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Frederick Robertson McLeod
Golf Professional
Born: 25th April 1882 North Berwick
Died: 8th May 1976, Washington. USA

[14th on West Links]
Fred McLeod, Columbia C.C. - 1916
© Digitalsport UK

Tournament Record
Riverside Open  1905
Western PGA  1905 and 1907
Western Open runner-up 1905 and 1908
U.S. Open 1908
North and South Open 1909 and 1920
Shawnee Open 1912
St. Petersburg Open 1924
Maryland Open 1927
PGA Senior Championship 1938

[18th East Course]
18th East Course, North Berwick
© Digitalsport UK

[14th on West
Links]
14th West Links, North Berwick
© Digitalsport UK

  Fred McLeod wins 1908 U.S. Open
By Douglas Seaton
North Berwick Factfile

FRED MCLEOD won the US Open in 1908, and in 1910 and 1911 he missed out getting into the play-off by one shot. He twice won the North and South Tournament in 1909 and 1920 and the Senior PGA Championship in 1938 played each year at Augusta National. In 1919 he finished one shot behind Jim Barnes in the US PGA and in the 1921 US Open he tied with Walter Hagen for second place. In the Open at St Anne's in 1926 he finished seventh, rounding off one of the most remarkable careers in golf, lasting over twenty years at the top level.

McLeod was born on 25th April 1882 at Edington's Cottage situated behind the County Hotel in Kirk Ports, North Berwick. His father Neil McLeod came from a croft near Portree in Skye, and his mother Marion Whigham from Bolton in East Lothian.

Fred's father, a Chelsea Pensioner was employed as manager of the Temperance Cafe in the Dalrymple Buildings, (now 88 High Street). He was also a golf caddie and for many years organised the ginger beer tent, situated beside the eighth green on the West Links, North Berwick.

Fred McLeod was educated at the Public School in North Berwick and in 1891 moved with his family from 23, Quality Street to the common stair at 98, High Street where Willie Anderson and his family also lived. The two teenagers would later contest many national golf tournaments in America.

McLeod took part in an Anglo-American match at Wentworth in 1926 which developed into the Ryder Cup.

The Caddie Master's records list Fred McLeod as being registered as caddie No.95 on 29th April 1891, at the remarkable age of 10 years. He was granted his first-class caddie badge on4th May 1896. His cousin Bertie was also a caddie and his older brother Patrick, a member of the Masonic Golf Club was a licensed professional on the West Links in 1903. At the age of fourteen Fred was employed as a postman in the General Post Office at the foot of the stair at 96 High Street.

According to the Burgh Misdemeanor Book, sixteen year old Frederick McLeod appeared before the Burgh Court in May 1898 charged with the heinous crime of ' Wheeling hand barrow on foot path'. The Chief Magistrate James Brodie found him guilty and on that occasion the sentence was 'Dismissed with Admonition'.

In 1899, he joined Bass Rock Golf Club, founded in 1873 for artisan golfers. McLeod was selected to represent the club in the Wemyss Country Cup in 1900, 1901, 1902. This was a four-man team event, open to all clubs in East Lothian, which is now recognised as the oldest foursome competition in the world.

In 1901, McLeod won the prestigious Hope Challenge Medal at Kilspindie and represented the Bass Rock GC in the Amateur Championship at St Andrews. He defeated Harold W. Beveridge (Oxford University) in the first round 4&3 but was defeated 7&5 in the second round by John E. Laidlay.

The following year McLeod entered the Amateur Championship at Hoylake, home to the Royal Liverpool Golf Club. There were 104 entrants and McLeod was the only artisan to qualify for what was a blue-blooded affair, being played during the week when the working man was unable to take part. McLeod playing with the new Haskell ball, defeated W. Kerr (Royal and Ancient) in the first round, then beat George Hillyard 2&1 in the second round but was defeated 7&5 in the third round by the eventual winner Charles Hutchings (Royal Liverpool).

In 1902, McLeod won the Bass Rock Scratch Medal playing off a handicap of plus-four. He served two years on the Bass Rock committee, before emigrating to America in 1903. McLeod sailed from Liverpool on the S.S. Celtic with George Thomson and James Hutchison who was returning to his position as head pro at Philadelphia Country Club. Fred McLeod's contact in America was Robert Bolton, the blacksmith's son from North Berwick. Bob Bolton emigrated in 1899 and was appointed greenkeeper and pro at Riverside Golf Club IL. In 1901 he moved to Rockford Country Club, IL and later to Highland Golf and Country Club of St Joseph, Missouri.

" McLeod was in the same class as Daniel Kenny at North Berwick Public School. McLeod won the American National in 1908 and Kenny was Canadian champion in 1910."

When Robert Bolton left Rockford he recommened Fred McLeod as his replacement. McLeod arrived in New York on 18th March 1903 and travelled to Illinois where he remained as greenkeeper and pro on the nine-hole course at Rockford Country Club until 1905.

On 16th May 1903, McLeod grabbed the headlines in the Rockford Morning Star by setting a new record 32 for the nine hole course. Only weeks after his arrival McLeod entered the U.S. Open at Baltusrol G.C. and in July at the Western Open played at Milwaukee C.C., he tied for 5th place with Willie Anderson. McLeod, a wisp of a man standing 5 feet 4 inches tall, made himself into a tremendous player.

In July 1905 McLeod met up with Bob Bolton again when they played in the Western Open at Cincinnati Golf Club where Fred finished fifth. In an interview McLeod said "I used hickory shafts and many times they became warped. Like all pros of my day, I made my own clubs and I took care of them. I had only seven clubs, but we made full use out of our irons - we closed the face for some long shots and opened it for shorter distances." In August 1905 McLeod won the Riverside professional prize of $123 and broke the course record. He also received a gold medal from the President of Riverside.

In November 1905, Fred McLeod won the inaugural matchplay Western Professional Golfers Association Championship at Chicago G.C, Wheaton. The press described McLeod as 'the 23 year old boy from Willie Anderson's town who once beat no less a player than Robert Maxwell'. Although Fred McLeod lived in the same stair as Anderson in North Berwick, he did not see much of him due to the disparity in ages, Anderson was three years older - "and that makes lots of difference when you are kids," said McLeod. But Fred saw plenty of Willie and his skill in America, especially when both were attached to mid-western clubs. In January 1906 McLeod sailed from Laredo in Texas to Mexico to play in a golf tournament which included Andrew Kirkaldy, Willie Anderson, Jack White, Alex Herd and Willie and Alex Smith. In February he returned to Illinois when he took up his new position with Midlothian Country Club, Blue Island near Chicago where he remained until 1909 as greenkeeper and professional.

In November 1907, McLeod returned to Scotland for four months. At the start of the 1908 season he travelled to San Antonio C.C in Texas where he wintered, before returning to Midlothian in the spring. In 1910 he followed Willie Anderson as pro at St. Louis Country Club (1910-13) while wintering at Corpus Christi G.C in Texas and Hot Springs G.C Arkansas. In 1912 and 1913 he wintered at Audubon G.C in New Orleans.

Columbia laid on a dinner to celebrate Fred McLeod's 50th Anniversary with the club. Among the invited guests was Jimmy Thomson from North Berwick.

McLeod's first tournament victory came in 1905 at the Riverside Open, followed by the Western PGA title, which he again won in 1907. At the Western Open in 1906 McLeod tied for 3rd place with Willie Anderson and amazingly the following year, again they could not be separated, tieing for the runners-up spot. During 1908, Fred McLeod beat Willie Anderson twice. The first match at Lake Geneve Country Club of Wisconsin, McLeod won 2 and 1. The first seven holes were halved and Anderson was 2 up after the first hole in the afternoon round, but Fred caught up with him at the turn and eventually won. The other match at Chicago Golf Club was played in windy conditions and Anderson was not playing well, McLeod won 5 and 3. The battle continued at the 1908 Western Open played at Normandie Park G.C. in St. Louis but this time Anderson edged ahead, winning the tournament by a single stroke from McLeod.

The tables were turned on 29th August 1908 at the U.S. Open, played at Myopia Hunt in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, when Anderson was going for his fifth U.S. Open victory. McLeod set out from Chicago on the thirty-six hour train journey to Boston weighing 118 pounds and finished the championship tied with Willie Smith on 322, weighing 108 pounds.

On the first day the high winds caused scores to soar and McLeod trailed the leader Willie Smith by five strokes after a pair of 82's. On the second day McLeod took advantage of the players struggling in the conditions and carded an 81. Going into the final 18 holes McLeod trailed Willie Smith by one and his brother Alex by two. McLeod was able to match the best round of the championship with a 77, while Smith managed 78 to force a tie on 322. The playoff was tight until McLeod played the last five holes in one-under-par to post 77, to Smith's 83 and McLeod lifted the national title and $300 prize money.

There were seven North Berwick pros in the field, Willie Anderson finished 4th, and Jack Hobens was 6th. The conditions were so tough the remainder failed to qualify for the final two rounds, including Robert Thomson, George Turnbull, James Thomson, and James Campbell.

Before the Open, the members of Midlothian chipped in to help with Fred's modest expenses. A youngster from the club was his caddie, a boy who was accustomed to receiving 35 to 50 cents a round. The entrance fee was $5, but the Open championship did not require a qualifying round, and admission was free for spectators. They played 36 holes on Thursday, 36 holes on Friday and the 18 hole play-off on Saturday. Playing time for 36 holes was about five hours.

McLeod's equipment included eight clubs: five irons, two woods and a putter. His golf shoes were street shoes with screwed in hobnails. The balls were the larger and lighter type, lacking in uniformity. He also made an adjustment to his clubs, filling the face of his driver to "lay it back a little." and file or punch his irons for backspin.

President Warren G. Harding invited Fred McLeod and Jim Barnes to have lunch at the White House in 1921.

In November 1908, Fred McLeod travelled to the west coast of America for the first time. He was joined by Willie Anderson, George Sargent, Alex Smith and his 19 year old brother MacDonald Smith. They played in a series of tournaments at the San Francisco Golf and Country Club at Ingleside and their expenses were covered by the organisers.

At the US Open in 1909 at Englewood, Fred McLeod played a practice round with Gilbert Nichols in a foursome match against Willie Anderson and his brother Tom Anderson Jnr. which the Andersons won 3&1. Jack Hobens was the resident pro at Englewood and in the matches prior to the main event Hobens won the mixed foursomes partnering Miss Mix.

In 1909, McLeod won the North and South Open at Pinehurst NC. He finished a shot out of a play-off in both the 1910 (Philadelphia Cricket Club) and 1911 (Wheaton Golf Club) U.S. Open's. Philadelphia Cricket Club was the first club to allow the pros into the clubhouse and gave them locker room privileges. Fred McLeod also won numerous open tournaments including the Atlantic (GA) Athlectic Club Open (1909); Florida Open Championship (1910); Highland G.C. Indianapolis (1910); Atlanta Open (1910); Beaumont C.C. TX, (1911).

In 1912, Fred was the first winner of the Shawnee Open despite his first round 85, which was nine strokes behind James R. Thomson from North Berwick (Philadelphia CC) and eight a drift of James Milligan from Gullane (Wyoming Valley CC). McLeod followed with three rounds of 76 to take the inaugural title. In 1914, he won Spring Lake Golf and Country Club Open, (NJ) and in 1915 the Houston C.C. Open (TX). In 1919 McLeod was runner up in the PGA Championship at the Engineers C.C. in New York and in March the following year, he won the North and South Open for the second time.

The North and South Open was played over the Pinehurst course, and McLeod beat one of the greatest fields of the year. The entry list included Walter Hagen, Jim Barnes, Mike Brady, Leo Diegel, Emmet French, and Douglas Edgar. Before the tournament started one of McLeod's club members drew Freddie in a pool. His investment stood to win something like $3,000 in case McLeod won. "It's all yours, Freddie, if you finish first," the club member said. It so happened that McLeod, like Hagen, was a great money player and enjoyed the side bet.

[15th 'Redan' West Links, North Berwick]
15th 'Redan' on the West Links, North Berwick   © Digitalsport UK

Fred McLeod and the other pro's who travelled to Florida in the winter months set up a 'syndicate league' which was popular with the spectators and lucrative for the pro's. This involved four or eight players competing against each other on a Saturday afternoon but the public did not realise the prize money was being divided equally among the players. This culminated in a special tournament at Belleair C.C towards the end of March with all the Florida pro's gathering at one venue on their way north before the start of the new season. Fred McLeod was joined by among others Tom Anderson Jr, Alex Smith, Jock Hutchison, and Tom McNamara.

On 2nd December 1912, McLeod was appointed to Columbia Country Club, Chevy Chase in Maryland. He accepted the position at fifty dollars a month with no contract being signed for over fifty years, he retired in December 1967. Fred finished third in the 1914 US Open (Midlothian Country Club), and tied for second place with Walter Hagen at the 1921 National Championship, played over his home course at Columbia C.C. In 1924 McLeod won the St. Petersburg Open and in 1927 the Maryland Open, he also tied for the Middle Atlantic PGA title losing out to Leo Diegel. McLeod played regularly in the U.S Open until 1931, finishing among the top ten no fewer than eight times.

With the Columbia Country Club being situated a short drive from Capital Hill in Washington, the membership included distinguished officers of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, Ambassadors, Foreign Ministers their Secretaries, representatives of Justices of the Supreme Court, Senators and former Presidents. Fred's wife Catherine was from Tennessee and they lived at 2501 Calvert Street W, Washington D.C. His brother Patrick also moved to America and was pro at Lincoln Memorial, a nine hole public course in Washington for 'colored people'.

Tom Stewart the cleek maker in St Andrews forged a set of clubs with Fred McLeod's signature and stamped "Special Hand Forged in Scotland" for sale while McLeod was at Chevy Chase. Ben Sayers & Son produced a 'Benny Putter' with the name 'McLeod' impressed into the hickory shaft.

In 1920, Fred McLeod wintered at St Augustine Links in Florida and the following year he return to Scotland to play in an international challenge match between Great Britain and USA, which was a precursor for the Ryder Cup. With financial backing of the USPGA the ten-man American team were offered $1000 expenses and the match was arranged over the newly opened Kings course at Gleneagles on 6th June 1921.

Fred McLeod and Jock Hutchison, were by tradition, first off the tee each year to begin the Masters Tournament at Augusta.

The American team arrived at Southampton the week before and travelled north by sleeper train to Glasgow. The new Gleneagles hotel was still under construction and the players were offered crude accommodation consisting of five railway carriages moved into a siding at the station near Achtermuchty and the players were forced to fetch and carry their own water for much of the week. The international challenge match was organised to coincide with a much bigger tournament, The Glasgow Herald 1000 Guinea's, offering considerable prize money and attracting many of the top British players. Water Hagen was in the American team and although twice winner of the US Open, had not made his mark in Britain and the big attraction were the four Scots in the American team, Jock Hutchison Fred McLeod, Clarence Hackney from Carnoustie and Harry Hampton from Montrose. The famous trio of Taylor, Braid and Vardon all took part and Fred McLeod playing for the USA had a notable victory over J. H. Talyor defeating him on the last green. Great Britain defeated the USA 9 points to 3 points.

The winner of the Glasgow Hearld 1000 Guinea's tournament was Abe Mitchell who defeated the Australian Champion Joe Kirkwood 7&6 in the final. Mitchell received £200 in prize money (£10,000 in todays currency) and each team was presented with a commemorative gold medal by the Glasgow Herald.

Two weeks later the American team played in the Open Championship at St Andrews. which was won by Jock Hutchison after a play-off with Roger Wethered. During the Championship Fred McLeod met up with James Souter from North Berwick, the pro at West Hill GC, Surrey who he had not seen for over 22 years. As teenagers they joined Bass Rock Golf Club in North Berwick on the same day and amazingly at the Open they finished on the same score 322.

Following a visit to see his mother at 98 High Street, North Berwick McLeod returned to America in July on the S.S.Carmania and shared the runner-up spot in the 1921 US Open played over his home course at Columbia Country Club. McLeod had a putt on the last green to secure outright second place, but the Marine Band began to play in the middle of his stroke and he missed the putt. The winner was Cornishman Jim Barnes who is the only winner of the US Open to be presented with the trophy by the President of America. A few days later Jim Barnes and Fred McLeod were invited to the White House to have lunch with President Warren G. Harding.

Although initially the international match played at Gleneagles did not catch the public's imagination, Walter Hagen continued to support the idea. When Sam Ryder offered a trophy for such an encounter, Hagen jumped at the opportunity to put a team together and a match was arranged between United States and Great Britain in 1926, when McLeod sailed from America with Tommy Armour

Owing to the uncertainty of the situation following the General Strike in May 1926 it was unknown up to a few weeks before the event was to start how many Americans would travel, so Sam Ryder decided to withhold offering his trophy that year. Rather than cancelling the 'inaugural match' the United States team invited other players to make up the numbers. Fred McLeod was in Britain to play in the Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St. Annes, where he finished seventh behind the winner Bobby Jones. During the long waiting time between the regional qualifying rounds, McLeod was invited to take part in the Anglo-American tournament at Wentworth. The match took place on 4th and 5th June, when the British won thirteen and a half points to the visitors's one and a half. The American team included four expatriate Brits and one Australian; A. Watrous, C. Walker, W. Mehihorn, T. Armour, R. Cruickshank, E. French, J. Farrell, F. McLeod, J. Kirkwood, J. Barnes and W. Hagen. The Americans who missed out were G.E. Sarazen, MacDonald Smith and R. Cruickshank.

In the singles, Fred McLeod was beaten by Arthur Havers 10 and 9, and in the afternoon foursomes McLeod partnered by C. Walker were beaten by T. Ray and F. Robson 3 and 2. 'Wild Bill' Mehihorn scoring the only point for his side and Emmet French halved his singles match with Arthur Havers. To compensate the Wentworth Club presented each team member with a medal and the Ryder Cup was presented the following year at Worcester C.C in Massachusetts.

During this period McLeod wintered at Temple Terrace, Tampa, Florida (1925-26) where he worked with James Kelly Thomson from North Berwick. It was in Florida that McLeod was involved in the first 'Professional Golf League' in 1925. As the number of golf courses increased, many of top pro's were signed up in the winter months to represent the Florida clubs in a team competition. Walter Hagen and Joe Kirkwood were signed up to Pasadena, Jim Barnes and Fred McLeod played for Temple Terrace C.C and Gene Sarazen and Leo Diegel represented Hollywood C.C. Although exhibition matches were still popular this team format increased the pros earnings as they received 60% of the two dollars spectators paid at the gate.

In March 1934, Fred McLeod was invited by Bobby Jones to play in the first Augusta National Invitational Tournament, which he continued to play in for the next three years. McLeod attended the Masters all 40 years it was played and from 1963 was the honorary starter along with Jock Hutchison who was two years his junior. Both were the oldest surviving U.S. National Champions and were by tradition, first off the tee to begin the Masters Tournament. Hutchison retired in 1973 and McLeod continued on his own until 1976. There was no honorary starter for four years until Byron Nelson and Gene Sarazen were invited to continue the tradition in 1981.

In 1952, Fred visited Scotland for the last time. He returned to America on the liner Queen Elizabeth with a first class ticket.

Fred married Catherine McLeod from Tennessee and they resided at 2404, 20th Street NW Washington but their marriage failed. Fred became a US citizen in 1937 and that year he attended a meeting in Augusta along with a number of elderly professionals to establish a senior division of the PGA. At that meeting it was decided to organise a national tournament for players fifty-five and over. In early December, a Seniors' Championship took place and Jock Hutchison was the first winner. The following year at Augusta, McLeod defeated Otto Hackbarth in an 18 hole play-off to lift the title. In 1939, the PGA Seniors' tournament attracted sponsorship and the event moved to Florida. McLeod competed in thirteen Seniors' Championships and was still able to shoot a 66 at the age of sixty-six. In 1960 he was elected to the PGA Hall of Fame.

Bill Strausbaugh took over as head professional from McLeod at Columbia C.C where they instituted the McLeod Strausbaugh Memorial Fund to provide scholarship and bursary facilities for the ground maintenance staff and caddies wishing to attend college. Something the young caddie from Edington's Cottage in North Berwick would have been proud.

Sadly, McLeod's father did not live to share in his son's success, he died when Fred was fifteen years of age. For many years, his mother remained at 98 High Street, North Berwick where Fred returned to visit on numerous occasions. His niece Marion Toas from Tranent moved to North Berwick and resided with Fred and his mother in 1901. Marion emigrated to America in 1905 and since then we have no more information.

In 1962, Columbia laid on a dinner to celebrate McLeod's 50th Anniversary with the club. Among the invited guests were Gene Sarazen, Chick Evans, Jock Hutchison, Jim Barnes and Jimmy Thomson from North Berwick.

At the age of 84 years, McLeod retired as head pro in 1967 after 55 years with the club. Columbia Country Club provided an apartment for him at the clubhouse and a generious pension. Although he reduced his work schedule, Fred played 18 holes three days a week. After a serious fall at his quarters McLeod was moved to the Westwood Retirement Home in Bethesda where he lived until he was admitted to Sibley Hospital. In April 1976, the Washington Post reported that Fred McLeod had suffered a heart attack and died on 8th May at the age of ninety-four. Fred left a grand nephew Richard Leathers in Houston, and two nieces in Scotland and England.

Among those who spoke at his funeral was Joe Dey the former director of the USGA, Commissioner of the PGA Tour and at that time captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. " He said McLeod had brought with him some of the great traits for which the Scots are well known, not least of which was economy - and I don't refer to money in this respect. I refer, to his examples in economy of time in playing the game of golf. One of the rounds in which he and Jock Hutchison started off the Masters Tournament some years ago, they finished in two hours and eighteen minutes." Fred McLeod, described as a simple and modest man was buried at the Columbia Country Club, in Maryland, U.S.A.

Copyright © Douglas C. Seaton 2014, All Rights Reserved.