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Antique Golf Clubs from Scotland
James Tabor
St Andrews/Zurich etc
James Tabor was a much-travelled professional and clubmaker who seemed to like to keep his professional appointments short.

Born close to Cambridge in 1869, he began as the first professional at Beverley in Yorkshire in 1889 but left at the end of the year for Kettering where he remained until 1893 and a move to the Northampton club.

1895 saw him north of the border at the new Bridge of Allan club where it was reported ‘A short experimental course was laid out a few months ago extending over one large field only but another has now been added and every advantage has been taken of the natural characteristics of the ground by Tabor, the greenkeeper’. He was still there the following September when it was announced a prize was on offer for the course record over the nine holes, a mark set by Tabor at 39 strokes.

Shortly after this he moved on again to work for Tom Morris’s clubmaking business in St Andrews, a town where he seemed to settle as it became a base for him during his travels of the next decade. He was an active player in the St Andrews club and married Christina Gray in Edinburgh in 1897.

In 1900 he became professional at the Zurich club in Switzerland and this may have been a seasonal appointment in the summers only as he came back to St Andrews regularly. He had returned to Fife from Zurich in 1903 having designed a nine-hole course at Lucerne and left in April to be professional there for the summer.

November 1904 saw him back in St Andrews again with more travels under his belt. As the Dundee Courier imperially described it, ‘he has been engaged showing the foreigner how to lay out a golf course and how the game should be played’. Specifically this meant, after finishing the season in Lucerne, he went to Rome mainly to teach but ‘where he effected considerable improvements on the course’. On the way home he stopped in ‘Serre’ where ‘he surveyed a tract of land where it is proposed to lay out a new golf course’. I take this to be Sierre but not Sierre itself where the course was only built in the 1980s but rather Crans-sur-Sierre whose course opened in 1905.

During this stay in St Andrews he also found time to go to Leuchars with cleekmaker Tom Stewart (and the inevitable committee members) to lay out a nine hole course there.

The local paper expected him to return to Switzerland to finish the course design which he may well have done as the next record I have of him is as professional at Bicester in 1906. Two years here and he was back in St Andrews again but accepted the post of professional at Ballater in August 1909. This was a very short engagement but he moved just down the road in Deeside in July 1910 when he was appointed professional for the season at Invercauld private course, the property of Admiral Beattie. By April of the next year, when the census was taken, he was back in Kinness Place, St Andrews, living with his wife and twelve year old daughter.

He continued to live in St Andrews and died while visiting his daughter and son-in-law in the nearby Fife village of Markinch in 1931, his wife having pre-deceased him.

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