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Then & Now: Idylwylde gets ready to celebrate its 100th birthday

Established in 1922, the Idylwylde Golf & Country Club has survived a fire and the ups and downs of the sport’s popularity to remain among the city’s top courses

Sudbury’s Idylwylde Golf & Country Club is celebrating its 100th anniversary with an all-day party Aug. 26.

The modern history of the golf course, which was established in 1922 between the present site of Laurentian University and lakes Ramsey and Nepahwin, began with a fire.

Shortly before 9 p.m. on July 8 ,1962, member John DeMarco was changing his clothes in the locker room of the clubhouse when he started to smell smoke.

About the same time club manager Lew Spracklin saw fire and ran into the clubhouse. When he tried to call the fire department, he found the telephone wasn't working. Groundskeeper Frank Ladouceur then drove across the course in a tractor to the nearest home to phone in the alarm.

Pro shop "boy" Steve Yawney helped Spracklin remove two television sets, some records, and golf shoes before heavy smoke caused them to vacate the building, contemporaneous reporting in the daily newspaper stated.

Firefighters worked overnight to put the fire out, but the clubhouse was a total loss.

A year later, a $200,000 modern clubhouse, designed by the architectural firm of Fabbro and Townend, was built in a new location overlooking Trout Lake (which is now named Lake Nepahwin).

Over the next five years, the club management and board executives planned an expansion. The Idylwylde merged with the Granite Club and a curling rink addition was built. A kitchen and dining room were added.

Nine new holes designed by Howard Armstrong were added; the original nine

designed by George Cumming, a Scotsman and noted course designer, became the back nine.

The prestigious club was built on land originally owned by Dr. William Howey and his wife, Florence, the city's first pioneer settlers. The Howeys called their summer camp on the property "Idyl in the Wild" or Idylylde. 

Members bought shares in the private club to finance it. Early enthusiasts arrived by water taxi.

The Howeys' log camp was used by members before a permanent clubhouse was constructed in 1930 with help of a $25,000 donation from Inco.

The wife of an Inco executive, Mary Agnew, an avid golfer, championed the project with the help of Inco's architects. Fraser Bruce Engineering, which built the smelter in Copper Cliff and the surface building at Frood Mine, were contracted to build the impressive building that would have several additions over the next 30 years.

The Agnew family was thanked for their efforts with lifetime membership.

Although women were often left at home and restricted in their activities when the club was founded, the Idylwylde invited women players from day one, said current general manager Tom Arnott. 

He expects the centennial celebration to be lots of fun with family activities from noon to 4 p.m., followed by a cocktail hour and then dinner for 150 guests at 6:30. After fireworks at 9 p.m., guests will enjoy listening and dancing to music provided by local band Sugarboom.

Sportswriter Randy Pascal is writing a book on the history of the club to complement a 1972 publication, "Idylwylde's First Fifty Years, 1922 -1972."

Today the Idylwylde has 1,216 shareholders, some who inherited their shares from parents or grandparents, but not all are members of the club. The membership is capped at 900, said Arnott.

Shareholders in social clubs such as the Idylwylde are being phased out because of changes in the legislation regarding non-profit organizations.

In the 1990s, the popularity of golf was waning as it was seen as an "old white man's sport.” That all changed when Tiger Woods appeared on the scene and won the 1997 Masters.

"At one time, 80 per cent of our membership was over the age of 50," said Arnott. "Now ladies' membership is at an all-time high and there are 175 members under the age of 17."

Vicki Gilhula is a freelance writer in Sudbury. Then & Now is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.


The Sudbury Star special supplement Idylwylde's Open, July 30, 1963
Idylwylde's First Fifty Years, 1922 -1972 by Ben F. Merwin, (Canada Yearbook Services Ltd., 1972) 


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Vicki Gilhula

About the Author: Vicki Gilhula

Vicki Gilhula is a freelance writer.
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