotland to play in an international challenge match between the United States and Great Britain. The ten-man American team included four Scots and the USPGA offered $1000 each towards expenses. The match was played over the newly opened Kings course at Gleneagles.
continued to support the idea. When Sam Ryder offered a trophy for such an encounter, Hagen jumped at the opportunity to put a team together and a match was arranged at Wentworth in 1926 between United States and Great Britain when McLeod again took part. The Ryder Cup was presented the following year at Worcester C.C in Massachusetts.
In March 1934, Fred McLeod was invited by Bobby Jones to play in the first Augusta National Invitational Tournament, which he continued to play in for the next three years. McLeod attended the Masters all 40 years it was played and from 1963 was the honorary starter along with Jock Hutchison. Both were the oldest surviving U.S. National Champions and were by tradition, first off the tee to begin the Masters Tournament. Hutchison retired in 1973 and McLeod continued on his own until 1976.
In 1949, George Livingstone, the pro in Nashville returned to North Berwick for the first time in 36 years. He attended the Bass Rock G.C committee meeting and presented a full set of American clubs for competition prizes. Over the years, Livingstone had shipped three sets of clubs from Tennessee for prizes. This was a tradition dating back to 1896 when Johnny Forrest joined the professional ranks at Lindrick Golf Club and sent two or three clubs for prizes each year. The members may have been scattered around the world, but they never forgot the Bass Rock Golf Club.
Fred McLeod visited Scotland for the last time in 1952 and returned to America on the liner Queen Elizabeth, with a first class ticket. The former US Open Champion slipped in and out of North Berwick unrecognized.
With acknowledgements to Douglas Seaton.
Photographs from various American Publications.