The birth of the Society was reported in the Liverpool Daily Post & Mercury on Friday 19 June 1908. A cutting from the newspaper pasted in the first minute book reads as follows:
The district captains’ competition was held on Wednesday at this club and, notwithstanding that it was the first of its kind ever held, it proved to be a very great success, although the weather was decidedly bad. The entry was a large and very representative one and the prizes presented by the Woolton club were much admired. The first prize and sweepstakes was won by W Winwood Gossage (Woolton), 85-12-73; the second by G E Godwin (Royal Liverpool) 79-4-75; while W B Leitch (Formby) 85-8-77 and J Shepherd (Formby) 91-14-77 tied for the third. After the competition a good number of guests and members stayed to dinner and a thoroughly enjoyable evening was spent, the hope being expressed that other clubs would in time come to hold similar competitions.”
The top 30 scores were reported from golfers representing 12 clubs - Bromborough, Chester, Formby, Heswall, Huyton, Leasowe, New Brighton, Royal Liverpool, Wallasey, West Derby, West Lancashire and Woolton. The newspaper report clearly dates the inaugural meeting as Wednesday 17 June 1908. After a time span of over one hundred years one can only speculate on the thoughts of those who took part. They were all Captains or ex-Captains of local clubs and obviously enjoyed themselves, despite the bad weather. Woolton was a young club in 1908 having been formed only seven years previously and perhaps this youthful enthusiasm provided the spur to communicate with other local golf clubs. However, no other club took up the challenge to host a similar event and it was left to Woolton to repeat the invitation in 1911. Once again the Liverpool Daily Post & Mercury reported the proceedings as follows:
“DISTRICT CAPTAINS’ COMPETITION AT WOOLTON
The second district captains’ competition held at the Woolton Golf Club’s headquarters was unanimously agreed to be a most interesting and enjoyable meeting. The fi rst prize was presented by Mr W Winwood Gossage, and was won by him with a score of 80-6-74. The second prize presented by the captain, Mr S Hearon Johnson, was won by W B Stoddart (Hoylake) with a score of 75 while the sweepstake was divided between T Croft (Formby) and E Purgold (Woolton), each of whom was 76 net. After the competition a large number of guests and members stayed to dinner and a very pleasant evening was spent.”
The report does not say how many attended and lists the best 21 scores from representatives of the following 12 clubs: Woolton, Hoylake, Formby, Chester, Birkdale, Heswall, Wallasey, Bromborough West Derby, Huyton, Ormskirk and West Lancashire.
Mr Winwood Gossage won his own prize, despite playing off a handicap reduced from 12 to 6 since his inaugural success, with the 1910 Royal Liverpool Captain, W B Stoddart, coming second after playing off scratch.
The first pictorial record of the early golfers appeared in the Liverpool Daily Post & Mercury on Friday 7 June 1912 together with a report on the third meeting, again at Woolton. The photograph of the 23 golfers could only name 15 of them as follows:
S H Johnson (Woolton), W B Leitch (Formby), Charles Stewart (Ormskirk),
S Mason Hutchinson (Bromborough), E Purgold (Woolton), T Croft (Formby),
T J McGeorge (Woolton), William C Manifold (West Derby), J G Forster (Woolton),
W Winwood Gossage (Woolton), S G Wood (Bromborough),
W McKerrow (Captain of Woolton), A M Paterson (Royal Liverpool),
Walter Russell (Huyton) and Neil Gossage (Woolton).
There are no prizes for naming the other 8 and perhaps the old photographs in the lounges of the current constituent clubs may provide a clue. Hesketh were represented for the first time in 1912 amongst a list of 25 players from 13 clubs.
The newspaper report for the third competition on Wednesday 5 June 1912 reads as follows:
“DISTRICT CAPTAINS’ COMPETITION
The third district captains’ competition was held over the links of the Woolton Club on Wednesday, when a large number of captains and ex-captains of the leading clubs of Liverpool & district participated in a most successful and enjoyable competition. The Woolton competitors played under lowered handicaps, being penalised two strokes, and in one case four strokes, for local knowledge. The winning card was returned by A M Paterson (Royal Liverpool) 84-14-70 who was awarded the first prize, presented by Colonel W Winwood Gossage. The second prize, presented by the Woolton captain, Mr William McKerrow, was won by S G Wood (Bromborough) 88-17-71. In the evening a large number of guests and members stayed to dinner and a very pleasant time was spent.”
It would seem that the “local knowledge” penalties under which the Woolton golfers played ensured that Colonel W Winwood Gossage did not make it three wins in succession and take his own prize. He finished “down the field” with a net 88 after playing off 2, so perhaps it was he who accepted the four stroke penalty.
As there is no record of anything happening between 1913 and 1919 it must be presumed that the first World War of 1914/18 interrupted the golfing activities. All those taking part in the competitions at this stage were either a current or a past-Captain of their respective clubs although there is a hint in the newspaper reports that guests had been present at the dinners.
Further competitions were held at Woolton in 1920 and 1921 before Huyton took up the challenge issued by Woolton at the first meeting and hosted the 1922 event. There are no records of the participants or scores for the events in 1920, 1921 and 1922 apart from a note on the first page of the minute book stating that in 1922 (presumably at Huyton) a Committee was elected with representation from Royal Liverpool, Ormskirk, Woolton and Huyton. The first minute book is a somewhat nondescript black exercise book written in long-hand and bearing the title “Liverpool and District Captains’, Ex-Captains’, Hon Treasurers and Secretaries Competition”. This title gives a clue as to the change that was about to be made to the membership in 1923.
W B Stoddart (Royal Liverpool) appears to have been one of the moving spirits in restructuring the Society and his youngest son, Wing Commander Sir Kenneth Stoddart, advised Geoffrey Leece (Past Captain of the Society in 1987/88 and author of the Centenary booklet of the Society reproduced here) over a game of bridge that his late father had been a founder member of Royal Liverpool as well as being a member of Woolton.
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