In the build up to the event’s 100th staging at Gleneagles next month, a replica of the Scottish PGA Championship Trophy has been discovered – in New Zealand!
The “Scottish Professional Golfers Association Miniature Championship Cup” was presented to Turnberry’s James McDowall after his victory in the 1935 event at Longniddry. It is now more than 11,000 miles from home, having been bequeathed to one of McDowell’s relatives, Sam Stoddart.
“The cup came to me from the family of my uncle, John McDowall, a one-time Provost of Maybole, who may have been a distant relative of James,” said 77-year-old Stoddart. “To be honest, I started out with this small cup, wondering what to do with it, and had considered selling it. Now I am so intrigued that I want to know a lot more and selling is no longer an issue.”
The cup, which was made by Mappin & Webb in 1935, also carries the following names and years – J McDowall 1955, R T Faulds 1956, R T Faulds 1957, R McIlwraith 1958, James T Gray 1959 and T Smillie 1960 – on its base.
“These were all well-known Maybole personalities and I assume that James may have had a connection with Maybole golf or were they members of Prestwick?” added Stoddart. “The only living relative of John McDowall is my cousin, his daughter, who is 83. I have spoken to her, but she cannot provide any more information, other than to say that, as far as she can remember, James and John are not related.”
Although the Scottish PGA Championship dates back to 1907, the present trophy dates from 1935 and was presented by Sir Alexander Grant Bt.
“James McDowall’s name is the first one on the trophy and thus I strongly suspect that the trophy Sam Stoddart has will be a miniature of the championship cup itself, for retention by James McDowall in perpetuity, after the main trophy itself was returned,” said Ayrshire golf historian Alasdair J Malcolm. “I have never seen any others with this engraving and it may even be that this was a unique trophy, given only in the first year that the present cup was played for.
“I do recognise some of the other names from the 1955-1960 engraving as names with Maybole connections. Former Provost John McDowall, for instance, as well as R T Faulds, who I assume would be connected with the building firm in the town, and James T Gray, who I think wrote a history of Maybole a number of years ago.
“I suspect that the trophy may well have been given by James McDowall for competition elsewhere, hence the gap between 1935 engraving and 1955. As to where the trophy might have been played for, there is a golf club in Maybole which dates back to the early 20th century.”
McDowall was the professional at Turnberry after he left Prestwick, where one of his predecessors was Charlie Hunter, one of the eight competitors in the first Open Championship at Prestwick in 1860, in 1921.
In eight Open Championship appearances, McDowall recorded his best finish – joint-16th behind Henry Cotton – at Royal St George’s in 1934.
“I suspect that the Turnberry connection with the trophy is the most likely explanation for the additional names engraved on the trophy, possibly having been given to the club by James McDowall for competition among club members,” added Malcolm. “It is a real gem of an item to connect with the Scottish PGA Championship.”
The 100th M&H Logistics Scottish PGA Championship takes place at Gleneagles on October 17-20.