Who Really is the Father of American Golf?

What is the Father of anything. A child, an event, a sport, a country?

There are actually two ways of looking at this word “Father”. One could be the biological father of a child, he may have had limited activity though, with the up-bringing of that child. Perhaps when the child is growing up the biological father may never have had any dealings with his child. It may even be he left when the child was growing up, or maybe even before the birth. On the other hand the child might have been adopted by a responsible parent who reared that child, who loved him from the heart and in every way demonstrated the attributes of a real father. When that child grows up he recognizes who the parent was that loved him and cared for him all through his life.

When history says that George Washington was the "Father of the United States" we know that he didn't discover America, however, he was a member of the citizenry of this country. We do know that George Washington was the first person to politically represent this country in it's new form of government as it's first President. Hence the deserved title that is given George Washington is "The Father of the United States"

When we speak of the United States citizenry of golf, like Washington there were many participants. However, Alexander Findlay was the first of these people in America to design a golf course and the first to promote this great game in the expanse of capacity that he did. He reared this child called golf from it's infancy through adolesence down to maturity, where it could stand on it's own. From no players in 1887 to 5 million in in 1942 when Alex died. Years later the Sports writers of America bestowed the title of "The Father of American Golf", Subsequently, as Washington will forever be know as the "Father of the United States", so also Alexander Hamburg Findlay holds the title as "The Father of American Golf."

With that being said, some have attempted to assume this title such as David Deas. In 1743 he purchased 96 golf clubs and 432 golf balls and had them delivered from Leith Scotland to Charleston, South Carolina. But that is the end of that story as little has been recorded in history since.

A man by the name of Joseph Oil Fox in 1887 is said to have played golf in western Pennsylvania, subsequently, building a golf course that carries the title as the countries oldest course. But Joseph Fox appears to have had more interest in oil then in building, playing and promoting the game of golf in America.

A man by the name of John Reed wrote a autobiography in the early 20th century describing himself as the Father of American Golf, but he did little to promote the game outside of his local area of Yonkers, NY. As history records the facts it appears that Mr. Reed actually discouraged building affitional golf courses as it would draw away members from his own establishment.

How did he happen to come across that idea? When he returned home to Scotland he noticed that people were playing the game of golf. He purchased some clubs, brought them back to Yonkers, NY and hit a ball between three golf holes on a makeshift apple orchard. Does that make John Reed “The Father of American Golf?” Because he had a tennis racket from England before the game was played here, does that make him the Father of American Tennis? What about his friend Robert Lockhart, each of them are claiming to be “The Father of American Golf”. It is of interest that few sports writers if any give any credence to his claims of being the Father of American Golf or Tennis for that matter. Nice try, but the fact of the matter is that John Reed and company enjoyed playing the game, but do not have the credentials for being it's father.

Then there is Charles Blair Macdonald, a Canadian born native (November 14, 1855 – April 21, 1939) was a major figure in early American golf. He built the first 18-hole course in the United States, was a driving force in the founding of the United States Golf Association, won the first U.S. Amateur championship, and later built some of the most influential golf courses in the United States, to the point he is considered the father of American golf course architecture. He is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Probably the most serious contender for the title, but history prefers to wrap the title of “The Father of American Golf Course Architecture”. It appears his influence to the game was dwarfed by his interest in the stock market and being a money broker. He could have had a tremendous impact on the game, but again he abandoned his golf child to only return in the child’s young years wanting to be known as it’s father.

This brings us up to Francis Ouimet being touted as the Father of American Golf. The title really does not fit Francis. He was born in 1894 and by 1913, at 20 years of age, as an Amateur golfer won the US Open. Note what the reasoning used would be to recommend him for the title. His legacy transcends tournament victories. In 1913 it is estimated only 350,000 Americans played golf. Ten years later, fueled by Ouimet's heroics, that number was up to 2,000,000. On this basis Ouimet claimed the title The Father of American Golf.

Donald Ross is also named as “The Father of American Golf” but more so for his golf course design as he really did not come to the United States until 1899.

The question remains, who used their energies, resources, knowledge and abilities to promote the game from it’s infancy. Who had the credentials to go with the game. Who knew how to play the game from the highest levels. Who competed in US Opens, nearly winning more then once, as an amateur. Who built golf courses, not one but hundreds. Who enticed every President of the United States to play the game and who played with those presidents? Who enticed the current world champion, Harry Vardon to come to the United States to promote the game. Who tirelessly promoted this game mostly at his own expense? Who helped start women playing this game by bringing Joyce Wethered from England to promote the game for women? Who built golf courses from Europe to Canada to the Bahamas and from Maine to Florida to Texas to Montana? Who had the first Sports column on teaching the game in the newspapers. Who had a radio program devoted to the game of golf? Who met with Pope Pius XI to endeavor the pope to build a golf course on the Vatican grounds? Who played golf on over 2,400 courses, breaking par, establishing course records throughout the world? Who established the first score of 72 in the world for 18 holes, a mark that spans the ages and is still considered the basis for a round of golf? Who shot the first 71 in the United States? Who shot his age up to the week he died?

Who really fathered the game, who does the game say was it’s father? Let the record be known that there is only one individual who qualifies to be mentioned as “The Father of American Golf”, Alexander H. Findlay.


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