Stanley ThompsonStanley Thompson - The Man

 

Stanley Thompson, recognized posthumously  as a Person of National Significance for his contribution to golf architecture was also known, along with his four brothers as one of the "Amazing Thompsons" for their collective golf abilities....

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Architect of the twentieth century

‘A person of national historic significance.’

  • Stanley was born in 1893.  
  • He attended Malvern Collegiate.
  • He served in the Canadian Artillery, World War 1, and received a citation as a gunner at Vimy Ridge.
  • He was married twice; first to Ruth who died; then to Helen  Duthie; he had no children although he did adopt Helen’s son, Norman.
  • In 1947, he was a co-founder of the prestigious American Society  of Golf Course Architects.
  • In the last few years of his life he lived and worked at his home,  Dormie House in Guelph, alongside the course he had designed and later owned, Cutten Fields.
  • His courses, and those of his disciples, continue to capture a high  percentage of the Top 100 Courses in Canada.

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Family

 

The Thompson family at their 10 Walter Street residence (Toronto, ca. 1900.
(left to right, standing) Isabel, Bill and Nicol. (left to right sitting) Matt,
Frank, mother Thompson, Jean, Marion, Stanley, father Thompson and Betty.

Stanley Thompson, born in 1893, was one of five brothers and four sisters. The eldest, Nicol was born in Scotland, as was his sister Marion. The other siblings were born in the Toronto area being progressively raised, at first, in Newmarket then in East Toronto where Stanley attended Malvern Collegiate.

It was here where the golfing careers of the brothers began. They caddied at The Toronto Club learning their golf under prominent golf professional George Cumming, who would later become a partner in the Thompson family golf construction and design business. And it was here where the boys designed and built their first golf course, six holes, known as Rye Field.

The five brothers – Nicol, Matt, Frank, Bill and Stanley – would become known in North America as the Amazing Thompsons for their collective golf abilities. Two were professionals – Nicol and Matt – the others were amateurs. From 1921 to 1924 they dominated Canadian golf.

Nicol, regarded as a fine teacher and a ‘trickster’ with the golf ball, was the golf professional at Hamilton G&CC for almost fifty years. In the winters, he held court at the Belmont Hotel in Bermuda where he gave lessons to an elite group. He also won the CPGA Championship in 1923 and was runner-up that year in the Canadian Open.

 

 

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Golfer

Frank and Bill won four Canadian Amateur Championships between them. Stanley was regarded as possibly the best golfer of them all. A ‘sniper’ of the ball, his low hooking punch shots permitted the run-up shot (which ultimately may have led to his penchant for designing greens with generous front openings), he often played with five clubs. The brothers, it has been said, would drop everything when challenged and meet say, in Chicago, for a match. Traveling by train or car they would arrive at these venues for matches against the greats of the day including Bobby Jones. In any combination, they were often unbeatable.

The four sisters – Marion, Betty, Isobel and Jean – were all bright lights and, typical of the Thompson’s, were story tellers and loved a party. Marion, the eldest next to Nicol, was a fine lady who died at the age of 85. Jean was a socialite who lived much of her adult live in grandeur in Rio de Janeiro where her husband was an executive. Betty and Isobel were, from time to time (as Stanley did with his brothers) seconded to help out at various golf Clubs. Betty, a gardener of note who never married, lived much or her life in Burlington. It has been said that she was the money brains behind the Thompson golf enterprise.

Stanley, as most know, became a world-famous golf course architect. After duty in World War I, he developed with the help of Nicol and George Cumming a burgeoning golf design and construction business. Although Nicol started the business with Cumming, the torch was passed to Stanley.

 

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Golf Architect

On the death of their father, Nicol called all of his brothers together for a meeting to decide their future. As the eldest, he felt this was his responsibility to do so. It was there that the decision was made for the Thompsons to remain in the golf business and that Stanley would lead the way. This would be the beginning of a new dawn in golf course architecture.

 

The Amazing Thompsons: Thompson brothers as a 1923 fivesome.
(left to right) Frank, Matt, Nicol, Stanley and Bill


Stanley Thompson was rich and poor having spent fortunes many times over. He was married twice (his first wife died), he had no children other than his adopted son Norm; was a raconteur, an imbiber (preference was Canadian Club), a legend in his own time, founder (with Donald Ross) of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, photographed by Karsh, revered by writers of his day, a mentor to those who worked in his Toronto and Guelph studios (Robert Trent Jones, Howard Watson, Robbie Robinson, Geoff Cornish, Ken Melton, Norman Woods and Bob Moote – along with their many disciples including Doug Carrick, Ted Baker, Graham Cooke, Thom McBroom, Les Furber and David Moote). He died in 1953 after a stroke at the Royal York Hotel where he was preparing for a journey to South America.

There are many stories about Thompson, some fact, some fiction. But, perhaps the final story is the best one. In his last years he worked and lived at Dormie House located on the sixteenth fairway of the Cutten Club which he had designed in 1933 and purchased in 1948. It was Dormie House where Chuck Howitt, his executor, called the creditors together. Stanley, who died penniless, owed them more than $500,000. In the end, after difficult discussions, they all agreed to forgive his debts. One of them said, "Stanley did more for us individually, than we did for him.”

Stanley Thompson has been recognized posthumously as a Person of National Significance and is a member of both the Canadian Golf and Sports Halls of Fame. On June 29th 2008, Senator Michael L. MacDonald, on behalf of the Honourable Jim Prentice, Canada's Environment Minister and Minister responsbile for Parks Canada, unveiled a Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque at Highland Links Golf Course in Cape Breton Highlands National Park

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Career

stscareer 

Thompson was well known for his detailed modelling of greens.  Here, a master architect is also the master painter.
 
  • The brothers were mentored by George Cumming, long-time professional at The Toronto Golf Club where they were caddies.
  • Nicol and George became partners in an architectural firm. 
  • On his return from the War, Stanley joined Nicol and George in their architectural business, 1920. 
  • His first solo design was Muskoka Lakes G&CC.
  • Although busy as architects, Nicol (professional at the Hamilton   G&CC) and George returned to their full-time golf professional   jobs. 
  • In 1922, Stanley struck out on his own - Stanley Thompson & Co. Limited. 
  • By the time the decade was out, he had completed many courses including these gems - Jasper Park, Banff Springs, St. George’s.
  • Despite the Depression, he had built one of the best architectural firms on the continent. 
  • He hired young college graduates including Howard Watson, Robbie Robinson, Robert Trent Jones and, later, Geoffrey Cornish.
  • His firm, billed as landscape architects and engineers, employed experts in plant pathology, agronomy, soil chemistry, a tree surgeon and a town planner. 
  • In 1932, he took Jones in as a partner. 
  • Throughout the 1920s and 30s his work continued across the   country, the United States, the Caribbean and South America. 
  • Although never as busy as had had been prior to the Depression, his work continued in the 1940s and early 50s. 
  • He had built or constructed more than 145 courses. 
  • Stanley Thompson died of a brain aneurysm, January 3, 1953.
  • He had been staying at the Royal York Hotel making ready for a trip to South America.
  • Despite having made (and lost) a number of fortunes, the master   architect died penniless. 
  • In 2005, the federal government named him ‘a person of national historic significance.’    
  • Induction to the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame
  • Induction to the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame
 
Note: The further reading section provides more detail about his family and career. There is also a Foreword to Jim Barclay’s book, The Toronto Terror, by Geoffrey Cornish, which captures the life and character of Stanley Thompson. It is worth reading.

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Award Winning Video

This television feature about Stanley Thompson was aired nearly ten times on TSN in 2013 on SCOREGolf TV.  The feature aired during their Top 100 Canadian Golf Courses show and was produced by Brian Bileski of SCOREGolf TV.
 
Stanley Thompson's Legacy  (5 min video)
 
Brian was also the 2013 recipient of the Stanley Thompson Society's Media Award, presented in conjunction with the Golf Journalists Association of Canada for his work about Stanley Thompson and his career as Canada's foremost golf course architect.

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About Thompson

Profile

Architect of the twentieth century

‘A person of national historic significance.’

  • Stanley was born in 1893.  
  • He attended Malvern Collegiate.
  • He served in the Canadian Artillery, World War 1, and received a citation as a gunner at Vimy Ridge.
  • He was married twice; first to Ruth who died; then to Helen  Duthie; he had no children although he did adopt Helen’s son, Norman.
  • In 1947, he was a co-founder of the prestigious American Society  of Golf Course Architects.
  • In the last few years of his life he lived and worked at his home,  Dormie House in Guelph, alongside the course he had designed and later owned, Cutten Fields.
  • His courses, and those of his disciples, continue to capture a high  percentage of the Top 100 Courses in Canada.

ST

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