Karl Keffer (1882 - 1950)
by Doug Marshall

We know Karl Keffer as the first and only Canadian born winner of the Canadian Open. This he accomplished in 1909 and again in 1914. Karl was another graduate of the George Cumming training program at Toronto Golf Club. He had been there at the same time as the Murray brothers and Nicol Thompson, and stayed three years during which he won the first caddy championship showing championship potential.

Karl Keffer in Toronto Karl Keffer as an assistant to George Cumming, at Toronto Karl Keffer seated
Karl Keffer, seated at a tournament

In our Jigger Magazine of Dec. 2013 - Bulletin 92 is an excellent and very complete essay on his career and accomplishments. I encourage our members to refer to that piece and I will only add some pertinent facts to to his very interesting life in golf.

After leaving Toronto in 1910 Karl spent some time in the US competing and working as an assistant pro at the Albany Country Club in upstate New York. While there he became more widely known for his skills as a player. Walter Travis the great amateur recommended him for a winter job at the Jekyll Island Club near Savannah. He took this job and laid out a nine hole golf course.

This was the beginning of a 32 year association with the Millionaires Club on Jekyll Island off the coast of southern Georgia. It ended in 1942. With German submarines cruising the waters off the East Coast of North America, the millionaires left the island, eventually donating it to the State of Georgia (It remains a top tourist attraction with three 18 hole golf courses and the original nine redone in 1912 by Walter Travis aided by Karl).

Karl Keffer with caddies, Jekyll Island
Karl Keffer with caddies, Jekyll Island

After his first winter in Georgia, Karl returned to Ottawa in the Spring of 1911 where he assumed the head pro position at Ottawa Golf Club. In 1912 the golf club was designated as Royal Ottawa Golf Club and Karl stayed here for 32 years of distinguished service retiring in 1943.

Karl Keffer as a corporal during the Great War
Karl Keffer as a corporal during the Great War

Along the way he helped found the CPGA in 1912 and served as Hon.Sect. Treasurer 1914 to 1928,and was President from 1938 - 1940. He gained great respect and praise for his work with this organization as it grew to the important modern governing organization of Professional Golf in Canada.

As a player Karl continued to play at a high level till the late 1920's with his last important win being the Quebec Open of 1927.

Karl Keffer at the height of his playing career
Karl Keffer at the height of his playing career

Retired and still affiliated with Royal Ottawa as a respected advisor Karl passed away Oct. 22,1950.

He was voted into the RCGA Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame in 2000.

Karl Keffer

Next: Nicol Thompson