Errata: Since this short article was published, research has shown that the earliest evidence for golf being played in the Bothwell vicinity, probably on the Denistoun Estate, is the early 1860s. Clear evidence for golf played at Ratho starts early in the 20th century. No evidence has ever been published to support Ratho as the oldest golf course in Australia. There is a full research article in February 2015 issue of The Brassie and can also be read on this website.
It is just over 100 years since the first Australian born golfer won both our national championships.
After several earlier heartbreaking defeats, Tasmanian sheep farmer Clyde Pearce won both the Australian Open and Amateur in 1908, defeating two of his long-time nemeses, expatriate Brits Dan Soutar in the Open and Michael Scott in the Amateur. Pearce had been runner-up twice previously. His 1908 victories at the Australian Golf Club finally demonstrated that the colonial boys could match it with, and defeat, the mother country’s finest golfers.
The 2008 Australian Open at Royal Sydney was the centenary of Clyde Pearce’s Open victory. How fitting would it have been if only fellow Tasmanian Mat Goggin had been able to win the play-off to see a second Tasmanian victory, 100 years since the first!
Pearce’s golfing record is often forgotten despite further national success after 1908, and a barnstorming tour
with his brother Bruce to the British major championships in 1911. On this 1911 tour Clyde won the Medal
in the Irish Amateur, and Bruce won the North of Scotland Open at Cruden Bay. Bruce was proclaimed “the
finest left-hander golf has ever known” after he reached the quarter- finals of the British Amateur, defeating
Chick Evans, future US Open and Amateur Champion, along the way.
In 1915 Clyde volunteered to serve in World War I from his new Western Australian estate, where he was farming with fellow Australian Open champion Claude Felstead. Clyde started as a private and reached the rank of lieutenant. He survived the hell of Gallipoli and being sunk in his troop ship by a U-Boat off Crete. He survived injuries in the western trenches of France. In the end Clyde Pearce gave his life trying to extract a fallen colleague from a shell crater during the Battle of Lightning Ridge.
It was a thrill for me to reconstruct Clyde Pearce’s swing from a series of still pictures. The full sequence will be shown during the 2009 Australian Golf Heritage Festival being staged across Tasmania from May 21-26. During the festival the Pearce Trophy will be contested as part of the National Hickory Championships at Ratho Farm Golf Links, Australia’s oldest golf course.