To the best of my recollection (no documentation was found in the archives), we met at Don Pablo’s (no longer there) on Niagara Falls Boulevard in 1999 or 2000. The internet was a wilderness and BuffaloGolfer was a fledgling .0rg called BuffGolf. Three folks from Stafford Country Club met with me to discuss the potential build of a website for the Walter J. Travis Society.
I had contacted Ed Homsey, his lovely wife and Ralph Garnish, after reading the late Bob Labbance’s The Old Man, a seminal book on the life and career of Walter Travis, Aussie-born American golfer, course architect, magazine journalist and publisher. Travis was responsible for Stafford and, as I later learned, Orchard Park, Cherry Hill (Ontario) and Lookout Point (also Ontario.)
After one of those bewitching Don Pablo’s meals (I mourn their demise), we shook hands on an agreement for me to design and host their site on BuffGolf. As the weeks passed, Ed and I emailed back and forth about shades of background color, images, font style and jump links. The site was a hit with the society members, avant garde for its time. This past Spring marked about a dozen years of cooperative effort and evolution for us all.
And yet, I knew that the day would come. It had come about five or six years ago for the Buffalo District Golf Association, an organization whose matters we also hosted. We lost a lot of traffic when the BDGA built its own site. Rather than close up shop, we looked at the potential for other traffic streams and became a better site. We embraced social media and migrated from pure HTML to wordpress.
About six weeks ago, the ageless Ed Homsey let me know that his son had helped design a site with (surprise!) wordpress and that the WJT Society had decided to take the leap of faith and go out on its own. I smiled a sad, nostalgic smile and thought back to our interaction through the years.
Ed invited me up to Lookout Point one year as honored guest of the Travis Cup, an annual event that pits juniors, women, men and seniors from a number of Travis-built clubs (the aforementioned plus Penn Hills in Bradford, PA.) I was honored to meet a number of distinguished competitors and guests, including descendants of the focal man himself. We spent hours playing the wonderful course and conversing about golf and proper architecture.
As years passed, I learned about the society’s philanthropy (annual college scholarships for those in the field of golf architecture) and its efforts to reach out to other Travis courses (CC Scranton and Cape Arundel (ME) come to mind.) The society grew patiently and consistently and now counts 17 clubs in its rolls.
These days, I find myself lollygagging around the Golf Club Atlas website. In borrowed parlance, GCA is the big leagues of golf course architecture. Active architects hang out there and share their ideas and directions, while members of the finest clubs in the world contribute experiences. The banter is quick and calculating, yet one always emerges with a better notion of what true golf architecture involves (it doesn’t begin and end with water hazards and forced carries, people!)
It’s safe to say that, without reading The Old Man or meeting Ed Homsey and his brood, I would probably know little about proper golf course architecture and little about Walter J. Travis. A few years later, I wrote a piece for WNY Heritage magazine about the 1912 US Open, played at Country Club of Buffalo (now Grover Cleveland Golf Course.) In my diggings, I found out that the members at CCB had called in an expert to prepare the course in 1910 for the impending tournament. His name was Walter Travis.
I’m going to miss the frequent e-conversations with Ed. Believe it or don’t, we haven’t shaken hands since Lookout Point back in the mid-2000s. Hopefully, this move will spur a rekindling of our in-person friendship and we’ll get together a bit more often. Now I just have to find another Mexican restaurant…
By the way, here’s the new site: http://travissociety.com/