Monday, August 1, 2011

Wilfrid Reid - First Seaview Pro and ACCC 46-48 - My Life in Golf

Wilfrid Reid ACCC Pro 1946-1948 – [From Birth of the Birdie Chapter 5]

It was a tip of the hat to his old mentor when Leo Fraser appointed Wilfrid Reid head pro of the Atlantic City Country Club in 1946. Born in Nottingham, Enland in 1884, Wilfrid Reid won a number of major European tournaments that included British champions Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. After working as a golf professional in France, Reid came to America to work as a golf pro with Walter Travis at Garden City in New York. He frequently placed among the top ranks of the professionals in major tournaments.

Reid played in the 1913 U.S. Open at Brookline, Massachusetts with Vardon and Ray and others who were all trying to wrestle the U.S. Open title from two-time defending champion John J. McDermott, the Atlantic City professional. At the halfway mark of that famous Open Reid was tied with Vardon for the lead with 147, two strokes ahead of Ray but later faded to fourth, with McDermott and Hagen. A colorful character “Wilfrey” got into a fist fight with Ted Ray in the Country Club at Brookline locker room. He was also known for having “beaned” Winston Churchill on the head with a golf ball. Golf historian Ross Goodner said, “Wilfred Reid loved a good story and he loved to drink.”

Ried worked as the pro at a number of other clubs and helped design many courses. In 1914 Clarence Geist named him the first pro at Seaview Country Club, where he worked until he was replaced by James “Jolly Jim” Fraser in 1916. It was Wilfrid Reid who personally vouched for Leo Fraser’s required apprenticeship when Leo was first installed as an official member of the P.G.A.

Reid was the club professional at the time of the 1948 U.S. Women’s Open and his advice on how to play the course was published in the program.

“Wilfrid Reid was a great guy,” Elsie Rogers recalled. “He was a wonderful teacher. He just told me to hit the ball harder. He was fun, old Wil Reid.”

“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 one’s actions, words and balanced deeds. Surely a great teacher.” – Wilfrid Reid

Wilfrid Reid (First Seaview Pro 1915 - ACCC Professional 1946-1948)

"Watch for wind hills lad, you can hear'em but you can't see'em." - Wilfrid Reid to Don Siok

Wilfrid Reid, the first golf pro at Seaview later came back to the Jersey Shore in 1946 to work at Atlantic City Country Club.

An Englishman and protege of Harry Vardon, "Wilfrey" as they called him, learned to make the old style golf balls as an apprentice to the father of Scottish pro Tommy Armour. He later accompanied Vardon and Ray on their 1913 tour of the USA and played in both the Shawnee and US Open tournaments that year.

At Shawnee, won handily by two-time Open Champ John McDermott, the tournament made headlines because of McDermott's promise that the Open trophy would not be taken by the British. But Wilfrid Reid got the attention in the locker room when he got into a fistfight with Ted Ray. At the Open the following week Wilfrie tied for first after two rounds, but fell behind. Then he went back to England for awhile.

After winning the French, Dutch, German and Swiss Opens and laying out a number of popular courses in Europe, Reid was recruited and hired by Atlantic City industrialist Clarence Geist to be the first golf professional at Geist's new and exclusive Seaview Country Club. Geist would also build the Bocca Raton golf course in Florida where his pro Tommy Armour, was the son of Wilfrie's old Scottish instructor.

After only one year at Seaview, Reid moved to the Wilmington Country Club in Delaware, while the Wilmington's pro Gil Nichols went to Cortland Park in Long Island, and the Courtland Park pro James Fraser took Reid's place at Seaview. Sports writers called it "the Triple Switch."

Reid must have taken time off from Wilmington as he is credited with designing a number of golf courses in 1917, including the Lakeside course in San Francisco that would become the Lakeside course at the Olympic Club, the site of the 2012 U.S. Open Golf Championship.

Reid also designed a number of important golf courses in Michigan, but became better known as a golf instructor, and gave lessons to famous people - presidents and Kings, but also gave lessons in life to all those who knew him.

While Reid was small in stature, one of those who looked up to him was Leo Fraser, who Wilfrie took under his wing much like Vardon had done to him in England.

Wilfrid Reid was one of those present at the first meeting of the PGA in 1916, when one of the first orders of business was to take up a collection to help pay for John McDermott's medical care. McDermott was living at Norrestown Hospital at nearly $2 a day, more than his sisters could afford.

At first they wanted Wilfrid Reid to the president of the organization but he didn't have the time, after all, he was still a club pro who primarily made golf balls and gave lessons.

Although he played in the first inter-national team matches on the English side against Scotland, he later became proud to be a naturalized American citizen and played on the American team, going undefeated in all of his pre-Ryder cup matches against the UK teams.

Wilfrid Reid came back to the area after Leo Fraser purchased the Atlantic City Country Club in 1946 and was the pro there during the 1948 U.S. Women's Open (won by Babe Zaharius).

It was probably during that time when Reid wrote this:

My Life in Golf – By Wilfrid Reid

It’s hard to believe it now, but I almost became a minister instead of a professional golfer. At least my family had that in mind for me until I was about 14. My family all played golf – my grandfather, my father, my brother – all of them – so it was only natural for me to start. I was about five years old when I began and by the time I was 14 I was a pretty good player.

I was born in Sherwood Forest – an outlaw, you know – and golf was popular in Nottingham like every place else. The Notts, the gentlemen of Nottingham, allowed us to play on the golf course. We were artisans, you know, the working men. Anyway, in 1898 Harry Vardon played an exhibition match there and after seeing him I don’t think I ever considered any other career besides golf.

Instead of studying for the ministry I went to Edinburgh as an apprentice to a golf professional. Well, this was a few years before the rubber-core ball came out and people were still using the guttie. I learned to make golf balls using molds, two halves and put them together. I used to make several dozen balls a day.

Harry Vardon was very quiet on the course. The thing I remember most is that there was a great crowd of people gathered there, and when I stepped up on the first tee I was so scared I couldn’t talk. Then Vardon came up and said, “What’s the matter, lad?” I pointed to all the people and he said, “Don’t worry about them, they’re only trees.” I never forgot how kind he was.

It was during these years that we had what we were called international matches, between teams from England and Scotland. I was on the English team seven years – from 1906 through 1913 and my record was 10 victories, one loss and one match halved. There were some great matches, as you might imagine, since England has players like Vardon, Taylor and Ray, while Braid, Herd and Willie Park were on the other side.

It’s funny how some things remain in your mind, while more important ones are sometimes forgotten. I recall looking for Ray at the 1913 Open and found him in the bar of the hotel with Alex Smith. They were having a big argument about socialism. Then I had to open my big mouth. I said, “Ted, how the hell can you argue in favor of socialism when you make as much money as you do?”

Well, Ted really got angry at that, really upset, and he punched me right in the face and knocked me clear over the table. My face was swollen clear out to the ear, and the next day I had a devil of a headache. Vardon was very upset and said he was going to withdraw, but I talked him out of it.

While I was here, I talked to a lot of fellows I had known in Britain and saw how well they were doing and how much golf was growing here, and I began to wonder if it might not be a good thing for me to make the move. As it turned out, I went back home and stayed there a couple of years, then came here permanently in 1915 and took the job at Seaview in Atlantic City.

I don’t know what I would have done in other circumstances, but the war was on and golf in Britain was almost at a standstill.

I wasn’t too happy there and was soon looking for another club. Then Gil Nichols came to me and said he was accepting an offer from Great Neck, on Long Island, and he told me to come down to his present club at Wilmington and play a match with him. He wanted to introduce me to the people at the club because he thought he might be able to get the job. It was a sort of a game of musical chairs because I took Gil’s place at Wilmington, he took Jimmy Fraser’s place at Great Neck, and Jimmy took my place at Seaview.

I stayed at Wilmington seven years and during that time I became an American citizen. I had studied the material from top to bottom so I answered all of them correctly, and when the judge congratulated me he admitted he hadn’t known all the answers himself.

Well, I’ve been here and there since then. I spent several years in Detroit and I used to spend every winter in St. Augustine. I was around when the PGA was founded in 1916, and after I went to Detroit I got Leo Fraser and Warren Orlick into the PGA. Both of them later became president of the association, you know?

I played quite a lot of tournament golf the first few years I was over here and in fact, I’ve never completely stopped, because I played in the PGA Seniors.

It’s been a good life and I wouldn’t have had it any other way, although once in awhile I wonder what my life would have been like if I had gone ahead and studied for the ministry.


Wilfrid Ewart "Wilfie" Reid (3 November 1884 – 24 November 1973) was an English professional golfer and golf course designer.

Reid was born in Bulwell, Nottingham, England and died in West Palm Beach, Florida, United States.

Reid studied club and ball making under Tommy Armour's father, Willie, in Edinburgh, Scotland. A scratch golfer at 15, Reid turned professional at 17 and was a protégé of Harry Vardon who helped him land a club professional job at La Boulie Golf Club, Versailles, France, in 1901 for roughly five years. He later was the professional atBanstead Downs Golf Club in Sutton, London, England for roughly nine years and a successful tournament player. Reid was a fine competitive golfer despite being small of stature, and he beat his mentor, Vardon, on several occasions, was never short of confidence.

In 1913 Reid visited America with Vardon and Ted Ray where they played in a number of tournaments including the famous 1913 U.S. Open in which he tied for 16th. Reid tied Vardon for the 2nd round lead and played with Francis Ouimet in the 3rd round. In 1915 he tied 10th. His best finish in the U.S. Open was a T-4 in 1916.

In 1915 Reid immigrated to America at the invitation of Clarence H. Geist to be golf professional at Seaview Golf Club in Galloway, New Jersey after the outbreak of World War I. He later, at the suggestion of the DuPont family, became the golf professional at the Wilmington Country Club,Wilmington, Delaware. He became a member of the PGA of America in 1917 and was appointed to the national PGA Executive Committee as a vice president at large, a position he held for two years. In August 1920 he was elected vice-president of the PGA of America and he was reelected in 1921. In 1920 and 1921 he also held the office of secretary of the Southeastern Section PGA. That year in December of 1921 he attended the founding meeting of the Philadelphia Section PGA and was a member of the organizing committee. Later in 1929 he was the president of the Michigan Section PGA for three years

Reid obtained U.S. citizenship in 1921. Reid served as a professional at several of America’s top clubs, including Country Club of Detroit, Grosse Pte. Farms, MI, Beverly Country Club,Chicago, IL, The Broadmoor Golf Club, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Seminole Golf Club, North Palm Beach, Florida, and Atlantic City Country Club, Northfield, New Jersey. He defeated Gene Sarazen in the 1924 Augusta Open, won the 1926 Michigan PGA Championship and had 26holes-in-one in his long playing career. At various times he won the French, Dutch, German and Swiss opens. The border of his stationery, that he used to send to club-makers such as George Izett of Bailey & Izett Inc. his customers’ golf club orders listed so many of his accomplishments that there was very little room left for him to write his message.

Not only was Reid a wonderful golf teacher, his greatest accomplishments were golf course designing. Reid began designing golf courses at an early age and laid out courses in Europe and Britain before settling in the United States. He once estimated that he had designed 58 courses and remodeled some 43 others during his design career. While based in Michigan during the 1920s, he partnered with another club professional, William Connellan.

The firm of Reid and Connellan designed some 20 courses in that state alone. Reid retired to Florida in the early 1950s and consistently improved his game in both social and competitive rounds. Even into old age he continued to "beat his age" in score on his birthday. In 1985, Reid was posthumously inducted into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.

Reid designed courses in the following states: California (Olympic Club - original Lakeside Golf Club course, San Francisco, 1917), Delaware (see below), and Michigan (see below). In addition he designed courses in England, France, Belgium and Canada.

Oftentimes, his first name gets misspelled as "Wilfred" in documents, such as in the movie and book The Greatest Game Ever Played. Occasionally, his middle initial is incorrectly documented "A." as well.

Results in major championships
Tournament 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909
The Open Championship
T53 CUT T37 CUT T37 T35 T21
Tournament 1910 1911 1912 1913 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 1919
U.S. Open
The Open Championship
T24 T16 T20 26 T41 NT NT NT NT NT
PGA Championship
Tournament 1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929
U.S. Open
PGA Championship
Tournament 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939
U.S. Open
Note: Reid never played in the Masters Tournament, founded in 1934.
NYF = Tournament not yet founded
NT = No tournament
DNP = Did not play
CUT = missed the half-way cut
R64, R32, R16, QF, SF = Round in which player lost in PGA Championship match play
"T" indicates a tie for a place

Delaware designs
 DuPont Country Club - the original DuPont Course, Wilmington, Delaware, 1921
 Wilmington Country Club - original course, now Ed Oliver Golf Club, Wilmington, Delaware
 Newark Country Club, Newark, Delaware, 1921
[edit]Michigan designs
 Port Huron Golf Club, (Reid, Connellan), Fort Gratiot, Michigan
 Indian River Golf Club, (original 9 hole), (Reid), Indian River, Michigan
 Birmingham Country Club, (Reid), Birmingham, Michigan, 1916
 Water’s Edge Golf Course, (Reid), Grosse Ile, Michigan (9-hole course commissioned byWilliam S. Knudsen)
 Brae Burn Golf Club, (Reid, Connellan), Plymouth, Michigan, 1923 (666 yard par 5 hole - "The Monster")
 Gaylord Country Club, (Reid), Gaylord, Michigan, 1924
 Indianwood Golf and Country Club - Old Course, (Reid), Lake Orion, Michigan, 1925
 Tam-O-Shanter Country Club, (Reid, Connellan), West Bloomfield, Michigan, 1929
 Bald Mountain Golf Course, (regulation course), (Reid, Connellan), Lake Orion, Michigan, 1929
 Flushing Valley Country Club, (Reid, Connellan), Flushing, Michigan, 1940

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