The history of the caddies at Walton Heath in these early days includes strikes, riots, murder, illegal gambling and organized theft. In response came significant labor reform and important contributions to the British war effort in WWI. Both are a testament to the integrity of the club and its employees.
Two years ago, I made a spectacular find related to my family’s history. A simple Google search let me to an eBay listing for a putter stamped with “Alf. J. Ward, Special”…They were definitely my great-grandfather’s clubs, family heirlooms that found their way back home after 90 years.
In April of 1923, a “slender Englishman” named Alf Ward walked into the office of Indianapolis mayor Lew Shank. He introduced himself as the new golf professional for city’s municipal club. The mayor sent Alfred out to Irvington with shovels, horses, and a few men. He was to build Pleasant Run, the “finest municipal golf course in the country.”
Alfred was the eighth of twelve children born in 1883 to Thomas James Ward, a Battersea distillery worker and builder’s labourer, and Sarah Courtneidge, a coachman’s daughter from Wimbledon. Alfred got his start in golf working as an assistant to James Braid at Walton Heath Golf Club in Walton-on-the-Hill, Surrey.
Tom Hancock was an English golf professional with a long and active career in the United States. Born in Richmond, Surrey in 1885, Tom began training in his hometown with J. H. Taylor at Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club. He then worked as an assistant to James Braid at Walton Heath, where he knew my great-grandfather Alf Ward.
Young Jimmie seems to be about the most popular player on the Irvington course, for whenever he steps up to the tee with his small bag of clubs, the crowd gathers. The little chap will step up to the ball after his father, Alf Ward, who is the professional at the course, has teed it up for him, then get ready to swing. Then he will look around with a mischievous grin and say “Watch me.”