Date: May 16, 2016
Author: The Australian Golf Heritage Society

Q and A Golf History DZ Ed. No. 94-95

Answers to Previous Questions

Question #1:  In the 1960 Australian Open how many amateurs were in the top ten?

Answer. The 1960 Open at Lake Karrinyup was won by Bruce Devlin, before he turned professional. Eight out of the top ten were amateurs.

1   * B Devlin 69 69 69 75 282
2   * E Ball 70 71 73 69 283
3   * T Crow 69 74 74 68 285
4T * E Routley 71 68 73 74 286
       K Nagle 73 69 74 70
6T * P Billings 73 69 75 71 288
     * D Bachli 76 72 71 69
8   *  K Donohoe 75 72 68 74 289
9   *  R Stevens 70 68 79 73 290
10  J Sullivan 76 68 75 72 291

*Asterisk denotes an amateur.

Modern golfers may find these results very strange, but the situation for professional golfers in 1960 was very different from today. After adjusting for inflation, prize money was not as lucrative as it is today. Most professionals on tour were also attached to clubs and had to spend some of their time on club duties. A really good amateur could be offered a sinecure by a large company and given generous time to practice, travel and play golf.

Writing in November 1961 Henry Longhurst was surprised that Jack Nicklaus announced his decision to turn pro. This came after winning the US Amateur in 1959 & 1961 and coming a close second to Arnold Palmer in the 1960 US Open.

While still studying insurance at university, Nicklaus worked in the insurance industry and had a very handsome annual income for such a young man. If he had continued in insurance he would probably still have won a few major tournaments. Clients in the presence of the great man would have bought oodles and oodles of insurance and Nicklaus would be a rich man. However, he decided to turn pro and the rest is history.

Question #2:  Why are the names James McEwan and Hugh Philp important to golf collectors and historians?

Answer. James McEwan and Hugh Philp were both golf club makers. Their long-nosed scare-necked clubs are considered to be the best examples of their craft from the featherie ball era.

James McEwan started making clubs about 1770 at Bruntsfield in Edinburgh. He died in 1802. The business was handed down to son Peter (1781 – 1836), who took the business in 1847 to Musselburgh (near Edinburgh), a golfing site which the old Edinburgh clubs began to favour rather the city sites. The business was handed over to James’s grandson Douglas (1809 – 1886) and finally great grandson Peter (1834 – 1895). Clubs by Douglas are considered to be particularly fine examples of the craft. The business closed in 1897, by which time golf clubs were the product of larger more organised workshops rather the product of an individual craftsmen.

In 2012 Christie’s sold a play club by James McEwan for a hammer price of £39,650. It was clearly stamped with James’s name, had good provenance and could be dated as circa 1786. In the same sale there were several McEwans sold in the range £938 to £2500. It was not stated who was in charge of the business when the club was made, and condition and provenance would clearly have varied. Graham Rowley Auctions had a McEwan putter in decent condition that failed to sell for £500. By the 1870s and 1880s long-nosed scare-necked clubs were produced in fairly large numbers, so their value drops. In that same sale, Graham Rowley had a Tom Morris putter in decent condition that failed to sell for £300.

Hugh Philp (1786 – 1856) was the club maker for the Society of St Andrews Golfers, aka the R&A. He is often described as the Stradivarius of club makers. A joiner by trade, he opened his club making shop in St Andrews in 1819. After his death he was succeeded by his nephew Robert Forgan, who formed the Forgan Golf Company. Clubs bearing the Forgan name are still made today, but the company has seen several owners and periods of inactivity.

In 2004 Christie’s sold a putter by Hugh Philp for a hammer price of £23,900. It had good provenance and was thought to have belonged to Allan Robertson. You may wonder why the price was lower that the club by James McEwan. A strong reason is that play clubs, because they were more easily broken, are rarer than putters.

The AGHS Golf Museum in Granville has several long-nosed scare-necked putters. Visitors can try out one of the putters. Staff will explain how the putters were made. There are also fact sheets that visitors may read at the Museum or take away to read at their leisure.

Questions for the Next Issue:

1.    What made the Victoria Golf Club in Melbourne an exceptionally proud club in 1954? 

2.    Who is the man in the portrait?

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