William "Bill" Joseph King

Hall of Fame Induction 2019

Remembering a pioneer: Family honors Muskogee’s first club pro

By Ronn Rowland

Phoenix Sports Writer

— Sometimes we just have to count our blessings and chalk up our existence to sheer luck.

For David and Tom King, their grandfather William Nichols falling ill the second week of April 1912 allowed

them to be a part of Muskogee golfing lore.

“He and his buddy had tickets on the Titanic, and he got sick and couldn’t come over,” said Tom, a professor of

instructional design at Doane College in Crete, Neb., said recalling a conversation he once had with him. “And he

was mad about that. He said, ‘here’s my opportunity to be on that real nice ship.’ And we know what happened

to the ship.”

At the time, Nichols was returning to Muskogee, where he was the first club professional at Muskogee Country

Club from 1908 to 1915, from his native Edinburgh, Scotland. On Friday, the Kings, whose father Joe died in

2011, along with club officials, honored Nichols with a plaque laid at the first tee.

“The King family got in touch with us and the club about the plaque,” said Kristin Hamm of Muskogee Marble

and Granite, designers of the monument. “It was put on hold until today because of their father’s death.”

Nichols, whose daughter Peggy Nichols King currently resides in Enid, came to Muskogee in 1908 at age 26 at

the urging of fellow Scotsman Leslie Brownlee, who was a professional at Lakeview Country Club in Oklahoma

City. David, who resides in Bartlesville, remembers his grandfather as a teacher who emphasized keeping things

under control.

“He did not approve the likes of Arnold Palmer or any other golf for that matter who displayed any emotion on

the golf course,” David said. “He was a Ben Hogan fan. If you hit a good shot, you had the same reaction as if

you hit a bad shot. You learned from your mistake and moved on.

“He would not be a Tiger Woods fan, for a number of reasons, but for certain the way he enjoys himself on the

golf course.”

During his competitive career, Nichols was one of the best golfers in the state, winning the Oklahoma Open five

times from 1910-20 and after regaining his amateur status, captured the state amateur championship in 1925 and

1927. He registered 10 holes in one and was dubbed “The Grand Old Man of Oklahoma Golf” by the Daily


“He came over here as a young man to teach cowboys how to play golf, then went into business and stayed in

Muskogee most of his life,” David said. “He used to fiddle with golf clubs. I remember as a young man him

working with me with an 8-iron. He convinced me if I could hit an 8-iron, I could play golf.”

After leaving his position at the country club, Nichols, who died two months short of his 90th birthday in 1972,

was the club pro at Lakewood Country Club and Dallas Country Club, both in Texas, before returning to

Muskogee to start an insurance business.

“It’s been a golfing experience for my family for many, many years,” David said. “My sons play, my brothers and

I play. It’s great to know that my grandfather came from the birthplace of golf and played at St. Andrews. He was

fortunate to meet some people with means that got him started.”

And Tom realized early on that his grandfather was a special man and a celebrity in the community.

“He used to come down to Okmulgee to see us,” Tom said. “He was in his 80s and he would take the King boys

to breakfast to the breakfast place in Okmulgee and everyone knew him. He had conversations with everybody

and everyone called him Mr. Nichols.

“It was Mr. Nichols this and Mr. Nichols that. I felt like a big shot.”

Until the latter years of his life, Nichols was still teeing it up and holding his own on the golf course.

“He was in his 70s and still shooting under par,” Tom said.

“He would beat my father. He was amazing. I just had a lot of fun with him.”

William Nichols (1882-1972)

Willie Nichols

Willie with Freddie McLeod

Robert, William,Bill Nichols

Willie's water Polo Team

WILLIAM NICHOLS (1882-1972) Muskogee Country Club, Oklahoma, USA

William 'Bill' Nichols Jnr, born 26th April 1882 in Springwell Place, Edinburgh, son of William Nichols, coachman and his wife Christina McGregor. Willie had two sisters Mary Anne (b.1880) and Catherine (b.1884) who attended Dalry Normal Episcopalian School. His father was appointed coachman to George Dalziel and the family moved to Dalrymple Villa, 9 West Bay Road (Cranston), North Berwick in 1884. George Dalziel was a solicitor and practiced law at 66 Queens Street, Edinburgh. At that time he owned nineteen properties in North Berwick, and carried out the legal work for Sir Walter Hamilton-Dalrymple owner of the North Berwick Estate. In 1902, Dalziel purchased Redholm in Greenheads Road, overlooking the Burgh golf course and the Nichols family moved to the coachouse where they remained employed until 1920.

"Grand Old Man Of Oklahoma Golf"

Bill Nichols was a member of Bass Rock Golf Club at North Berwick and in 1898 he moved to Edinburgh. Bill worked as a legal clerk with George Dalziel (above) who also provided accommodation in his property at 1 Rothesay Mews. In 1902 Bill Nichols was a founder member of Corstorphine Golf Club and won their scratch medal in 1902, 1903 and 1905.

Bill Nichols was just under 5 feet 11 inches tall, with fair hair, and blue eyes. At the age of 26 years he sailed to America from Glasgow on the SS Caledonia and arrived in New York on May 24th 1908, listing his occupation as 'Clerk'. In October 1908 he left the amateur ranks and accepted an engagement with the Town and Country Club of Muskogee as their first professional. He was recommended for the position by Leslie Brownlee from North Berwick. Brownlee was pro at Lakeview Country Club, the forerunner to Oklahoma City Golf Club. Brownlee laid out the original nine-hole course at Muskogee with sand greens and in June 1908 Bill Nichols had the course open for play. Six months earlier Oklahoma had joined with Indian Territories to form the 46th State of America.

In 1908, Bill Nichols laid out the original nine-hole course at Tulsa Golf and Country Club, also with sand greens. The first Oklahoma Open Championship was played in 1910 at Tulsa Country Club. The two players in contention were Leslie Brownlee of Lakeview Country Club in Oklahoma City and Bill Nichols pro at Muskogee Town and Country Club. By the second nine holes Nichols had an eight stoke advantage and Brownlee retired.

Bill Nichols won the first two Oklahoma Open Championships in 1910 and 1911. In 1912 Indiana born Chester Paul Nelson snatched the championship played at Tulsa Country Club. A year later Nelson won the State Championship again, this time at Oklahoma City and Country Club. This was the first to be contested over eighteen holes, nine-holes of the old Lakeview and nine from the new course which resulted in a three way tie which Nelson won after a playoff. The two rivals stood at two wins apiece.

By 1911, more ground was acquired and the Muskogee golf course was extended to 18 holes. Nichols also gave instruction to the lady members of the Town and Country Club and arranged a ladies tournament with the weekly draw published in the Muskogee Daily Phoenx. Nichols coached club member Harry G. Gwinnup winner of the State Amateur Championship three times. In 1912 and 1914 Nichols entered the Western Open and in 1914 qualified for the US Open at Midlothian Country Club. In 1915, he moved to Lakewood Country Club in Dallas, and then in 1916 to Dallas Country Club.

In 1914 the fifth Oklahoma Open was held at Oak Hill Country Club in Bartlesville when Bill Nichols regained his title with a three-stroke victory. By then Nichols was pro at Lakewood Country Club in Dallas. The decisive match took place on June 17, 1916 at Muskogee Town and Country Club. Returning to his old club, Nichols captured his fourth and final Oklahoma Open with rounds of 71-70 and fifty dollars prize money.

Ralph Guldahl was born in South Glasgow Drive, Dallas in November 1911 and won the US Open in 1937, 1938 and the Masters in 1939. He was a caddy at Tenison Park and Lakewood golf courses where he learned to play golf. In 1928 he won the Dallas Junior Golf Championship, and the following year he won the Texas High School Championship and Dallas City Championship.

Nichols retired from pro golf in 1917, was re-instated as an amateur and won the Oklahoma State Championship in 1925 and 1927. He went into real estate and insurance business until his retirement in 1963. Nichols was president of Muskogee Country Club and secretary there for many years.

Right: Bill Nichols giving instruction in 1914 Copyright © Muskogee Phoenix

He was a great supporter of the Muskogee Roughers, the high school football team and the 'Bill Nichols' award for Rougher team leader has been given annually since 1947. The team got their name 'Roughers' because many of the players performed without helmets, due to lack of funding, and for their rough play. Nichols was president of the Muskogee Quarterback Club for several years and in 1930 was appointed President of the Oklahoma State Golf Association.

Bill's wife Margaret was from Texas and they lived with their two sons and a daughter at 411 North 12th Street, Muskogee City. Bill Nichols died in February 1972 at Broadway Manor, Muskogee, aged 89 years. As a teenager in North Berwick his golfing highlight was being selected to represent the Bass Rock Golf Club in the four-man team to play in the Wemyss County Cup, now the oldest foursome tournament in the world. His regular partner in the Bass Rock competitions was Fred McLeod, US Open champion in 1908. Nichols was a founder member of Corstorphine Golf Club in Edinburgh which became Ratho Park Golf Club. An interclub match between Bass Rock and Ratho continues to be played annually for the Fred McLeod Trophy. A friendship between golf clubs started by Bill Nichols in 1902 and has now lasted over a century. William Nichols was an inductee in the Oklahoma Golf Hall Of Fame in 2019.