Up the Gatineau! Selected Articles
The following article was first published in Up the Gatineau! Volume 25.
Seventy-five Years Young: The Larrimac Golf Club Ages Gracefully
by Ann Schwartz
Up The Gatineau! published A. de L. Panet’s article Larrimac Golf Club – a Gatineau gem Volume 25 in 1983. July 1, 1999 marks the Larrimac Golf Club’s seventy-fifth anniversary. Beginning with a golf tournament for the Mary Green Trophy, four days of activities from July 1 to 4 have been planned. Other golf and tennis events will be held during this period, one of which will have members “suitably dressed in period costume;” a canoe race on the Gatineau River will recall the days of the club’s Larrimac regatta.
Larry McCooey was just 24 years old in 1922 when he conceived the idea of a golf course on the pastureland below his cottage, land owned by farmer Owen Lacharity. The following year a crude “course” was laid out, and in his mind, Larry McCooey considered this his playground. He recalled the first golf ball on it in 1923, and a year later, in July 1924, meeting Philip and Eta Sherrin and Mildred “Bunty” Carver who came walking over the hill “from Kirk’s ferry-way” and found him swatting balls. He also recognized the golfing possibilities of this pastureland, and before long they and about a dozen other cottagers decided to establish a small club to be called “Larrimac” after its founder.
Owen Lacharity was paid ten dollars a year rental for the use of his land. Membership cost $5, and in the early days members used their own equipment for greens keeping. Poles and flags were made up and scorecards printed. Owen Lacharity’s sheep also helped considerably in cutting the fairways. Salt was spread on the greens so that they would nibble that grass even shorter.
Club competitions were initiated in 1925. The first club championship award was a little silver cup the size of an egg cup – all that the meagre funds at the time allowed buying. In 1928 the Gatineau Power Company provided a large new silver trophy, which has been presented to the men’s champion every year since then. Massy Baker was the first winner of the 1928 trophy, and Larry McCooey followed in 1929 with a triple triumph. Not only was he the men’s champion for that year (and in 1930, ’31 and ’32), but on the 142-yard 8th hole, Larry made Larrimac’s first hole-in-one, using a mashie (now called a 5 iron), and set a 9-hole course record of 32, which he subsequently lowered to 29. The President’s Shield was presented for the first time by the Board in 1929 to the women’s champion. Eta Sherrin was the first recipient of this handsome silver shield, and she won it again in 1930.
Early 1926 saw the purchase of Owen Lacharity’s farm and pasture lands by the Gatineau Power Company (now Hydro-Québec) in order to make way for raising the water level on the Gatineau River. Larry McCooey recalled that Owen had loved every inch of this land, which he and his father before him had farmed, but in the “expropriation stampede” of 1924-25 he sold the old farm for $6000 and settled in Ottawa. The part of Lacharity’s farm used for golf was on higher ground and not flooded, and the club made arrangements with the company for the continued rental of the land for golf purposes. The club also bought for one dollar an expropriated cottage which had belonged to Mabel Lambe and moved it to provide Larrimac’s first clubhouse.
The clubhouse, on the site of the present fifth tee (off Larrimac Road to the east of Gary Road), had no electricity in the early years. The water was brought in, and a wood stove kept the kettle boiling. It was the scene of many happy times, and Saturday afternoon teas were especially popular. Labour Day was always prize-giving day, and notes for 1932 show that 68 persons were served supper following the prize-giving.
The years 1928 to 1931 saw great improvement: better equipment, better fairways and greens and a growing membership. In 1928 Gordon Wilson became the club’s first full-time grounds-keeper. He trimmed the fairways with a horse-drawn mower, the horse purchased with his own money. In the course of his work he removed rocks and trees, built greens and tees, laid drainage tiles, installed the club’s water system, and repaired its machinery and buildings. When he died in 1961, the Ottawa Journal’s “Notes and Comments” for June 8th commented on his long service to the club and the cottage community:
Mr. Gordon Wilson who died on Tuesday was the counsellor and friend of cottagers in the Kirk’s Ferry area and a guiding figure in the development and preservation of the Larrimac Golf Course. He was a builder and craftsmen who could “make do” with little equipment and he transmitted to the summer residents some of his affection for the community he knew so well, its people, its soil, its story.
Following Gordon Wilson’s dedicated service for more than 30 years, Sherwood Ditchfield took over, and Clarence Hodgins followed him. Since 1989 the club has been very fortunate to have Earl Bochart in that position. The employment of just four grounds-keepers in 75 years must prove they came to love the club is much as all the early members when so much planning and work went into creating it.
In the 1930s the club became incorporated and bought the land it had been renting from the Gatineau Power Company. On April 26, 1934 the club, which had a year earlier been incorporated under the province’s Amusement Act, was incorporated under Part I of the Quebec Companies Act, having received permission from the West Hull Council to apply for this with the assurance that consumption of liquor in any form would not be permitted. This incorporation was required due to its purchase of 87 acres of land from the Gatineau Power Company. In 1964 the club’s governance was changed once more, and a special Bill (101) was passed under provisions of Part II of the Quebec Companies Act. One of the main changes among the 17 items in this act was a provision to restrict the number of shares of stock which could be held by each active member. In the event of the winding up of the corporation, its net assets would be distributed among the registered members, and the new provision permitted members to hold only one share each, while previously there had been no limitation.
Thirty-six men and eight women from the club were on active service during World War II. At the annual meeting of February 23, 1940, club members agreed that “members in good standing who are or may be engaged on active service with His Majesty’s Forces outside the Ottawa and Hull district shall retain their memberships without fees for the period of such service.” The club still has hanging on its walls two framed Honour Rolls listing the names of those members who served in the Armed Forces. Donald Breadner, a former junior member and the only son of air Marshall Lloyd Breadner, perished at the age of 20 when his plane crashed. In all six club members died while on active duty during World War II.
During the war years golf balls were hard to come by. Some were produced and sold, but the club could obtain only a small quota each year. Ken Chipman, who was Greens Chairman for several of those years, spent many hours looking for balls lost in the rough, and continually requested that members turn in their old golf balls for reprocessing, thus bolstering the limited supply of new balls which the club could obtain. In 1943 the club received only 13 to 15 dozen new balls and in 1944, 20 dozen, so that Chipman urged members to hand in their old golf balls as early as possible for reprocessing in time for use that season. In 1943 the new golf balls were all gone by early July, a situation that must have encouraged any golfers whose shots landed in the rough to literally beat the bushes.
In the late 1930s the Larrimac Golf Club held its first regatta, a field day on land and water. Events included the hundred-yard dash and three-legged race and such competitions as eating a soda cracker and then whistling “God Save the King.” Water sports included swimming, diving and canoe races. The regattas continued through the 1940s and petered out sometime in the 1950s.
Harry Greene, son of Anson and Monica Greene who were among Larrimac’s early “movers and shakers,” remembers delivering fresh drinking water by the pail to the clubhouse when he was a junior. He lived in a nearby cottage and did this several times a week, receiving 25¢ a pail from Eta Sherrin from the proceeds of the Saturday afternoon teas. In 1945 the club Board began to consider having water and electricity installed in the clubhouse because it was becoming difficult to find paid help willing to prepare meals and clean without those amenities on site. Rather than improve the old clubhouse or rebuild on that site, a new location was selected in 1948. Harvey Ditchfield got the contract to build a new clubhouse, designed by an architect member, A. J. Hazelgrove. Gordon Wilson received the contract for its plumbing, and the work was finished toward the end of the 1949 season for a cost of less than $12,000. The first social function of 1950 in the new clubhouse was a May wedding reception for Nancy Minnes, a former junior girls’ champion, who married her American fiancé.
Improvements followed over the years, but golf and social activities were still run on a voluntary basis, kitchen activities included, until 1968. Then the club began to offer a food service and in 1971 obtained a liquor license. The ladies played bridge on Wednesday afternoons for many years, and in 1964 Shirley Selwyn organized Duplicate Bridge as an evening event, providing another way for the members to get together. Early Bridge directors included Mingaye Grant and Bob Martin; in the late 1970s Claude Arsenault took on the position and has continued as the groups dedicated director since then.
Larry McCooey noted that in the 1920s, golf was just beginning to make itself felt in the Ottawa area, and was looked upon by some as “an old man’s game” to be taken up after one’s other athletic abilities had soured. Reading a letter written by McCooey to the club in the 1960s in which he set down some of its early history, Anson Greene added his own marginal comment, “too old for tennis, then to the golf course.” In Larrimac, the club’s tennis courts were established a little after the golf. The original clay tennis courts were built in 1936 at the north end of the club property beside Larrimac Road, near the first clubhouse. By the 1950s the clay courts had fallen into disrepair. They had always taken considerable maintenance, which had been provided mostly by volunteers. In 1964, the present tennis courts were built and named Raemac Courts after a former club president, Alex MacRae, who financed half their cost. Dr. Gordon Beattie, MacRae’s son-in-law, had been a great proponent of building new courts, and along with Arthur Wood was instrumental in the tennis club’s success. A tennis hut with toilet facilities was added in 1967, a practice court was built and lighting for night tennis added in 1974. The Raemac Tennis Cup for men’s singles was one in 1969 and 1970 by Peter MacKenzie, and in 1971 by Constance Van Wijk, a strong woman player who competed with the men. Jim Craig donated a ladies’cup, whose first winner, in 1971, was Sigrid Bostock.
To celebrate the Canadian Centennial in 1967 the juniors planted many small fir trees on the fairways and an Art Show was organized. Members displayed and sold their paintings, money was raised for the Ladies’ Committee, and the donation was given to the Gatineau Memorial Hospital. This Art Show grew over the next twenty years to become the Gatineau Arts and Craft Show, involving many local artists and crafts people. It was a popular weekend event held towards the end of September. Over the 10 years Phyllis Patterson convened it $20,000 was raised for the club; however, for a variety of reasons the show finally had to be discontinued.
In 1972, pressure began to be put on the directors to consider extending the course to eighteen holes. The club had bought more land in 1962 and 1972 so this was a possibility. Subsequently, money was spent on professional advice, and the recommendation was accepted to stay with nine holes and make it the best nine-hole course in the area. Work began on a new water system for the fairways and greens so that while other courses might have a low water table from time to time, Larrimac’s supply from the Gatineau River was constant and the fairways remained green. Anticipating by a year seventy-fifth anniversary, in July 1998 Larrimac officially opened its first par–five hole, with great credit due to grounds-keeper Earl Bochart and his staff. This hole runs along the west side of Route 105 and, with its two water hazards, is a reasonable challenge.
Larrimac Golf Club now operates as a semi-private club, and “off the road” players are accepted. However, members are still required to own one share in the club and meet twice annually with their president and Board of directors. Fortunately, Larrimac has been blessed from its beginning with good presidents and strong Boards who have followed the pattern set by those who worked so hard to organize and establish the club on the legal and proper basis. Larry McCooey visited Larrimac in 1970 and shot a 79 the age of 73; he died in Victoria, British Columbia, in October 1973. After Phil Sherrin’s death in the 1940s, Eta returned to England where they had both come from, and she died there. Mildred “Bunty” Carver was in her 100th year when she died, also in Victoria, in 1986.