Clear Lake Golf Course grows into one of the best

Published on Tuesday, 23 May 2023 08:07

By Ed Stozek
For the Herald

The Minister of the Interior, the Hon. Charles Stewart, addressed a large gathering at Clear Lake on Aug. 16, 1928.

He promised considerable improvements to Clear Lake and Riding Mountain Park, but was non-committal on setting aside an area for a national park. He noted that initially $20,000 had been set aside for the improvement of roads, the increasing of bush facilities and the establishment of a golf course.

By 1930 the near completion of the golf course was well under way.

“According to an official, three golf architects have designed the course and it is being seeded down this year. There is no possibility of it being opened this year but when completed it will be one of the finest courses in the west.” (May 22, 1930, Brandon Daily Sun)

An article in the July 30, 1931, edition of the Dauphin Herald showed that the course was used daily by a large number of players who were challenged by several tricky holes in which a stream of clear running water contributed to a variety of hazards.

The course with its rolling ground also tested the individual player’s skills. Local players found the course to be in great shape and predicted that it would soon become a popular tournament centre.

Situated on a high hill just north of the 9th green, a new clubhouse was also completed by May in 1932. Due to the growing number of golf enthusiasts the clubhouse was expanded in 1935 with further alterations carried out in 1945, 1956 and 1976.

Expansion was also planned for the golf course.

“West of the present fairways a new nine-hole course is being cut out of the bush and while it is not likely that play will be permitted this year, the work will be rushed along provided the appropriation for such a plan is available.” (January 5, 1932, Brandon Daily Sun) It was also stated that the second half of the course promised to give even the best players a great deal of challenges.

In June 1928 the Country Club and the Community Golf Club at Dauphin hired a young man with an excellent record in amateur competitions, Winnipeg’s Johnnie Lawrence, to act in a professional capacity. As mentioned in Emma Ringstrom’s book, Riding Mountain, Yesterday and Today, while occupying the position at Dauphin, Lawrence also assisted in the construction of the Clear Lake golf course.

Lawrence left Dauphin in 1934 to become the professional at the Clear Lake course. In July 1935, Lawrence played a round of golf with the Hon. James Bowman, Conservative MP and Speaker of the House and Dauphin’s Dr. Harrington. Lawrence set a new record for the eighteen-hole course carding a 71, one stroke better than his former mark. Along with being the golf pro, Lawrence also designed courses at Shoal Lake, Sandy Lake, Neepawa and Minnedosa.

In 1976 at the age of 68, Lawrence retired after being a professional at the Clear Lake golf course for over 40 years. A special testimonial night was held at Danceland on Aug. 9, where Lawrence was “roasted” and “toasted.” Lawrence was elected a Life Member of the Canadian Professional Golfers’ Association, the Manitoba Professional Golfers’ Association, and the Clear Lake Golf Course.

During Lawrence’s tenure as golf pro, the first annual Grey Owl Golf Tournament started on June 3, 1961, with 100 golfers paying the $6 entry fee to participate in the hunt for prizes and 10 trophies. The entry fee included $4 for green fees and $2 for the prize pot.

After playing 36 holes in the two-day tournament Winnipeg’s Ron Fiddler captured first place. He had the honour to wear the green blazer and was the recipient of the Brandon Hotel Trophy.

The other major trophy winner, CBW-TV’s sportscaster Don Wittman, claimed the Ted Heming Trophy for sportswriters and sportscasters.

The following year 167 golfers participated in the tournament. Currently the Grey Owl Golf Tournament is one of the longest running tournaments of its kind in North America.

Located on 1 Johnnie Lawrence Drive, the Clear Lake Golf Course ranks as one of the most unique and beautiful golf courses in Manitoba.

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