James Braid (1870 - 1950)
Born Earlsferry, Scotland, Braid is remembered as one of golf's original and great champions, course designers and modernisers.
Braid grew up in Fife - the birthplace of golf. Although his parents had no enthuasism for the game, his cousins were top golfers. His earliest recollection of golf was playing with a child's club at around the age of 4. Originally trained as a carpenter and joiner, Braid learned to play a forceful style of golf at Elie links. Given his modest means, he reconditioned old clubs for his own use. After all, this was the era of the hickory shafted club and guttie balls.
In 1893, he was offered the position of club-maker at the Army and Navy in London which he was delighted to accept. After some success as an amateur he turned professional in 1896 and worked as club professional at Romford, Essex. He later moved to Walton Heath, Surrey and stayed with the club until his death. JH Taylor described him as "sincere, trustworthy and loyal".
Although Braid's long and short game were excellent, his putting sometimes left him down. That was largely corrected when he replaced his wooden putter with a metal headed one. Braid's spectacular success came at the turn of the century. In 1901 he won his first Open. Within 10 years he became the first man to win the event five times. He was runner up three times. Throughout his career, Braid remained modest and always demonstrated restraint whatever the circumstances.
Besides his success as a golfer, Braid was an excellent course designer. He used his farming background to ensure that courses were well laid out and well drained. As a founder member of the PGA and later it's president, he was instrumental in laying the foundation of today's professioanl game. In recognition of his contribution to golf, the R&A honoured him with membership. Had he played in the modern era, he would be a M.B.E. however Britain was a different place back then.
Braid was a great pioneer of golf and will be remembered with great respect and admiration.