CAPSULE HISTORY OF THE FERNIE GOLF CLUB
What provided the impetus for the founding of the Fernie Golf Club is uncertain at this time. Perhaps some citizens visited Cranbrook and observed the game being played there. Research indicates Alex (Sandy) Watson arrived in Fernie in 1912 to work as a BC Government Agent. In 1917 he changed to the Home Bank as their manager. With strong Scottish roots, Alex came with a golfing background. Perhaps he inspired the local citizens to add golf to their summer activities after the curling season ended. The Fernie GC officially formed on April 5, 1918 when a group of citizens met. The group elected Alan Graham as President, RM Young as Vice-President, and Alex (Sandy) Watson as Secretary-Treasurer. S. Herchmer, Jas McLean, E. Daniels, E. K. Steward, and Thomas Prentice comprised the Executive Committee. The Committee chose the land known as “Prentice Park” with a spur line of the Great Northern Railway forming the north boundary for the first golf course. When the local newspaper announced the need for volunteers for the work bees on the new course, the aspiring golfers responded eagerly. By the end of July, the work on the course was completed at a cost of $500. In August, Alex Watson and R. M. Young defeated A. Graham and S. Herrchmer in the first club match over the newly completed course. In 1919 at the Annual General Meeting, the Board announced the course wintered well. The members chose W.R. Wilson, General Manager of the Crows Nest Pass Coal Co, as their Honorary President and R. Wood as the Honorary Vice President. These appointments began a seventy-year relationship between the Fernie GC and the Coal Company. In September, the Fernie G.C. defeated the Cranbrook G.C. 15 – 2 in the first inter-club match held on the course. In 1920, the Board hired a greens keeper to improve the playing conditions. The following year, Professional, Bob Smith of Nelson, laid out a new course across the spur line that formed the northern boundary of the original course. The club paid the Coal Company $30 per year, basically, the same amount the local farmers paid to the Coal Company for the right to graze their cattle on the property. Because golf became so popular by the mid-twenties, Suddaby’s Drug & Bookstore began stocking golf equipment.
THE HUGHES FAMILY
Research to date shows the Hughes family tree dates to the 1850s in Creggan Upper, County Armagh and Louth, Ireland. Like most Irish families, Patrick Hughes and Mary McKenna Hughes had several children among them son Patrick Hughes. Probably for economic reasons, the son, Patrick, left Ireland in the 1870s for Lanarkshire, Scotland. The family consisted of at least seven children. The two oldest children, Patrick and Thomas, are listed in the 1901 Scotland census as coal miner hewers. In 1903, Patrick (age 22) and Thomas (age 20) boarded the SS Sicilian from Glasgow, Scotland bound for Montreal, Quebec. The ship manifest listed the two brothers as travelling to Fernie, British Columbia to work in the coal mines. Around 1908, Patrick married Elizabeth Shields. The couple had eleven children including Ellen (b 1912), Francis (b 1914), Terry (b 1923), John, and Jim. The 1921 Canada Census, records Patrick as a clerk/salesman with an annual income of $1200. Clearly, he had left the coal mining profession during the previous decade. There is no record for Thomas in the 1911 Canada Census or the Fernie City Directories.
At present, it is difficult to determine how the Hughes children became actively involved in golf. But the Fernie GC had a number of prominent regional champions. Alex Watson won the prestigious Crow’s Nest Pass Championship (CNPC) in 1922, ’24, ’25, and ’28. When he moved to Victoria he immediately won the 1928 Victoria City Championship as a member of the Victoria GC. Mrs. Agnes Lawes won CNPC in 1925, ’30, ’31, and ’48. Hank Hayne won the Crow in 1927. Perhaps Ellen and Frank started as caddies for these prominent players. Newspaper accounts indicate the Hughes children participated in all local sports excelling in sports, like badminton and swimming. There is no indication their parents played golf. In fact one newspaper account in 1936 indicated the parents had not seen their children play golf until the Fernie GC hosted the Crow Championship at the Fernie course.
Ellen dominated women’s golf in the East Kootenays from 1932 – 1950s. She credited her success to her long driving ability. “My opponents become intimated when I constantly out drive them by thirty to forty yards.” Frank’s opponents consistently remarked they never felt dominated by Frank. “He was always such a gentleman on the course win or lose.”
In a 1937 article Roy McKenzie, the Leithbridge, Alberta sports editor for the Leithbridge Herald, outlined the uniqueness of the brother /sister duo from Fernie. “It was in 1933 that the Hughes from Fernie first pulled their brother-sister act by Frank winning the men’s championship and Ellen winning the women’s title. Many said it was lucky breaks when they repeated in 1936, but in 1937 they repeated again. This seems to establish one thing definitely: that they are both able to play like champions for three gruelling days. The Hughes show real golf on the tough little course that they play on at home and they are able to take this golf with them to other courses. Frank’s style is a contrast to his sister. A slim good-looking lad, he might be termed an unorthodox player. He takes a short grip on the club, stands a long way from the ball and bends over quite a bit. His drives vary in length and most have a little hook on the end to give added distance. Frank is a mental golfer. He wins his matches because he does not believe that he can lose. He sinks long putts because he makes up his mind the putt will go in. To follow him in a match you would think that he never considered missing a putt. Playing a practice round in the 1937 tournament at Blairmore, he scored 69 with 12 one-putt greens. Hughes attempts to sink every approach from 100 yards in. In this way he gets closer to the cup than his opponents who are trying to get close to the green. His opponents enjoy playing a match against him. He is the modest player to be found. He has the ability to make his opponents feel at home and they are seldom nervous.”
Other members of the Hughes family who showed golfing prowess included Terry, the 1948 Crow Champion. John and Jim won various flights in the Crow. Over its 100-year history the Fernie GC has produced several other champions including: Arnold Sherwood, Gary Puder, and Jackie Twamley.