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The Best of All Games

Willie Marshall, Warren Country Club’s first golf pro, strikes a fairway shot in 1910.

This is Willie Marshall, Warren Country Club’s first golf pro, hitting a fairway shot in 1910. Over his right shoulder, in the distance, is the Warren/Bisbee Trolley. The trolley provided transportation to the golf course, which was located just south of Warren, Ariz.,within sight of the Mexican border.

Marshall arrived in Bisbee in November 1901, and joined a small contingent of professional golfers who wintered in the Southwest. They taught golf, repaired clubs and organized tournaments in the winter but returned to their home courses and greener links in the summer.

Groundbreaking for the Warren District Country Club began on Jan. 30, 1908, and the first match was played Feb. 18. The speed of construction undoubtedly meant that the course was rugged and crude. The putting greens consisted of oiled packed dirt, the fairways were carpeted with gravel and cactus, and hazards included ore cars, trains and mine settling ponds.

Marshall’s first impression of the course is unrecorded, but for public consumption, he put it in the best light. The Bisbee Daily Review wrote: “Mr. Marshall speaks highly of the Bisbee course and says it well bears out the reputation, which has already traveled to the far east, of being one of the finest in the country.”

He stated further: “In a general way, I may say that I was agreeably surprised at finding so good a golf course here. I think the topography of the course is excellent, and one would have to travel a long way to find anything that would equal it, outside of the fact that there is no turf. If it only had grass it would be a wonder, but it is possible to play very good golf on it, even without the turf.”

Boosting the sport of golf, Marshall also said: “It is the best of all games because it is the only ballgame in which your opponent does not interfere with your ball… If you cannot find anyone at hand to play with, why, play by yourself. You can play as fast or as slowly as you wish, and you are never too young or too old to enjoy the sport. It is an ideal game for women, and there is nothing better than mixed foursomes…”

The professionals often played each other during country club matches. The Review reported on one of the matches in January 1910: “In the professional match played at Douglas Sunday, the El Paso professional won by two up. The match was very close between the El Paso man (David Levie of Scotland) and William Marshall, the golf expert of the Warren District Country Club. Marshall being right after him all the way. In a return match March 21 at El Paso, Marshall came in second to Levie, and Adams of Douglas finished last.”

Marshall did not return after the summer of 1910, and the Warren Country Club contracted with John Adams, golf pro from Douglas, to be on hand Tuesday and Thursday of each week.

The Warren District Country Club was demolished in the 1930s and a new one built near Naco. Today it is called Turquoise Valley Golf Course.

— Tom Vaughan. Photo courtesy Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum, Fountain Collection.

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