Did you know that, historically, Blacks were not allowed to play golf at the Truro Golf Club?
Their exposure to the course was limited to the time they spent caddying for the White members. Still, many of these golfers grew up with the course in their backyard and made a point to teach themselves how to play.
Here’s the story of a couple community members who used their skills and perseverance to pave the way for change.
Article originally posted on The Chronicle Herald (July 31, 2013)
Lloyd Jackson stepped into uncharted territory in the early 1960s when he applied to join the Truro Golf Club.
Because of the colour of his skin, Jackson – a black man – was initially denied membership and his fees were returned.
“He didn’t put up much of a fight,” his son, Kevin Jackson, 55, recalled in a recent interview.
“And the next year a few guys that had a little clout down there — being white — they went to bat for him and they told him to re-submit and the following year he did and he got accepted (as the first black senior member of the club).
Before then, there was an unwritten rule that blacks could not become full members of the club because that would have meant granting them the same membership privileges as whites.
In a 1978 publication Black Invitational Golf Tournament Lloyd Jackson (now deceased) told writer Ken Pinto of the controversy that surrounded the club’s refusal to accept him.
“(Stan) Chook Maxwell, who was working at the pro shop, told me I was accepted,” the elder Jackson said. “I started playing. Then one day, all of a sudden, I received a letter in the mail with my money back, saying it was all a mistake.
“It seems one guy wasn’t there, who was supposed to be, at the meeting when I was accepted. When he returned they blackballed me.”
Some of the club members, Lloyd Jackson said, “were suspicious and were going to dig further, investigate and find out the reason I wasn’t accepted. Anyway, I was taken in the same year as one of the young Maxwells was taken in to be taught the art of golf.”
Jackson, 89, remained a member of the club until he passed away in 2006. In 1998, he was given an honorary membership to the golf club which he treasured, his obituary published in The Chronicle Herald said.
A short time after Jackson’s application was denied, Darrell Maxwell, then a teen-aged black caddie at the club, had better luck. Maxwell became the first black golfer to join the Truro Golf Club as a juvenile member, just prior to Jackson’s official acceptance.
Without full membership privileges, Maxwell was not viewed by white members as a threat, he said in a recent telephone interview from his Ottawa home.
While club membership was not always open to blacks, many worked there as caddies.
Established in 1903, the Truro Golf Club was built in the heart of “The Island”, in the West Prince Street area — one of Truro’s three black neighbourhoods.
“So many of us got into golf there because of our close proximity to the golf course and over time many of our guys in the community would sit around and talk about how good or bad they played the game so I had the brainwave to say ‘hey, let’s have our own little golf tournament and settle the score on who can do what and we’ll declare a champion and they’ll have bragging rights for a year, at least,’” Darrell Maxwell, a Truro native who founded the Black Invitational Golf Tournament in 1973.
At the time, Maxwell was not only a member of the Truro Golf Club but considered one of the best young golfers in Nova Scotia.
His idea was to promote golf by organizing a competition with some of the town’s black golfers, former black golfers and caddies whom had moved away to larger cities to find work.
Maxwell pursued this idea with his older brother Stan “Chook” Maxwell, the club’s caddie master at the time. And with the help of the Truro Golf Club and some prominent members the plan went ahead, drawing about 10 golfers from Truro and Halifax.
In the mid-1970s, when Darrell Maxwell moved to Ottawa he asked Stan and Arthur “Arty” Jordan — co-owners of Apex Cleaners Limited — to take it over. They agreed and became the new sponsors.
The competition, renamed the Apex Invitational Golf Tournament, soon became a homecoming for Truro’s black community and a premiere event for black golfers across Canada. Today, Kevin Jackson chairs the tournament.
Stan Maxwell died in 2001. He was 66. And Jordan died in 2013. He was 76.
On Friday, more than 120 golfers — most of them black from across Canada and the United States —will gather for two days at this same historic golf club for the 40th Apex Invitational Golf Tournament.
“If something’s well done and you’re doing it for the people and not for yourself then I think things will continue to move forward and things will succeed,” Maxwell, 66, said. “And that’s the base on which I started the tournament and that’s hopefully the base that’s it’s continuing.”
The first tournament was a one-day event. It’s now a two-day tournament.
“The members of the Truro Golf Club were quite thrilled to see the young black golfers, some who formerly caddied for them some years ago return home to play in this event and reminisce about old times,” said another document the Apex History.
The next year 35 golfers played and that number doubled in the third year.
Despite its initial name, the tournament was never exclusively for blacks.
“We’ve had non-black winners of the golf tournament and they were encouraged to the hilt and they always felt comfortable,” Maxwell said. “Non-blacks that played in the tournament, I mean they just couldn’t wait to play the following year. And not only that, they invited their friends and they’ve been welcome like everybody else.”
Since 2000, the Apex Invitational Golf Association, in partnership with Investors Group Financial Services and Pye Chevrolet Buick GMC Ltd.. has issued 67 scholarships totaling $43,250 to young black Colchester County students for higher learning. Several other local businesses also also sponsor the tournament.
Last year, the tournament raised $7,147 – the highest amount ever – for the scholarship fund.
As he has in past years, Darrell Maxwell has returned home for this year’s competition.
Black hockey greats Willie O’Ree and the late Herb Carnegie have also played the Truro tournament.
On Jan. 18, 1958, Willie O’Ree became the first black man to play in the National Hockey League when he suited up for the Boston Bruins.
And Carnegie, a forward with the Quebec Aces of the Quebec Senior Hockey League in the 1940s, was said to be among the greatest players of his time. He never got a chance to play in the NHL because he was black.
Carnegie died last year. He was 92.
“The talent was just incredible,” Maxwell said. “And he not only played hockey at the highest level…a lot of people don’t realize but he won the Canadian Senior Golf Tournament two years in a row, apart from his hockey ability.
“I would say he was one of our most prominent black golfers to ever play in our tournament.”
O’Ree and Stan Maxwell — friends for 43 years — met in the late 1950s when they played for the Quebec Aces, a Quebec Hockey League team affiliated with the Bruins.
Stan Maxwell’s career began in 1953 with the Quebec Citadels Junior Club and he rose to make his mark on the North American professional hockey circuit. He was also an outstanding baseball player who spent five years with the Truro Bearcats of the semi-pro Halifax and District League.
Both Stan and Darrell Maxwell are inductees of the Colchester County Sport Hall of Fame.
Darrell Maxwell, who began his golfing career as a caddie at the age of five, made his own mark in sports, particularly as a championship golfer and hockey player.
He once qualified to participate in the qualifying school for the Senior PGA Tour. Maxwell and O’Ree also remain close friends to this day.