George Douglas, golfer

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George Douglas, born 18th March 1871 at 4, Viewforth, North Berwick, son of James Douglas, general labourer and his wife Catherine Merrilees. In 1885 the family(1) lived at 32, Harbour Terrace and in May 1891 George was granted a professional license on the West Links, North Berwick. In July that year he was appointed greenkeeper and pro at Panmure Golf Club playing over the Monifieth course from where he entered the Open at St Andrews. In 1892 George was appointed the first pro at the newly opened Pollok Golf Club in Glasgow and in September he entered the Open Championship list at Muirfield and received 10/- in prize money.
George Douglas was the regular caddie for John H. Outhwaite in his big matches. In 1893 Douglas enlisted in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and trained at Barry Buddon army camp in Angus. Outhwaite was also at Barry camp serving with the Black Watch and George caddied for him when the twenty year old won the Regimental Cup at Carnoustie in 1893. George's cousin Peter Merrilees (listed below) from North Berwick was golf pro at Manly Golf Club, Sydney in Australia.

Outhwaite, originally from Earlsferry won the tournament at the opening of the extended course at North Berwick in 1895, with George Douglas on his bag. George played in the professional tournament the following day representing Hessle Tennis and Golf Club in East Yorkshire. A photo of Douglas and Outhwaite can be seen in the Golf Book of East Lothian. George served almost two years with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders before he was discharged on payment of £18.

George Douglas was 5' 6 inches tall, blue eyes, brown hair and weighed 145 lbs. According to his army record, his distinguishing marks were the bust of a woman tatooed on his right-forearm with the letters M.K. Several of his teeth were defective, he had a scare above his left ankle and another on his right-forearm.

In 1894, prior to the well publicised challenge match between Andrew Kirkaldy and Ben Sayers. Kirkaldy had two days of practice at North Berwick which included a round with George Douglas. After spending the winter of 1895 working in France, Douglas sailed to America from Liverpool on S.S Gallia, and arrived in Boston on 18th April 1896. George Herbert Windeler, a member of Brookline Country Club and chairman of the Green Committee appointed George Douglas golf professional in 1896. Windeler was originally from Ditton Hill, Surrey and his local golf club was Thames Ditton & Esher Golf Club whose wealthy members would have been familiar with the courses in Scotland. Windeler transferred his Insurance Brokers business to America and opened offices at 65 Bay State Road, Boston. It may have been during a visit to North Berwick that Windeler met George Douglas, a licensed golf professional on the West Links. Following an exchange of letters inviting George Douglas to the Country Club and an offer from G. Herbert Windeler to sponsor his travel arrangements and accommodation.

George Douglas was appointed head pro at the prestigious Country Club of Brookline in April 1896. The original nine-hole course was designed by George Douglas and the Greens Committee and developed by George T. Fowle. This included the 7th hole, 197 yard, par three named 'Redan' inspired by the 15th on George Douglas's home course at North Berwick.

During the previous November the publication American Golfer reported that the Country Club had not renewed Willie Campbell's contract. George Douglas knew Willie Campbell from his days playing in the Musselburgh Professional tournament and working the links at North Berwick. In July 1896, George Douglas representing the Country Club, played in the US Open at Shinnecock Hills, and finished fourth. He scored rounds of 79 and 79 for a total of 158 and received $25 prize money. In December 1896, 25 year-old George Douglas returned to Scotland and worked as a licensed professional on the West Links, North Berwick.

The course at the Country Club of Brookline was extended to eighteen holes in 1899. When the US Open was played at Brookline in 1913 the 7th hole was the only hole remaining from the original nine-hole course. The name 'Redan' continues to be part of the Brookline vocabulary at the 12th hole while the membership have decided to airbrushed out George Douglas's contribution to the club history.

In September 1896 George Douglas won the professional tournament at Knollwood Country Club, Westchester County NY. The report in the New York Times stated there were fourteen Scottish pros and one negro taking part, he was John Shippen from Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. The others included Willie Dunn, and Tom Warrender from North Berwick who was pro at Knollwood. George Douglas representing the Country Club of Brookline covered the 36 holes in 154 strokes and lifted the first prize of $150. The other scores were Willie Campbell, (Myopia Hunt) 155; Horace Rawlins, (Utica) 159; Bertie Way (Meadowbrook) 160; Willie Dunn (Ardsley) 161; Willie Davis (Newport) 162; Willie Tucker (St Andrews at Yonkers) 164; Tom Gourley (Baltusrol) 167; Sam Tucker (St Andrews at Yonkers) 168; John Shippen (Shinnecock) 169; Alfred Ricketts (Albany) 170; Willie Norton (Lakewood green keeper) 174; Willie Kirk (Bar Harbour) 177; John Young (Staten Island) 171; Tom Warrender (Knollwood) 190.

According to the Milwaukee Journal in March 1897, Ben Sayers and Robert Thomson defeated Davie Grant and George Douglas in a foursome match at North Berwick. The following month eighteen year-old Robert Thomson (below) sailed for America and was appointed professional at Merion Cricket Club, Ardmore, Philadelphia. On 1st August 1897 he enlisted in the 11th Battalion Kings Own Scottish Borderers at the army recruitment office in Edinburgh, and was stationed in Berwick-Upon-Tweed. Private George Douglas (No.6200) fought in South Africa before being posted to the 2nd Battalion KOSB at the British Infantry Barracks in Dinapore, Bengal, India where he died in 1903. His military record states. 'George Douglas died at Dinapore of gunshot wounds self inflicted while temporarily insane - 25th August 1903'. He was taken to the Station Hospital where he was pronounced dead by Billet Adjutant G.B.Stoney.

Rudyard Kipling wrote in the Civil and Military Gazette about the soldiers on Fort duty or confined to barracks had a hard time during the Indian summer with the heat and disease. Kipling wrote about soldiers cracking up with the boredom and isolation of Indian barrack life.

George Douglas died at the age of 32 years and is listed among the first forty golf professionals in the United States and is recognised today as a true pioneer, and one of the earliest names of golf and clubmaking in America. His mother Catherine died at the Harbour Terrace in November 1904 and his father James Douglas followed her to the grave six months later.

1.  Brothers, James and Hugh



Sources for this article include:
  • North Berwick Golf Club

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    Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024