Wilfrid E. Reid  (1884 - 1973)

Wilfrid Ewart Reid, PGA

Golf Professional, International Competitor and Golf Course Designer

Biography

Wilfrid Reid accomplished a great deal to advance the game of golf in his lifetime.  Look at the reach of golf as a result of the energy and dedication of his generation, the generation that sparked the Golden Age of Golf in America, the vast international growth of the sport and the resulting goodwill that golf engenders throughout most of the world today.  This was his often stated dream.  

                                                                                                                   By:  Bill Zmistowski, Grandson



                                                                  D R A F T  April 12, 2017


Golf professional, Wilfrid E. Reid, was one of the British pioneers that brought golf over during what is now acknowledged as the "Golden Age of Golf in America".   As a club professional first, a competitive golfer, respected golf instructor and golf course designer, he was in a modest way a true renaissance man and prolific pioneer during the era of golf's introduction and spread throughout America, as well as around the world. [11  

Young Wilfrid Reid was mentored by and a protege of one of golf's greatest icons, Harry Vardon.  At age 16 he worked as a golf professional at his home course, Bulwell Forest Golf Club .  In 1901 at age 17, Wilfrid was referred to Seacroft Golf Club by Vardon for his first head golf professional position. [7] [8]   Seacroft GC, located in Skegness on the East Coast of England, had strong ties to Nottingham in middle England, Wilfrid's hometown. [6]  At that time he was known as the "Skegness Professional". 

A few years later Harry Vardon referred Wilfrid Reid to the Racing Club de France for the head golf professional position at La Boulie in Versailles where he remained for several years assisting this renown athletic club in Paris establish their golf program.

As an international competitor Reid completed 72 holes in a combined 19 Open and U.S. Open Championships (10 British  & 9 U. S. Opens) beginning at age 18, only missed the cut twice in his early years and held the lead or tied for the lead 5 times.  His best finish was 4th in the 1916 U.S. Open won by Chick Evans at Minikahda in Minneapolis.  Reid played in approximately 57 Opens.  He won the 1905 French Professional Championship, Italian Open, 1904 Swiss Open and the Windsor Open (Canada).  He also played in the Belgian Open, won the 1924 Augusta Open (Georgia) defeating Gene Sarazen, won the 1926 Michigan PGA Championship and other professional championships and challenge matches including many in England prior to emigrating to the U.S.  Reid was a great player of challenge matches for years in both Great Britain and America.  He beat his mentor, Vardon, and other members of golf's Great Triumvirant on several occasions.

In 1913 Wilfrid Reid sailed to America with Vardon and Ted Ray to compete in the U. S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline.  The Boston Globe newspaper called this the 'British Invasion'.  Of course the young American amateur, Francis Ouimet, won this defining championship.  Reid tied with Ted Ray for low qualifier, then shared the 36 hole lead with Harry Vardon at 147.  Wilfrid was paired with Francis Ouimet in the third round at Brookline. [2}  However, as a result of an altercation with Ted Ray in their hotel dining room at the Copley Plaza the night before, he faltered and finished tied for 16th.  He tied for 10th in 1915 at Baltusrol, then in the 1916 U. S. Open he was tied for the lead with Evans after 45 holes when his drive on the 10th hole struck a spectator and he fell back, finishing in a tie for 4th.  After Brookline Vardon, Ray and Reid traveled up and down the East Coast as planned, playing exhibition matches against the likes of Walter Hagen, Tommy Armour, Freddie McCloud, Johnny McDermott and other American golf professionals before returning home to London.  This venture to America essentially to promote the game of golf was financed by a leading British golf equipment company owner.

At the time Reid was the golf professional at Banstead Downs Golf Club in the London borough of Sutton, County of Surrey, the home club of Sir Winston Churchill, where he remained for 9 seasons.  As a working club professional he was at the top of his profession in England and involved in all aspects of British golf including teaching, competition at the highest level, war benefit fund-raising and active participation in the newly formed British PGA.  He continued designing and remodeling golf courses, especially in France during this phase of his career and authored the 4th chapter entitled "The Use of the Mashie" in Harry Vardon's book, Success At Golf. [12]   Wilfrid tied Harry Vardon for the 1911 Tooting Beck Cup hosted by Banstead Downs GC, but lost in the 18 hole playoff shooting 78 to Vardon's 76.  

With the onset of World War One the British golf pros were more willing to consider moving to America.  In 1915 Clarence H. Geist of Philadelphia recruited Wilfrid to move to the United States from London to become the golf professional at the new Seaview CC in Absecon, New Jersey . [9]  Seaview was the weekend club for Philadelphians.

His career in America as a club professional included positions at some of America's top clubs and resorts not the least of which was Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida as well as Country Club of Detroit, Atlantic City Country Club, Wilmington CC in Delaware, The Broadmoor Hotel Golf Club in Colorado, The General Ogelthorp in Savannah and of course The Indianwood Club (now Indianwood Golf and Country Club) in Michigan.  

Wilfrid was co-founder and creator of The Indianwood Club with the land owner and banker, Frank Blair, a sweet equity investor, the golf professional and the designer of the golf course now know as the Old Course (1925), a classic links-like course located in a rare, sandy area in the woods north of Detroit.  This was Wilfrid Reid's big move in life, his dream and a lifetime opportunity.

A highly respected venue from the outset, Indianwood's Old Course has served as the site of four major national championships including the 1930 Western Open which in those days was considered the third major and most prestigious championship in all of golf after the British and U.S. Opens.  Immediately recognized as a great test of golf suitable for competition at the highest level, The Michigan PGA Championship was played at Indianwood in 1928 just 3 years after the course opened.  Since it's rebirth after recovery from the effects of the Depression Indianwood has hosted the 1989 and 1994 U.S. Women Open Championships and 2012 U.S. Senior Open Championship under the exceptional leadership and nurturing of owner, B. Standart Aldridge.

At Indianwood Reid partnered with family friend, turf farm owner and course construction contractor, William Connellan, to design and build the Old Course.   Reid sculpted the holes in clay, used pieces of mirror for lakes, then sent the clay model(s) to Detroit to be scaled and drawn accurately by draftsmen for use by the WM. CONNELLAN COMPANY's construction crew.  In those days teams of horses were used by the construction crew to do the grading and sculpting of the ground.  Reid's advertisement in the Program when the 1930 Western Open was held at Indianwood read  "W. E. REID - ARCHITECT AND DESIGNER OF INDIANWOOD COURSE AND MANY OTHER FINE GOLF COURSES IN AMERICA AND ABROAD."  Together the Reid and Connellan partnership went on to design-build many courses in Michigan in the 1920's and early 30's.  Connellan had once worked as a golf course construction superintendent for Donald Ross.  Eventually Reid's total golf course design work numbered approximately 58 new and 43 remodeled courses in France, Belgium, England, Canada and across the United States.  

In 1906 Reid designed the Royal Belgique Club de Golf course at Ravenstein in Brussels.  During the same period, while head golf professional at La Boulie (The Racing Club of France) in Versailles, Reid designed La Boulie's Valley Course where he was assisted by Msr. Tellier, the golf course superintendent at La Boulie, and his son Louis Tellier who went on to become the French Open Champion (as well as Reid's brother-in-law).   These design opportunities were, no doubt, the result of Wilfrid's background which included work on his first golf course design effort remodeling the original 9 holes at Skegness on the southeast coast of England in ca 1902.  A census record recently discovered in Scotland documents the fact that in 1901 as a 16 year old Reid was a boarder in a private residence in the Parish of Cramond, District of Edinburg, evidence of Wilfrid's probable apprenticeship in Cramond with Willie Park, Jnr. that year learning the fine points of golf course design at Edinburgh Burgess Golf Society's new course at Barnton in Cramond, Midlothian which Park, Jnr. had recently designed.  [10]  Coincidently in 1900 Park Jnr. had worked in Nottingham designing the new Notts Golf Club, Hollinwell Course.

Wilfrid Reid was one of the original members of the PGA of America in 1916. [13]  He was one of the three members of the PGA Executive Committee from the Southeast Section.  Wilfrid was a dedicated member and proudly served the PGA of America throughout his career.  After retiring he was awarded a lifetime honorary membership in the 1960's.  He served as president of the Michigan Section of the PGA in 1928-30.  He was inducted into the Michigan PGA Hall of Fame in 2015.  He was also one of the original members of the British PGA, however, little is known about his role, although active, in it's founding.

In 1917 Wilfrid Reid designed The Olympic Club Lake Course in San Francisco, California.  When he designed the course, originally named Lakeside Country Club, it was approximately his 10th golf course design commission.  Reid worked together with golf professional, Walter Fovargue, a colleague from Philadelphia who had moved to San Francisco.  Fovargue went on to design a number of courses during his career as well.  

In 1918 Wilfrid won (or was medalist) in the benefit Red Cross substitute tournamnet for the U. S. Open, cancelled due to WWI, which was played at Inwood CC on Long Island in New York.  This appears to be when he "peaked" as a competitive professional golfer.  The "renaissance man" always seemed to have been dealing with challenges such as both world wars, the beginning of golfs various institutions, the inauguration of many championships and competitions, the Depression in America, the significant demands of being a club pro and supporting his family in an era when the golf profession was in it's infancy and evolving.  Fortunately for Wilfrid and his cohorts golf and golf clubs were rapidly developing as a major institution and sport with great appeal.

On 6 June 1921 Wilfrid E. Reid of Wilmington, Delaware represented America along with Walter Hagen et al in the First Professional International Golf Match at The Glascow Herald Tournament between America and Great Britain on the Kings Course at Gleneagles. This was the predecessor of the official Ryder Cup Matches which were renamed when Samuel Ryder donated the cup for the third playing of the matches in 1927.  Records indicate that Reid won his singles match against reigning British Open champion, Arthur Havers, in America's 1921, 10-1/2 to 4-1/2 loss to Great Britain.  Earlier that year Wilfrid E. Reid had passed the citizenship test with high marks after having attended citizenship class, studying diligently and then proudly taking the Oath of Allegiance.  He was pronounced a naturalized citizen of the United States of America by the Circuit Court Judge, officially qualifying him to represent America at Gleneagles.

The 1930 Western Open won by Gene Sarazen was hosted at Indianwood under Reid's direction as the club professional.  Subsequently, with the disasterous economy the Indianwood development failed and Wilfrid then moved his family to Chicago, took a job as the teaching pro at Beverly Country Club in Chicago and also taught golf at Marshall Fields, a downtown department store, to make ends meet.

Will Nicholson from Colorado went to Chicago in 1934 to offer the head golf professional job at The Broadmoor to Wilfrid.  He became the summer pro at The Broadmoor Hotel Golf Club, a fabulous new resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  At this point Reid was also presented with the opportunity to become the 2nd club professional at Seminole Golf Club.  A very exclusive seasonal golf club in South Florida closed during summers, Seminole is considered one of the world's finest courses and clearly one of the finest clubs in golf.  Reid served the club well.  His time at Seminole served as his introduction to South Florida which would ultimately become his retirement home.

Once in America, Wilfrid was often referred to in the newspaper as a "British star" or a "famed international golfer and instructor".  In addition to his competitive accomplishments he was considered an outstanding golf instructor.  He once estimated that he had given lessons for approximately 300,000 hours.  President Warren G. Harding (at Seaview), Winston Churchill (at Bansted Downs),  Joyce Wheathered, the Duke of Windsor, Belgium's King Leapold, Dick Chapman, Michigan LPGA standout and granddaughter, Pat Devany, Ohio Governor Cox (at La Gorce), Harvey Ward (in San Francisco), Rhonda Glenn (at Palm Beach Par 3) and yours truely were among his thousands of pupils.  At La Boulie in Paris he also gave lessons to the mysterious Mr. Chesterfield ( the assumed name of England's King Edward VII ).

Bobby Jones was one of Wilfrid's dear friends during their later years along with fellow golf pros including Chick Harbert, Gardner Dickenson and others who eventually found themselves retired in South Florida. His lifelong personal friends included Chick Evans, Charlie Mayo, Walter Hagen, "Long Jim" Barnes, Tommy Armour, Bobby Crukshank, Gil Nicholls, Al Watrous, Jock Hutchison, Leo Diegel and Leo Fraser.  His older brother, Arthur Reid, was                   long-time golf professional in Hartford, Connecticut, brother-in-laws Louis Tellier was at Braeburn CC and Canoe Brook, George Blagg was the golf professional at Jupiter Island Club; son-in-law Joe Devany, a Michigan PGA Hall of Famer, at Grosse Ile Golf and Country Club on Grosse Ile.  Other close friends included Jack Elphick, Bertie Way, Harvey Ward, Dow Finsterwald, his former assistants Porky Oliver and Warren Orlick.

The Reids (original surname Read) were Scottish descendents from Bulwell in Nottinghamshire, England.  Wilfrid had caddied at the old Notts Golf Club and played golf with his father, grandfather who were noted golfers and his brother at the working class golf course, Bulwell Forest Links, as a young boy.  Beginning at age 15 the Bulwell Artisans sent him to Edinburgh Burgess Golf Society in Edinburgh, Scotland to be an apprentice and learn golf club and gutta percha ball making under Tommy Armour's father Willie Armour.  He won the Bulwell Artisans Club tournament that year.  At age 16 he was sent to Edinburgh to learn golf course layout and design under Willie Park, Jnr.  Coincidently, Park Jnr. had worked on the new Notts GC, Hollinwell course in 1900. [1]  Then Reid turned professional at age 16 which in those days was done primarily to make and sell golf clubs and golf balls.   His arch rival at home in Nottingham was always Tom Williamson.  Ultimately, Wilfrid went on to dominate tournament golf in the Midlands while he was there with the possible exception of occasional losses to his brother Arthur, Williamson and members of the Great Triumvirate, Vardon, Braid and Taylor.  Wilfrid won the Midland Challenge Cup in 1910, 11, 12, 13 and 14, plus others such as the Sphere and Tater, etc.  He played for England in the International Matches against Scotland each year from 1906 to 1914 (never losing a match) and in the 1908 Coronation Matches as well.  He was frequently victorious in professional challenge matches which were very popular in that era of golf history. 

Wilfrid often talked of his admiration for the golf course at Cruden Bay.  He predicted that Arnold Palmer would never last with 'a swing like that'.  Although a perfect English gentleman, Wilfrid was in the newspaper often with his somewhat flamboyant personal style characteristic of the golf professionals of that era (ala Hagen, etc.).  One of his insightful beliefs revealed in a newspaper interview was...

"To King, President or Pauper, golf is a leveler of all mankind.  It cultivates the finer innermost senses of men and places those in lowly places on a plain not excelled by the highest.  It creates sooner or later, the one great definer, control of ones actions, words and balanced deeds.  Surely a great teacher." 

After retiring to West Palm Beach, Fla. he was fondly known as "Wilfie" at PGA National and frequently played in the PGA Seniors in Dunedin, Fla., often bettering his age.  His shots to the green were deadly accurate.  He recorded at least 27 holes in one (36 as I recall).  Brother-in-law, George Blagg, originally of Nottingham also, became the oldest living member of the PGA of America living in South Florida to the ripe old age of almost 101 years of age.  As a boy George had worked in the coal mines of Nottinghamshire, but nonetheless obviously still survived the environmental attacks on his body and ultimately became the club professional at one of the finest clubs in golf for years.

Eventually Reid was inducted into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Michigan PGA Hall of Fame in 2015.  The Michigan PGA website writes this about him:

Wilfrid E. Reid, a world-class golfer and renowned golf course designer from England, visited the United States with golf legends Ted Ray and Harry Vardon in 1913 to play in the U.S. Open Championship, and later emigrated and worked at several golf clubs as a professional, including Country Club of Detroit. He was one of the original members of the PGA of America, served on the National Executive Committee of the PGA of America as vice-president at large, vice-president in 1920 and 1921 and was a member of the organizing committee of the Philadelphia Section of the PGA of America. He was president of the Michigan Section from 1928-30.

As an elderly man, like Arnold Palmer, Wilfrid Reid, who had competed in over 50 national open championships in Europe and America, simply loved to play golf.  So much so that he still played almost every day at the Palm Beach Par 3 golf course in South Florida for many years, often with his grandsons.  What a great game this is!

*  Verified


Tournament Records:

Great Britain 

   The (British) Open Championship - 

   1906 Tooting Bec Cup - Runner up to William Lonie *

   1911 Tooting Bec Cup - Runner up to Harry Vardon in 18 hole playoff *

   Midland Challenge Cup - winner 1910, 11, 12, 13 and 14 *


Europe

   French Professional Championship - winner 1904 *

   Italian Open - winner ca 1905

   Swiss Open - winner ca 1905

   Belgian Open - ca 1906


United States and Canada

   U. S. Open Championship - 1913 T14th, 1915 T10th, 1916 T4th, 1919 

   Windsor Open - winner ca 1925



Golf  Courses designed by Wilfrid Reid:


NEW COURSES  (originally designed by Reid)

Canada

-Windsor, Ontario (possibly Essex G&CC with Bertie Way & Connellan 1920's) 

England

-  Banstead Downs, Sutton, Surrey

-  Garretts Hall and others

France 

-  Racing Club de France (Valley Course), La Boulie, Versailles, Ile-de-France (ca 1904) *

    (R by Dunn & Park Jnr.) *

-  Golf de Cannes, La Napoule (ca 190?) *

-  Golf Club d'Aix les Bains, Aix-les-Bains (1904) *

-  Ile de Berder du Golf, Brittany (ca 1905) 

-  Pont St. Maxence du Golf, Pont-Sainte-Maxence (190?)

Belgium

-  Royal Golf Club de Belgique, Ravenstein ( Old Course ) Brussels (1906) *

United States

-  The Indianwood Club (Old Course), Lake Orion, MI  (1925) with Connellan *

-  The Olympic Club (original Lake Course), San Francisco, CA (1917) with Walter G. Fovargue *

-  DuPont Country Club, Wilmington, DE (9 holes 1921) *

-  Wilmington Country Club (now Ed Oliver GC), Wilmington, DE (ca 1920 ? ) ?

-  Wilmington Municipal Golf Course, Wilmington, DE 

-  Newark Country Club, Newark, DE (1921)

-  Brae Burn Golf Club, Plymouth, MI (1923) with Connellan *   

-  Harsens Island Golf Course, Harsens Island, MI (1926) *

-  Bald Mountain Golf Course, Lake Orion, MI (1929) with Connellan  ?

-  Black River Country Club, Port Huron, MI (1922) with Connellan *

-  Flushing Valley Golf Club, Flushing, MI (1930) with Connellan

-  Port Huron, MI

-  Bob O'link, MI

-  West Chester, Ypsilanti, MI

-  Indian River, MI

-  Gaylord Country Club, Gaylord, MI (1924) *  with Connellan ? 

-  Indian Springs, FL ?

And many others


REMODELED COURSES  ( remodeled (R) or altered by Reid )

England

-  Seacroft Golf Club (R original nine)  Skegness, England  (ca 1902) *

-  Banstead Downs GC, Sutton Surrey, England  (ca 1914 ? )

-  Garrets Hall GC and others

United States

-  The Broadmoor GC (R East Course) Colorado Springs, CO (ca 1936) *

-  Birmingham Country Club, Birmingham, MI  (1928) with Connellan *

-  Orchard Lake Country Club, MI  (1928)

-  Plum Hollow

-  Beverly Country Club, Chicago, IL (ca 1932)

-  Tam O'Shanter, Detroit, MI

-  Grosse Ile Golf and Country Club (traps), Grosse Ile, MI *

-  Ashtabula Country Club, Ashtabula, OH (1920's) 


Links:

1.  National Open Article, June 10, 1919

 

 

Notes

1.  Geoffrey S. Cornish and Ronald E. Whitten  The Architects of Golf  (Harper Collins 1981, 1993),  throughout;  The Golf Course  (The Rutledge Press 1988)

2.  Herbert Warren Wind  The Story of American Golf  (Simon and Schuster 1956), 96-97.

3.  Geoff Shackelford  The Golden Age of Golf  Design .

4.  Flaherty, Tom  The U. S. Open [1895-1965]  ( E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc. 1966 ), 27-29, 43, 201.

5.  Edited by Laurence Viney  The Royal and Ancient Book of Golf Records ( Macmillan Press 1991 ), 15, 157, 209.

6.  www.seacroft-golfclub.co.uk/history

7.  Williams, Bill  Vardon in America ( Xlibris 2016 ), 45, 73 

8.  Williams, Bill  Harry Vardon  - A Career Record of a Champion Golfer ( Xlibris 2015 ), Foreword

9.  Whitten, Ron  "Golf Digest Course Critic: Seaview Marriott Resort & Spa, Galloway Township, N.J."  Archived from the original on 2006-10-30, Retrieved 2006-11-15

10.  Parish of Cramond Census dtd. 31/3/1901, pg. 18

11.  Zmistowski, Bill  "True Renaissance Man",  USGA Golf Journal,  July 1994

12.  Vardon, Herd, Duncan, Reid, Ayton and Ouimet  Success At Golf   ( Little, Brown and Company 1914 ), pg. 65-81.  Originally Vardon, Herd, Duncan, Reid, White, Ball and Ayton Success At Golf  (Fry's Magazine Limited ) The Use of the Mashie, pgs. 57-72

13.  Trenham, Peter C., A Chronicle of the Philadelphia Section PGA and its Members


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Additional facts:


-  WER completed 72 holes in a total of 19 British and U.S. Opens

-  Club Pro, St. Augustine, FL

-  The strength of the Old Course at Indianwood is evidenced by the fact it has hosted some top tier championships and national opens beginning with the Western Open Championship in 1930 which was then considered the third major in the world of golf.  The Western Golf Association immediately recognized Indianwood as a great test of golf and selected it as the venue for the 1930 Western Open Championship.  The USGA selected Indianwood 'Old' as the venue for the 1994 and 2003 United States Womens Opens and again for the 2012 United States Senior Open.  A number of Michigan Opens have been played at Indianwood Old as well.  

-  Seaview paragraph

-  Club Pro at:

    Seacroft Golf Club, Segness, England
    The Racing Club de France at La Boulie, Versailles, France
    Banstead Downs Golf Club, Sutton, Surrey, England
    Seaview Country Club, Absecon, NJ
    Wilmington Country Club, Wilmington, DE
    Country Club of Detroit, Grosse Point Farms, MI
    The Indianwood Club, Lake Orion, MI
    Seminole Golf Club, Juno Beach, FL
    Gaylord Country Club, Gaylord, MI
    The Broadmoor Hotel Golf Club, Colorado Springs, CO
    The General Oglethorpe Hotel Golf Club, Savannah, GA
    Atlantic City CC, Atlantic City, NJ
    Retired in the 1950's ?

-  Teaching Pro at:
    La Gorce  , Miami Beach, FL
    Beverly CC, Chicago, IL
    Marshall Fields Department Store, Chicago, IL


   
-  1906,7,8,9,10,11,12,13 & 14 played for England in the International Matches England v Scotland, never losing a match

-  Midland Open Champion 1910, 11, 12, 13 & 14

 - Designed ?  Water's Edge;  Fox Hills Golf & Banquet Center; 

-  Remodeled ?