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Antique Golf Clubs from Scotland
Richard "Dick" Clarkson
Richard Born in Worcester in 1881, the family was living in Carnoustie by the time of the 1891 census.

One of four brothers who were golf professionals in the United States, at the time of the 1901 census, Richard was the only one following a golfing profession as an apprentice clubmaker. The others, and the daughters old enough to work, had followed their father into shoe and bootmaking.

Richard seems to have gone to America for the 1905 season at Springhaven Country Club in Chester, Pennsylvania and played in the Philadelphia Open from there that year. He was home in Scotland for the winter and returned in spring 1906 on the Columbia from Glasgow arriving in NYC on 20 March. He travelled with several Carnoustie professionals, or about to become professionals, including Jimmy Maiden, Fred Low and David Robertson. James Maidenís presence was relevant as, although Dick returned to Springhaven, by the following season he was an assistant with Maiden under Alec Smith at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, NY, and playing from there in the Van Cortlandt Park professional tournament.

In 1910 he became professional at Rockford Country Club in Illinois and wasted little time in setting a new course record there. He moved to the Northland Country Club in Duluth in 1914 and married his fiancťe, Mina, from Scotland in New York in December 1915.

He was back in Carnoustie for holidays in the winters of 1919-20 and 1924-5 and took part in the exhibition matches among the pros and the exiles v locals games.

His time in Duluth came to an end in 1934 and he moved to Knoxville, TN, to become professional at the Cherokee Country Club where he remained until 1949. Following a golf tournament in his honour and a lavish farewell party, Dick retired to Scotland in April of that year. He died in Newport-on-Tay in 1958.

Although he rates a mention in tournament accounts from time to time (4th in the Minnesota State Championship in 1918, for examples) it was clubmaking which established his professional reputation. The Knoxville News-Sentinel in a paean of praise on his retirement wrote that in his first years in America he made every club Alec Smith and Willie Anderson played with in winning major championships. Given Clarkson had not even arrived in the United States by the time of Andersonís three-in-a-row at the US Open, and the dates for Smith donít tally, I am extremely sceptical of the claim but he was often acclaimed as one of the best clubmakers in the country, still making clubs by hand in the 1940s. It is also claimed that, on the suggestion of some Pittsburgh steelmakers, he made the first steel-shafted clubs in America in 1917. He may well have made them but he was not the first: Arthur F Knight, an engineer at General Electric, patented steel-shafted clubs in 1910.

Note: Both the piece on his retirement mentioned above and his obituary in the Arbroath Herald state he arrived in the USA in 1902 and, in addition to being an assistant to Alec Smith, was assistant to Willie Anderson and to Lawrie Auchterlonie. The contemporary accounts, and passenger records, do not appear to support this but I should be delighted to be proved wrong.

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