The royal and ancient game emerges from the wartime rough, but from coast to coast the cry is, "When do we get golf balls?"

TRENT FRAYNE July 15 1945


The royal and ancient game emerges from the wartime rough, but from coast to coast the cry is, "When do we get golf balls?"

TRENT FRAYNE July 15 1945




THE ROYAL and ancient game of golf, in which a man hits a small white pellet as far as he can so that he can trudge after it and hit it again, is currently laboring slowly toward its peacetime level on a national scale. No trumpets were blown and no tubs thumped last month when the Royal Canadian Golf Association announced quietly that the Canadian Open Championship would be revived at Toronto in August, but there was a significance attached to the august body’s pronunciamento that had its effect on every divot digger in the country.

The Canadian Open, dormant through the last two years, is Canada’s premier golfing event, but the fact that it brings the greatest players on the continent here every year isn’t as important to the game generally as the fact that the RCGA sponsors amateur golf, on a national scale, with some of the proceeds of the Open. The Association receives a $5,000 shot in the arm from a distilling company with which to stage the Open and is thus enabled to employ the championship’s profits in staging the annual Willingdon Cup matches. These matches bring the leading four golfers from each province together each year to shoot for the interprovincial team championship of Canada and at the same time the national individual crown.

Because of wartime restrictions, the Open has not been held since 1942, when Craig Wood, of the Winged Foot Country Club, Mamaroneck, N.Y., who still holds the Dominion title, defeated Mike Turnesa of White Plains, N.Y., by four strokes, at the Missisauga Golf Club, Port Credit, Ont.

The decision to resume the Open, so far as the determined duffer is concerned, is unimportant beyond the point that it indicates competitive golf once again is showing signs of life. What golfing’s little man is most interested in, of course, is the prospects for resumption of amateur golf on a normal scale. If news of the revival of the Open sends you reaching for the sticks you’ve put away for the duration, here’s the situation you’ll find:

Your club is probably still functioning, though on a reduced scale, because interest in golf has flagged but little during the war. Only a small number of Canada’s estimated 700 golf clubs have closed their doors; of the 294 affiliated with the RCGA, just five folded temporarily.

Club staffs have been skeletonized, with the manager often having to assume the duties of pro and greenkeeper as well. Fairways and greens have suffered accordingly.

The caddy situation became acute at some clubs but at most the only notable difference in caddies was not in their numbers but in their size. Many an adolescent bag toter disappeared completely from view the minute he picked up his load.

If you want to blow yourself to new clubs, you'll find them hard to get. The principal club manufacturing firm in Canada has been making bulletproof gas tanks for the last four years.

But your worst obstacle will be the shortage of golf balls. The ball scarcity is the number one hazard of all golfers, duffer and professional alike. If you’re keen enough, you can play on semidomesticated pastures; you can whale the graas with the. unmatched clubs your Uncle George gave you in 1937; and if you have to tote your own bag you can credit it to additional

The royal and ancient game emerges from the wartime rough, but from coast to coast the cry is, "When do we get golf balls?"

exercise. But if you lose your balls and can’t replace them, then you’re really in trouble.

Quite as concerned with this shortage as you anis the harried, frenzied, oft-frantic golf ball manufacturer who, every time he reads a notice in the newspapers informing the public that golf balls will soon be on the market, rips out another handful of his hair, roots and all. It’s no exaggeration to say that ever since V-E Day the golf ball manufacturer has consulted the sports pages with fear and trembling and when he sees just such items as this one, appearing in Toronto papers as far back as June 2, he starts ripping up his carpets and threatening to eat his young:

“Golfers are expected to be able to get more golf balls in the near future, it is stated today by a Toronto official of the Wartime Prices and Trade Board. No order was made banning manufacture in Canada. The ball shortage here came from failure of manufacturers to get rubber. The United States Prices Board already has announced that 5 million golf balls will be available this year.” This message was listed under the deceptively optimistic two-line heading: “Golf Balls for Canada Just Around the Corner.”

The golf ball manufacturer himself has a message for the public and you can take this down, Mr. Golfer, and stick it in your hat; it’s right from the horse’s mouth:

Manufacturers, providing they do get the necessary permits and materials, MAY make 5% of a season’s golf ball requirements this year. They will turn out a few synthetic balls this summer and, with luck, these will be on the market BY MID-AUGUST’. These will be thé first new balls in three years.

The real problem isn’t the rubber at all, contrary to newspaper announcements, it’s manpower. One of Canada’s largest golf ball manufacturing companies employed, prior to the war, 48 girls and five men; today that staff is down to five girls and one man. Shortly after the war started, the golf ball department was converted into the manufacture of tiny rubber tabs which were indispensable in the making of guns for air gunner’s turrets.

Canada has only three golf ball manufacturers, Dunlop, Spaulding and Campbell, and the story of «•(inversion to war production is the same for each of them. In a pre-war season this country used roughly

120.000 dozen golf balls, most of them Canadian-made. The imports were chiefly English brands, and it isn’t necessary to mention henthat United Kingdom production for the last five years has consisted of something more than golf balls.

American golf balls, larger than Canadian and British, are novelti<-s in this country. Canadians play almost exclusively with their own 1.62-in. (diameter) ball in preference to the 1.68-in. American pellet.

Press reports that 5 million U.S. golf balls will soon he on the market provide Canadian manufacturers wit h added grounds for hysteria. I visited a Canadian maker not long ago, armed with the seemingly logical argument that if the U.S. can put golf halls on the market, why can’t Canada? He came down from t he chandelier, where he has been spending most of his t ime since V-E Day, long enough to answer my question.

“Well, I will tell you,” he said with admirable restraint. “Last y«.-ar the United States turned out 2 million golf balls and they all went to the services. This year the War Production Board has given them permission to make 5 million balls but they have not been allowed any more manpower. In addition they still serve the services first and confronting them right now are orders for 2,400,000 from the Army and

1.200.000 from the Navy. That’s 3,600,000 golf balls from the same amount of manpower as was able to turn out only 2 million balls last year. Consequently, instead of worrying about how they are going to provide 5 million balls, like the WPB says, they are wondering how in the holy good day they are going to reach 3,600,000. And if you would like any further illustrations I would advise you to give $10 to a guy going to the States and ask him to bring you back a couple of dozen golf balls.”

The manufacturer then returned to his chandelier, shouting hoarsely: “You’ll never get ’em . . . you’ll never get ’em.”

New golf ball production in Canada was suspended in the spring of 1942 by government order. Since then the companies have been massaging old balls as carefully as a bunion and turning out so-called rebuilds, but the extent to which the supply has dropped is clearly shown by the fact that since the spring of 1942 only 30,000 dozen rebuilds have been turned out —about a quarter as many balls in three years as the pre-war era’s production for one year.

Most golf clubs in Canada today demand an old ball with each purchase of a reprocessed one, and some of them get two. Some stores make an even trade; some ask thrtje for two. But even this salvage work isn’t keeping up the supply, because only about 70%, of the old balls are fit for a rebuild job. This is particularly true of the more expensive balls, because these have liquid centres which as often as not have been punctured, spreading a creamy sticky liquid throughout the ball’s elastic Continued on page 44

Continued on page 44

Here’s a Fine Stymie!

Continued, from page 7

winding and making it impossible to salvage. Another major defect in the rebuild, from the golfer’s point of view, is its balata cover. Balata is a tough, dead type of rubber with very little resilience and a tendency to crack easily. The pre-war cover had a balata foundation, but it was treated with chemicals and crepe was added to give it “lift” and “spring.”

Tapioca for Balance

The balata cover will be the chief defect in the new synthetic rubber ball once it hits the market. The rubber winding will be made of neoprene, a synthetic rubber which at least one Canadian company has already treated with a combination of nine different chemicals to try to give resilience to the elastic winding. Centres may be liquid because no rubber is involved. One of the best liquid centres is tapioca pudding weighted with barium or lead to provide density. Tapioca pudding has been found ideal because its texture holds the weighted material in perfect suspension. Honey and vegetable oil are also good. Purpose of the liquid centre, manufacturers say, is to give the ball balance or, as one worded it: “It’s like the hub of a wheel.”

Summing up, manufacturers contend: “The synthetic ball hasn’t reached its perfection but it is a reasonably good ball. If we had our way we’d perfect it before placing it on the market, but our hand is being forced by Prices Board announcements and their sports page interpretations. Consequently the public is likely to be getting a guinea pig when new balls reach the market, probably in mid-August. As soon as a little rubber Is available the cover stock will be improved. The whole situation will be improved if we ever get any manpower.”

Even with the new balls in production, manufacturers will still turn out rebuilds during all this season and probably part of 1946.

Parenthetically here it might be mentioned that Canada hasn’t forgotten her servicemen, although this country handles its golf and other sports equipment differently from the United States, where the services deal directly with the manufacturer. In Canada business Is done through the retail shops so that the taxpaying sporting goods store operator gets some of his money back through sales of equipment to the Government for shipment overseas.

The shortage has developed a sizeable black market in golf balls. Prewar balls have sold as high as $60 a dozen in the United States, and it is said that some pre-war Canadian balls

have brought their illicit, dealer $35. Mostly, though, Canada’s golfers have been struggling along with the rebuilds.

While the Canadian Open has been suspended in mid-air since 1942, the professionals have managed to pick up a dollar or two by virtue of their own initiative and the philanthropic gestures by various eastern Canada businessmen. Just last month in Montreal three gentlemen with the kind of money which folds instead of jingles underwrote a pro tourney with $10,000. This was the sort of noise the U. S. pros had been waiting for, and they descended upon Montreal in bunches, like bananas. Even Bing Crosby, who also sings, went to the Quebec metropolis, although his purpose was primarily to visit military hospitals. Crosby, an amateur golfer, made a couple of appearances on the golf course and was almost torn loose from his larynx by admiring but somewhat impulsive spectators. The event was won by Byron Nelson, Toledo, who was 10 strokes ahead of Jug McSpaden, Sanford, Me.

Canadian pro golfers were almost as responsible for this tournament as the gentlemen with the money. Realizing that as long as Americans copped the top money in the Canadian Open—the only lucrative tourney in Canada when the war started — Canadian pros reached the conclusion that their only hope of improving their lot was to band together in complete co-operation. They empowered the Canadian Professional Golfers Association to control and promote professional golf in Canada and to do this the CPGA will utilize the finer patterns of the United States and British PGA’s. One of the major moves was to divide the Dominion into 11 zones, each of which will have jurisdiction over the players in its territory and will promote its own competitions. The pros themselves can’t see why major centres like Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and perhaps one or two others couldn’t each promote a $10,000 tournament. Les Franks, secretary of the Canadian PGA, believes that civic pride might be the answer. “The publicity and advertising each city would receive from such ventures would be of tremendous value to the tourist trade,” he points out, a little hopefully perhaps.

Departure From Text

The pros started in the right direction last year in Toronto when W. M. McKenzie, a mining man, put his hand into his pocket to sponsor a pro tourney, called the Maple Leaf Open, designed to make Canadian professionals rich. The idea was to keep out the outstanding Americans so that the Canadians would scoop up the gravy. In order to attract the customers, however, the tournament czars invited

two or throe creaking gaffers from the, U. S., whose names were calculated to click the turnstiles but whose games were calculated to cause trouble for nobody but themselves. Unfortunately one of the gaffers, a veteran named AÍ Watrous. who had been winning tournaments before some of the other competitors were born, upset the applecart by playing sensationally and j leading the field. He pocketed $3,000. Other oldsters, veteran Leo Diegel and j trickster Joe Kirkwood, followed the j script as the czars had hopefully j written it and finished down with the also-rans. The Canadians didn't exactly starve, thereby proving that their idea did have its advantages. ; Freddie Wood of Vancouver, the runner-up, took away $1,000. Stan j Horne, Montreal, and Rob Gray, Toronto, got around $700 each. Ten I other Canadian pros collected sums scaling from $500 down to $100. certainly the sweetest melon Canadian ! golfers had ever split up.

Tournaments for pros in other j centres may be in the offing. Both I Vancouver and Winnipeg report interest in $10,000 ventures and the Lions j Club of Toronto came along last year— and will be in there again this—with aj $1,000 purse for the Millar Trophy! Match play event at Toronto. With alert, crowd-catching promotion last year, the Millar attracted the best spectator turnouts in its history. It was reported that $12,000 was raised— $5,000 of it net profit—and while the Lions benefited a heap, so did the pros.

The RCGA has expended $4,000 during the last two years, promoting important golf tournaments across Canada, which brought the Red Cross over $20.000. The $4,000 was taken from theRCCA surplus which had been accumulated over a period of years, particularly the last three when Willingdon cup matches were not held.

The Amateur Outlook

Fxcept on a provincial scale, amateur golf has been a dead issue since the I Willingdon Cup games were cancelled ! after the 1939 meeting. Ken Black of Vancouver’s Capilano club was the last national champion and is therefore regarded as the duration titlist in ; Canada. Black trounced Alberta’s

leading amateur, Henry Martell, Fdmonton, in the final round in 1939, when the tournament was staged at Montreal’s Mount Bruno club. Black is still shooting his pars on the west coast and when Willingdon Cup competition is revived at Edmonton next; year he is expected to be the player to beat.

Since the amateurs haven’t been together in their annual clambake for five years there is no way of knowing how the provinces will shape up when competition is resumed next year at Edmonton. Many players are on active service and forecasts are unsafe until they are home and swinging again. It’s uncertain whether anyone has come along in the last five years to challenge the supremacy of the old masters and, indeed, nobody knows whether the years themselves have taken the toll of the top hands.

In Ontario, Sandy Somerville, London, and his clubmate, Jack Nash, both have been on active service, ; Somerville as an Army officer overseas and Nash as a lieutenant in the RCN. Phil Farley, the other stand-by, still is knocking out his pars and birdies and, with Black, can probably be regarded as a Canadian favorite tit this distance. A youngster by name of Nick Wisnock came out of Windsor with a lot of shots last season and tied Farley for the top amateur score, in the previously | mentioned Maple I^eaf Open.

A 16-year-old youngster named Bill

Mawhinney looks like a great prospect in British Columbia; in fact, Ken Black terms him the most likely looking golfer in the province.

Long time leading golf observer in Manitoba, newspaperman Johnny Buss reports that Allan Boes, Winnipeg, who has frequently won both the provincial amateur and open championships, still looks like the class of the field. Another member of Manitoba’s last interprovincial team, Howie Bennet, now is back in competition after serving in the Army and may give Boes a contest this year.

Edmonton’s Henry Martell has long been the best bet in Alberta, a province which lost one of its best young golfers when Willingdon Cupper Bobby Proctor was killed overseas. Saskatchewan, like the Maritimes, has never been particularly successful in interprovincial competition.

Gordon Baxter Taylor, national champion in 1932, was Quebec’s

outstanding shotsmith when he went overseas, where he served with the British 2nd Army as an infantry captain. A chunk of hot shrapnel fractured his arm near Caen. After hospitalization in England, Capt. Taylor went back into action with a top physical rating, an indication that he will still be one of Canada’s top knights of the niblick when he sheds his uniform.

The players of yesterday and today, the stars of tomorrow and the thousands of determined duffers all are in one big basket, so to speak, right now, placed there by a golf ball shortage which won’t let them gain their norm; ! strata in the national golfing struetur J for at least a year. Not until Willingdon Cup play is resumed at Edmonton next year will the men be separated from the boys in Canadian golf. Perhaps by then more balls will be available.

And perhaps not, the anguished golf ball manufacturer warns from his chandelier.