Newsletters  | Mobile

2007 U.S. Open Courses

Carnoustie allegiance ran deep in Jack and Fred Jr., even as they assimilated swiftly into the American corporate class. (The boys were steered away from golf as a profession by their father and prospered as partners in an insurance group.) As children they would sail back to Carnoustie to see their relations, enjoying the visits despite confusion over the parentage of Fred Sr.—later in life they speculated that Charlie Brand, the noted Carnoustie cleek maker, was their grandfather, although they never had any contact with him.

Fred Jr. would become a life member of Carnoustie Golf Club and made trips across to play the old links when time permitted. When he built his large estate in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, he named it Carnoustie Acres. The sons' relationship with Allegheny, where they had grown up by the sixteenth hole in a club-provided cottage, was compromised by their status as children of an employee. This precluded their ever joining, according to Jack, who was also deterred by the uncomfortable fact that his father had been dismissed by the club in 1910 for problems related to excessive drinking, only to be rehired several years later.

According to the Brand brothers' USGA oral histories, their father was the catalyst for much of the migration from Carnoustie to Pittsburgh. The arrival of Eddie Melvin; Dave and Willie McKay; the three Lawson brothers, Herbert, Jimmy and Fred; George and Joe Swankie; Jock Kennedy; caddie master Alister Soutar; and others was due at least in part to his example or exhortations. Stewart Hackney, an amateur historian whose monograph on the era is found in the USGA's historical collection, echoes the Brands' own contentions when he wrote of Fred Sr.: "Each spring for a good many years he provided a home for a Carnoustie newcomer setting out in U.S. golf."

In the earliest days it was common for Brand, the McKays and other Carnoustie men to find passage home from their American postings for winter visits in which they would talk up the Pittsburgh scene. (Mixed into their native brogues, wrote Hackney, were flattened American pronunciations and odd phrasings such as "A bully fine shot, sonny," which their mates back home would greet with amusement and disdain.) On one of these trips, in 1908, Brand joined the send-off party for Stewart Maiden, the Carnoustian headed for America to teach Bobby Jones the golf swing—though not the so-called "Carnoustie swing" (see left). According to the club's notes, "Orchestral selections were given during the evening, by . . . David McKay on violin [with] . . . songs rendered by . . . George Swankie, Fred Brand and others."

Written accounts of the Carnoustie diaspora tend to be upbeat—and in Pittsburgh's case even romanticized, perhaps because of the gritty industrialism the two locales shared. But there are exceptions. Herbert Lawson, who in 1915 followed Brand and others to a job at Pittsburgh's Thornburg Country Club (since renamed) before moving to nearby Edgewood Country Club, was one of them. Lawson's career is summarized in Hackney's monograph thusly: "Gave up his position [at Edgewood] in summer 1930; after being in low spirits for months, poisoned himself just before Christmas, leaving a widow and son."

For the most part, though, accounts are rich with stories of transplanted Scotsmen's personalities. In 1918, for example, Dave McKay (along with Willie the most prominent brother act in the Carnoustie-Pittsburgh link) began a thirty-five-year stint at the Pittsburgh Field Club, which was where H. C. Fownes himself had learned to play. There, according to the Field Club's authorized history, McKay liked to keep things moving: "[I]n an effort to keep players from dawdling on the first tee, he would utter a standard exhortation. 'All right, gentlemen,' he would say in his Scotch brogue: 'Ye may slice off now.'" Following his official retirement in 1953, McKay stayed on for a while as professional emeritus. "Dave still had the thick accent," recalls a club employee of those days. "He told a lot of good stories, although he was starting to remember them differently from one day to the next."

Dave's brother Willie was that Scottish rarity, a bon vivant who dressed with flash and didn't mind being seen enjoying himself. During his years as head pro at Longvue Country Club, Willie could be found at the racetrack every Monday, his one day off. His peers, by contrast, generally exhibited what Bob Jones called the "courageous timidity" of the Scotland-bred golf professional in America. "Brave enough to take on the challenge," Jones biographer Sidney Matthew wrote, "but ever aware of catastrophe around the next corner."


Sign Up

Connect With Travel + Leisure
  • Travel+Leisure
  • Tablet
  • Available devices

Already a subscriber?
Get FREE ACCESS to the digital edition