Ellis Robertson, Pat Murphy and Brian Hank have seen a lot of change at the TS&M Woodlawn Golf Course during their tenure as members.
That shouldn’t be a surprise. They’re three of the longest-serving members at Woodlawn. Between them, they have more than 150 years of membership experience. When Murphy and Robertson first became members, the course had 18 holes, but with sand greens.
“It was a very rare commodity to have 18 holes,” Murphy told the Mercury. “A lot of times you might have had nine, but not 18.”
Records for membership go back to 1964, but Robertson believes he first joined in 1961 or 1962; it’s believed that he’s the longest-tenured member at the course. He joined when he was 10 years old.
“A neighbour of mine played golf, and he asked me to go out golfing with him, and I played one round and I was hooked,” said Robertson.
A junior membership at the time was $5 for the year, so he didn’t have to play many rounds to justify that membership.
“I basically played all summer,” he said.
At the time, they didn’t have tee times, either. You just showed up and played.
Not only has the course undergone changes, but the clubhouse has evolved, too. When he first joined, the clubhouse was an old house. Then they built a pro shop beside it, and later a structure where the practice green is now.
The current building, with a pro shop on the bottom floor and an expansive eating area on the top floor, opened in 2006 to much fanfare. Robertson said it is just a fabulous building.
There was about a five-year span in the early 1970s when he wasn’t a member. He was travelling for work with the MacLeod stores, so he wasn’t in Estevan a lot. Other than that, he has always played the game, getting out three or four days a week when he was working and living in Estevan. Now that he’s retired, he plays five times a week.
Woodlawn is a great place to play, with wonderful people playing a fun game.
“You always enjoy the competition of the game,” he said.
Robertson believes Woodlawn has grown to be one of the best courses in the province, but some things have never changed.
“There have been several different layouts. The first hole now is the same as the first hole was when the course was sand greens. But the layout has basically stayed somewhat similar. The front nine is always where the front nine has been, and the back nine is where the back nine is.”
When he first started playing, the current 16th hole wasn’t even on the golf course land.
Robertson said he has enjoyed every minute of being a member, and hopes he still has lots of years remaining.
Not far behind him for tenure is Murphy, who joined the membership roster in 1963 or 1964, he said, when he was a teen. Then he started working at the course at the age of 15.
“My mom and dad golfed all the time, and I went down there with them and got interested in the game,” said Murphy.
With the cost of a junior membership so low, it didn’t take long to pay for itself.
Murphy also worked at the course. When he started in 1967, it was the first year with grass greens. For a couple of years, Woodlawn had grass greens for the front nine and sand greens on the back.
“Nobody really wanted to go and play the sand greens. Everybody wanted to play the grass greens twice.”
He believes 1969 was the first year with 18 holes of grass greens.
He recalls that in the late 1960s, memberships at Woodlawn were $50 per year, and green fees were $2 a round.
Murphy rates a course based on a high standard: would he want to play there 50 times a year? Many courses he has played at are pretty, but he wouldn’t want to play them regularly. Woodlawn is a course he can play again and again.
“It’s in immaculate condition and it’s just a very playable golf course. It’s not tremendously difficult and it’s not very easy. You just have to hit the ball straight and play well, and you’ll score well.”
Murphy enjoys the competitiveness associated with golf. You’re playing against yourself to do better than last time. And the people at the course are great.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie down there. You can go down there any day of the week, any hour of the day, and you’ll see people you know, and mostly everybody’s pretty friendly.”
As long as his health allows, Murphy said he’ll keep playing.
Hank joined the club in the early 1970s, when he was also a teenager. He started playing the game when he was 12 or 13; several of his friends were golfers.
“We just kept at it over the years,” said Hank. “I’ve played a lot of golf.”
Much like Murphy, Hank worked at the golf course when he was young.
He noted that some of the oilfield workers came together and raised money for Woodlawn to become an 18-hole, grass green course. He has seen the transformation of the course with 18 holes that are modern and built for the current game.
At one time, the front nine was more modern than the back nine, but after the course sustained significant damage due to the flood of the Souris River in 2011, the decision was made to upgrade holes 10-18.
“To have a clubhouse like that and a golf course like we have, we’re pretty fortunate,” Hank said.
It’s not overly expensive, to play, it’s within most people’s means to play here and the course is fantastic.
“We probably have some of the best greens in the province.”
Hank carries a lot of fond memories from playing with his friends and meeting all sorts of different people at the course. He has had a lot of laughs and a lot of good times.