The first Chairman was “Buck” Buchanan of the Chamber of Mines (who gave his name to the Buchanan Memorial Trophy which is still played for today). He was a remarkable man with a most eloquent turn of phrase. He wrote a weekly article for The Star under the name “Caddie”. On occasion he would describe courses in England and Scotland in great detail despite the fact that he had never seen them.
“Buck” was the Club’s Chairman and President for the period from 1926 to 1946. He presided at the Annual General Meeting, a formal black tie evening dress dinner, held at Dormy House. Slips of paper were handed out to a few members disclosing the names of those to be elected to the committee. The names were chosen by the Marks brothers and nobody dared to make any counter proposal. The diners then adjourned to the octagonal dance hall and partied until the early hours, mostly to the music of George Spence. Often, some midnight bathing took place and the attire of some of the men or lack of it can best be left to the imagination.
“Buck” was held in high esteem, so much so that when he decided to retire down to Durban in 1936, he was unanimously asked to retain the presidency, and thereafter used to make the trip up to Maccauvlei every quarter to chair the meetings.
The Club Secretary, Frank Grey started off as a sailor. He then joined the ERPM gold mine. The transition was apparently somewhat traumatic and in a fit of dejection, he decided to commit suicide in Boksburg Lake. Fully clothed he walked into the lake. However, when the water reached his chest, it was so cold he changed his mind and walked out again. The experience may have sharpened his judgement because he went on to become one of South Africa’s first choice cricket umpires. He was persuaded to occupy the post of secretary at the Maccauvlei Golf Club, and accompanied by his beloved wife, Kate, took up residence in the first cottage. They were elected honorary members with an entertainment allowance of £10 a month.
Frank was a meticulous man, always immaculately dressed. He demanded the same from members and
nobody was allowed to enter the Clubhouse unless they were wearing a tie and jacket. Maccauvlei had become a high class club and Frank Grey ran it as such. However, there was another lighter side to his character.
On one august occasion of the AGM, Frank introduced the singing of “John Brown’s Donkey had an India Rubber Tail”. He stood on a chair and using a fork as a baton, conducted the singing. The procedure was that after each phrase the last word was left out and the balance mimed to the baton until there were no words left. When he stepped from his chair there was loud applause and much merriment. By popular demand, this event became an institution and took place every year until he retired.
Kate died at the Club and shortly thereafter, Frank after serving as Secretary for twenty years, retired to Durban where he died some years later. His portrait hangs in the entrance hall.
The Chief Steward
The Chief Steward, Harry Braverman, managed Dormy House. The meals he served were first class and established a tradition for fine cuisine that is still maintained by the Maccauvlei Conference Centre today. Another important portfolio he had, was to preside over an excellent wine cellar that had been laid down in the early years and was generously stocked with liquors and wines, both local and imported. This too is maintained by the Centre, strongly aided and abetted by the Anglo American Group’s ownership of the Boschendal and Vergelegen wine estates. Like Frank Grey, Braverman was a stickler for quality and the maintenance of high standards and he made sure the cutlery, crockery and napery were of the finest quality.
The Headwaiter, Richard, was the mainstay of the restaurant. He was one of those rare people, now an endangered species, who could take an order from a full table, and return with the correct drinks with never a mistake. He had another claim to fame, which also demonstrated his ability to get things right. During the visit by the Prince of Wales to Maccauvlei, Richard gave him a tip for the races, which won!
The first professional of the Club was Tommy Tomsett, a beautiful striker of a golf ball but completely overcome by nerves in a tournament. He also acted as the Green-keeper. Quite unlike the situation today, when golf professionals can achieve the status of film stars, in those days the professional was not allowed in the Clubhouse or bar. In addressing a professional one never used the prefix “mister” but merely the individual’s surname. These were the customs throughout the country – indeed in most places that golf was played. In 1958, Tommy Tomsett returned to Maccauvlei for a nostalgic visit and once again demonstrated his mastery of the course. At the age of seventy he recorded a 75 gross, and congratulated Maccauvlei on the condition of the course. A tribute indeed from a man who could virtually shoot his age on a very demanding layout.
Bobby Locke was appointed the Club’s professional on the 1st December 1939, a year after he turned professional, and after he won the SA Open at Maccauvlei.
Problems immediately arose with regard to his appointment. On the 24th February 1940, the committee discussed the proposed arrangement that Locke had with African Theatres whereby he was proposing to tour the country giving a series of golfing demonstrations. The Chairman said that he was strongly opposed to such an arrangement being made by Locke during his period of service to the Club, unless he did this during his leave periods. The committee further did not like Locke giving non-members lessons whilst playing with him on the course in preference to merely using the practice tee. In order to curb this, the Club instituted a green fee of two shillings and six pence per round.
At a special meeting hastily arranged and held on the 5th May 1940, Bobby Locke was questioned as to the terms of his employment. In his letter of appointment he was told that if he
wanted to play in outside competitions he had to ask permission. Locke never applied for leave of absence but merely advised the Secretary when he had to fulfil his obligations. He also intimated that he proposed makinga quick trip to America to play in the US Open.
Locke pleaded forgetfulness when questioned. It was said that Locke was using the Club merely to suit his own convenience and personal interest, and that the Club would not be used as a stepping stone for Locke to travel around the country, playing exhibition matches purely for his own benefit, at the Club’s expense. Locke did not like the arrangement, and after eight months, resigned from the Club by letter to the committee dated 26 July 1940.
Of course in those days no golf course could survive without a liberal supply of caddies. Maccauvlei was no exception. However, even in the pre-World War II era, the laws of supply and demand had to be observed.
The Club records show a proposal on the 10th July 1937 that the caddie fee for 18 holes be increased from one and sixpence to two shillings. This was prompted not so much by altruism as by free enterprise, because a new golf course had been established on the Vereeniging side of the river (now the Vereeniging Country Club). There was a possibility of a shortage of caddies as the new golf course was considerably closer to the source of supply than Maccauvlei. The powers that be agreed that the increase of sixpence would be an inducement for the caddies to come over. The proposal was eventually adopted on 1st December 1937.