Behind a great golf course designer was his older brother
Anyone even remotely interested in golf course design will know that Stanley Thompson is Canada’s greatest and most influential golf course designer.
However, fewer people will know the story of his older brother and mentor, Nicol Thompson, who was the head professional at Hamilton Golf and Country Club for 38 years.
Nicol Thompson, who was inducted into the Professional Golfers’ Association of Canada Hall of Fame for 2022, can easily be described as a pioneer in almost every aspect of the sport in this country.
“There is no doubt that Nicol Thompson brought Stanley to golf course architecture and mentored him,” says Dr. Jamie Harris, who is Canada’s leading authority on Stanley Thompson and authored the most recent book on the life of the golf course designer.
Born in Scotland, Nicol Thompson grew up in Toronto, just steps from the Toronto Golf Club. It was there that the entire Thompson clan learned the sport and Nicol befriended George Cumming, the club’s head professional.
Thompson became the Hamilton club’s head professional in 1899 and moved into a stately home on Flatt Avenue near Aberdeen Avenue, a short walk from the golf course on what is now the Chedoke Martin course.
He and Cumming tinkered with the architecture of golf courses and it is believed that as early as 1912 he was showing Stanley how it was done.
Stanley Thompson fought with the Canadian Army during the First World War, notably at Vimy Ridge.
When he returned to Canada in 1920 after a respite in Britain where he played many of the best courses, he became a member of the golf course design firm of Thompson, Cumming, Thompson.
Within a year, their respective clubs had pushed – some would say forced – Nicol Thompson and George Cumming to retire from the design business and focus on their chief pro positions.
While that meant Stanley Thompson was on his own, no one really doubts that Nicol wasn’t involved behind the scenes yet.
In fact, when the Burlington Golf and Country Club was envisioned and then created, it is said that they wanted Stanley to be their architect, but had Nicol and George sign off on everything he did.
(More on that later this summer as the Burlington club celebrates its 100th anniversary.)
Harris says his research shows that Nicol, sometimes alone, sometimes with Cumming and sometimes with Stanley, created a number of courses, including Summit, Brantford, Midland, Royal Muskoka and the Niagara Falls Country Club in Lewiston, NY.
He also worked with Stanley on the alteration of the Hamilton Golf Club in Aberdeen which would eventually become the Martin Course in Chedoke. After retiring from the Hamilton club in 1945, Nicol also worked with Stanley on a few projects, including the development and construction of the Beddoe course at Chedoke and Whirlpool Niagara parks, where he became the first pro/chief manager .
Nicol Thompson was the Hamilton club’s head professional from 1899-1901, 1903 and 1912-1945.
He was the head professional of the Birmingham Country Club in Alabama from 1904 to 1911.
When he returned to the Hamilton G&CC in 1912, he and Superintendent John Sutherland were tasked with finding the property that would become the club’s new home. This Ancaster farm, purchased in 1914, became the current golf course.
Nicol was not a founding member of the PGA of Canada as he was working in Birmingham when it was formed in 1911.
He became very active in the CPGA after returning to Hamilton in 1912 and served as president of the organization from 1923 to 1926.
Shortly after returning to Canada, Thompson established himself as one of the top professional golfers in the country. He finished second at the 1913 Canadian Open in Montreal and in 1930, when the Open was contested at the Hamilton G&CC, Thompson led the tournament after two rounds, eventually finishing seventh, earning him the princely sum of $50.
Thompson won the CPGA championship in 1922 and finished second in 1919 and 1924. He also won the Ontario Open championship in 1925.
“The great old man of Canadian golf” died in Hamilton in August 1955 at the age of 75.
“Mr. Thompson was well liked by the members and was really focused on the service he provided to them,” Hamilton chairman Richard Lennox said in a letter of support to the PGA Hall of Fame Selection Committee. from Canada.
“The successful operation of the HGCC Caddy program was very near and dear to him.”
This program continues to this day.
All in one : COVID-19 may not have completely disappeared, but in another sign that golf is getting back to normal, the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board has approved the return of the college golf championship.
The tournament, which did not take place in 2020 or 2021 due to COVID, will be played this year on May 25 with a shotgun at 10 a.m. in Oak Gables.
The college championship was first held in 2004 on the Martin Course in Chedoke where the winners were Laura Hildebrandt and Mackenzie Hughes.