Seaton Carew has been blessed with the services of a number of wonderful golf professionals, but without doubt the greatest was a Scotsman called James "Jimmy" Kay.

Born in Leith in 1855, James Kay (pictured) was engaged as a professional by Seaton Carew Golf Club on the 1st of May 1886, following the resignation of Tom Park a member of the famous Scottish golfing family. His duties at the time included assisting in cutting and rolling the greens, filling divots and horses' hoof marks, playing with members, supervising the groundsman and charwoman and keeping a list of players in Club competitions. For that he and his wife were paid the princely sum of thirty shillings a week, which also included payment to a boy for cleaning members clubs & boots, waiting on members, looking after the clubhouse and assisting the professional.

However, it was James Kay's playing record which set him apart from both his predecessors and successors. According to press reports of the time he played in a total of 22 Open Championships, qualifying in 20 and twice finishing in the top six. On the 8th of June 1908 he also represented his homeland when he played for Scotland in an International match against England at Prestwick.

Without doubt though his greatest achievements came in what were known as "money matches", where he played against some of the top golfers of the time. Pride of place probably goes to his defeat in 1895 of the then Open Champion, J. H. Taylor, who had just retained his prestigious title. The match, over 36 holes, took place on the 16th of June and although the respective scores were equal, James Kay beat his illustrious opponent by one hole. Some five years later, on the 22nd of September 1900, Kay exacted a similar outcome on another Open Champion, James Braid, although at that time the latter hadn't recorded any of his five championship victories. Harry Vardon was the only member of the great triumvirate to actually get the better of James Kay, when he won 6 and 5 on the 8th of September 1898.

Another of the great names in golf, Mungo Park, also suffered at the hands of James Kay during what was called a "Home & Home" match at Seaton Carew and Alnmouth. Over the 72 holes Kay was 11 up at home and 8 up away, thereby winning the match by 19 holes and perhaps more importantly the stake money of £20 a side. The Redcar professional of that time, whom we only know as Chisholm, suffered even greater embarrassment when he was defeated by the score of 25 up and 24 to play in a 72-hole match on his home course.

Given such a remarkable playing record it's not surprising that James Kay was held in great esteem by the Club's members, and on the 20th of July 1911 the Committee agreed to mark the great man's service of 25 years. A total of £23.8s.6d was raised by subscription and a tea & coffee service was presented to him at the Club's annual general meeting. Some 14 years later the Committee had more serious matters to contemplate, namely James Kay's retirement, but the matter was deferred for a further 12 months. On the 9th of December 1926, after long & serious discussion, it was finally resolved that a change in the professional was necessary. Enquiries were made as to James Kay's financial status and it was decided to award him a pension and elect him as an Honorary Member of the Club. A gift of £200 was also presented, following another subscription, and James Kay's employment came to an end after 41 years.

Shortly before his retirement James Kay was helping his assistant chop up some old sleepers, for use as fuel in the clubhouse, when he got a splinter in his right thumb. Sadly, he developed blood poisoning, his condition gradually got worse and on the 17th of April 1927 James Kay died. His funeral was attended by fellow professionals, Seaton Carew members and staff from the Golf Club acted as pall bearers. The body of a local golfing legend was finally laid to rest in Seaton Carew Parish churchyard and he's commemorated in the name of the Club's 8th hole - Jimmy Kay. 

Kay's Open Championship record

T 12DNPDNPT 11T 15T 5T 6
T 41T 25T 14251229T 22
31CUTT 33CUT30T 3054
56T 38DNPDNP58
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