Born in the aftermath of the last great global pandemic, the Finlayson Cup survived the next one and will have one final go-around on its 100th anniversary before taking up residence in the Simcoe County Museum.
Known informally as “June Days” to its women participants, the annual golf tournament will open at Barrie Country Club on Thursday morning. Three more Thursday events will follow at Collingwood (Blue Mountain), Orillia (Couchiching) and Midland country clubs.
Starting in 1922 and aside from the war years and COVID, the Finlayson Cup has been awarded every year to the best team of women golfers of those four area clubs. It is one of the longest surviving club competitions anywhere, but this year will mark its final playing.
All four clubs have won their share of titles. Midland is the defending champion.
“It has spanned generations,” said Blue Mountain’s club captain, Melanie Parrack, “and is a really (unique) early example of women travelling around to play golf.”
Parrack (nee West) grew up in Barrie and now lives in Collingwood. In between, the retired principal lived in Toronto and played golf throughout her life, learning at Barrie Country Club when it was laid out over nine holes at Sunnidale Park.
Parrack’s late mother, Marg West, was a long-time BCC member who also participated in the Finlayson Cup.
Her idyllic childhood memories playing the game with her mom have given way to fond adult ones and the Finlayson Cup has been a consistent throughout. Learning the game, with all its joys, complexities, and frustrations has kept Parrack coming back.
It’s a feeling every golfer, young and old, female and male, knows all too well.
“Golf is so many (wonderful) things,” said Parrack. “A golf course is just a great place to be even on a bad day (or) when you’re not playing well.”
And for all the advances in equality in women’s sport, golf is one of few sports that can trace its roots back (almost) as far as men.
The game has evolved, thankfully, and the Finlayson Cup has its share of, well, interesting historical quirks. Old records detail women being chauffeured around the area each Thursday in June, a sign of privilege but also the prestige of playing in it.
There are no longer chauffeurs; mashies and niblicks are now proper irons, and persimmon woods are titanium.
Liquor laws have had a similar transformation.
Finlayson Cup participants often had to rely on the hospitality of the host club to nip off for a quick shower and change of clothes at members’ houses. A glorious, post-round cocktail would follow.
The 19th hole has not always been a thing, as hard as that is to imagine.
Fashion has changed as well. When women sit down in BCC’s charming clubhouse on Thursday for their post-round meal and beverages, they will be wearing the standard golf garb of the day, not the long, flowing skirts of yesteryear.
“Things have become more relaxed,” says the event’s historical record, which the museum in Midhurst will soon enshrine, along with its century-old trophy.
The tournament got its start when former Midland mayor William Finlayson recognized the importance of women playing the game. After serving as mayor, Finlayson commanded an artillery brigade in the First World War. A lawyer, he later became an MPP and a minister in Conservative governments of the day. Finlayson, who died in 1943, was likely doing what politicians do — looking for a little good press — but it also helped that his lands/forests ministry was loosely aligned with the turf requirements in golf.
So, why not keep going?
Well, the world is now a vastly different place. Women compete in sanctioned events in much the same way and frequency as men. Even in a work-from-home, wired world, younger players can’t take off four days in June. Golf has boomed, clubs have sprung up all over the area, province and country, which makes intra-club competition less viable.
It all makes the Finlayson Cup’s century-long run seem more remarkable.
So, paradoxically, progress sometimes means having to say goodbye. But not without one more shot at the brass ring.