Ladies' Golf Club of Toronto celebrates 100th anniversary of unique course | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Ladies' Golf Club of Toronto celebrates 100th anniversary of unique course

Janet Walker celebrates after sinking a putt at the Ladies’ Golf Club of Toronto, during a tournament to mark 100-years of the exclusively women’s golf club, in Thornhill, Ontario, Saturday, June 22, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

MARKHAM, Ont. - Women dressed as flappers, or in kilts with tam-o’-shanters, or carrying parasols, a few with tie-die shirts and headbands like the hippies of the 1960s, and hundreds of others got together to play golf and celebrate.

The Ladies' Golf Club of Toronto continued its 100th anniversary festivities on Saturday with a tournament around the Stanley Thompson-designed course in Thornhill, Ont., with members encouraged to wear period clothes. Margaret Auld, the chair of club's archives committee, said the event was an example of the special culture at the only golf club in North America that was created by women, for women.

"That's the joy of this club: it has so much history," said Auld, looking out over a practice green as a woman in a long dress and a laced white blouse tried out antique hickory putters. "When we get new members coming in here and we talk to them they're just blown away by the camaraderie, the acceptance.

"It doesn't matter whether you're high handicap or low handicap, just come and join us, come and have fun, and we have today. What a bunch of fun things we did out there."

Saturday's activities included an outdoor lunch, demonstrations of hickory clubs with the Golf Historical Society of Canada, and period dress. The festivities continue in July with a members dinner and a planned book of the club's 100-year history.

The Ladies Golf Club of Toronto was founded by Toronto's Ada Mackenzie in 1924. One of the best golfers of her time — she won The Canadian Press's outstanding female athlete of the year award in 1933 — Mackenzie was frustrated by the common rule at the time that prevented women from playing golf until the afternoon.

"I think what she thought was, 'I can't play until noon and I'm a competitive golfer, and I'm not a happy camper,'" said Auld, noting that Mackenzie was influenced by a trip to the United Kingdom where some clubs had added women's-only nine-hole courses. "So she came back and said, 'I'm going to look for land where I can have a golf course.'"

Mackenzie settled on a swath of land between Yonge Street and Bayview Avenue in Thornhill, Ont., — now Markham — that straddled a branch of the Don River. Women couldn't buy land in Ontario at that time, so she had to pose as a married person to complete the sale.

"And she was 33 when she actually did it," said Auld. "It's incredible. Really, really incredible."

Mackenzie then enlisted famed Canadian course architect Stanley Thompson to help her design an 18-hole track that is a unique collaboration between two of the most important golf minds in Canadian history.

"It's kind of a Thompson-Mackenzie mash-up," said Jaime Steedman, head pro at the Ladies' Golf Club. "Ada's fingerprints are all over the course design.

"She would have had a lot of feedback to give Stanley. That is one of the huge ways that it separates itself from other courses."

Mackenzie was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1955 and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 1971 before her death two years later at the age of 81.

The membership at the Ladies' Golf Club of Toronto remains entirely female with its board of directors exclusively women. Most of the club's operations were handled by members who volunteered their time until 1989 when a general manager was hired. Canadian golfing greats Marlene Streit, Sandra Post and Lorie Kane are all honorary members.

That has created a unique culture different from any other golf club.

"Here you know that every single morning, any time in the morning, you come and it's going to be women," said Deborah Doyle, chair of the 100th anniversary committee, who is also a member at another Toronto-area club and another in Florida. "You look across the whole field and you're just waving at other women. You would never see that anywhere else.

"It is a different kind of environment and it's very supportive and just does have a very different feel. Part of it is the place itself, like the old clubhouse and the course, which still beats me up compared to some other courses."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 22, 2024.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2024
The Canadian Press

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