The Original Evangelist of Golf

When George Bahto published his seminal book on Charles Blair Macdonald he titled it The Evangelist of Golf based on an article that Macdonald’s son-in-law H. J. Whigham published as a tribute to the legendary golfer. In the Evangelist Batho references that the tribute was published in 1939. He chose an appropriate title for his book, one that perfectly encapsulates C. B. Macdonald’s role in the game, particularly in the United States. The first edition of George’s book was published in 2002.

In addition to the enjoyment that comes from learning the game’s history, one of the things that drew me to collecting golf books was the sense of discovery you occasionally experience, particularly when finding a rare book. This is not a pursuit well-suited to the current age of instant gratification. Rare finds can take a decade or more to materialize, but when they do, the satisfaction is particularly gratifying. Exhibit A is below, a previously undocumented copy of The Evangelist of Golf.

Evangelist Front Board-001

The unique hardcover book is undated, but was likely put together in 1939 or in the early 1940s. It was custom made and created from the magazine article Whigham published after Macdonald died. The article has been cut into sections and is pasted neatly on the pages. The red cloth cover has “The Evangelist of Golf by H. J. Whigham” engraved into it. The book is unpaginated but contains 24 pages. In the rear section of Bahto’s book he attributes the article in question to having been published in Country Life magazine in September 1939, however, this book clearly states that it comes from Town & Country, which makes more sense given Whigham’s role as the editor there.

Evangelist Title Page

The center page of the book, like the article, contains a picture of the 58-year-old Whigham along with Walter Trumbull (a sportswriter of the era) and National Golf Links member John W. Cross. Cross was a partner in Cross & Cross, the architectural firm that designed the elegant building that houses The Links in New York City. The threesome is pictured at a 1927 Coffee House golf tournament seated on a bench with the imposing Macdonald, who has a big grin on his face.

Evangelist Center Pictrue

Walter Trumbull, Whigham, Macdonald, and John W. Cross

One of the interesting insights Whigham gives in the article about the founding of the National Golf Links: “Macdonald was far more intent on the spirit of the golfer than on the skill with which he played, and you will realize that the most famous names on the list were chosen for their character rather than their golfing record.”

Unique is a word to be used sparingly as it relates to books, although in this case it is appropriate. This book was obtained as part of a lot that included Charles Blair Macdonald’s presentation copy of his 1911 “Statement about the National Golf Links” with limitation No. 1 and Macdonald’s bookplate, and a first edition of another of Whigham’s books containing extensive marginalia. More likely than not the book came from descendants’ of Whigham since there were also family letters included. Although it has not been definitively established, it is probable that this book was created by Whigham, who died in 1954. It is not listed in Donovan & Jerris and has been previously undocumented.

Born in Tarbolton, Scotland, Henry James Whigham was a graduate of Queens College, Oxford. He emigrated to the United States and taught at the Lake Forest College near Chicago. He served as a war correspondent covering the Spanish-American and Boer Wars and was held for a time as a prisoner-of-war in Cuba. Bahto recounts how Whigham was involved in the planning of the Chicago Golf Club, the National Golf Links of America, the Onwentsia Club, Piping Rock, Sleepy Hollow, and Lido. He spent most of his working life at Town & Country magazine, serving as editor-in-chief. Whigham won the second U.S. Amateur tournament contested at Shinnecock Hills and successfully defended the title the following year at the Chicago Golf Club. Whigham was a member of the National Golf Links, Garden City, Piping Rock and the Southampton Club. He was also a founding member of the Coffee House Club in New York.

Whigham’s other contributions to the library of golf include the instructional How to Play Golf, published in 1897. He published several books unrelated to golf including The Persian Problem (1903), Manchuria and Korea (1904), and The New Deal (1936).

Among the other interesting facts researched from a family letter that came with the book (from Macdonald’s uncle, Captain W. Macdonald) is that Charles Blair Macdonald’s father was named Godfrey and the family is from Argyll, Scotland. They lived in Southend, on the Kintyre Peninsula, not far from Machrihanish. Macdonald’s grandfather’s (William) estate was named Ballyshear, the same name C. B. gave to his mansion located across the bay from the National Golf Links.


— John Sabino

Website of Valuable Book Group, LLC

About valuablebook

Valuable Book Group specializes in rare, collectible and valuable golf books. We are avid collectors ourselves obsessed not only with playing the game, but also its history and the literature of the game.
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