His career may have been brief, but for a decade from 1946-55, no amateur golfer from BC shone brighter than Vancouver’s Walter McElroy at a time when there was no shortage of great amateur competitors in the province.

At just 130 lbs soaking wet, McElroy didn’t have the power and length off the tee of some competitors, but was described by Province columnist Eric Whitehead as having “grace to burn…a thorough stylist, smooth and almost lazy-like from the top of his swing to his follow through.” On appearances alone his effortless style could be misleading that he didn’t thirst for victory like his rivals, but his career results bear out that few cared more on the fairways and greens as he consistently ranked as one of Canada’s best amateurs while active.

Born in Vancouver, McElroy became interested in golf growing up near Shaughnessy Heights Golf Club. At age ten, his father obtained a membership at Shaughnessy and McElroy won his first tournament at age twelve, the 1939 Province Publinx, sponsored by the Province newspaper. He later won the Vancouver City Junior championship in 1943 and 1944, while adding the BC Junior title in 1945 and 1946. In the latter year, he also finished as Canadian Junior runner-up and reached the quarterfinals of the Canadian Amateur while still a junior, a rare feat.

McElroy was selected to many provincial, national, and international teams and never failed to reach the quarters, semis, or finals in every major event he entered in Canada, the US, and Britain. A seven-time member of the Willingdon Cup team, he led BC to the title three times, while never finishing lower than third in the other appearances.

In 1948, McElroy won the Vancouver City Men’s Closed Championship, New Westminster City championship, tied for second in the Alberta Open, and made the semifinals of the Canadian Amateur, finishing as low Canadian among both amateurs and professionals at his home Shaughnessy course that year.

In 1949, he was selected as Canada’s top amateur player in national rankings. While taking the 1950 season off to sort out bad feet that required five operations on his toes, he took the time to help with his family’s jewelry business (Grassie’s) located on Vancouver’s Seymour Street. Cured of troublesome ingrown toenails, McElroy roared back in 1951 to win the BC Men’s Closed Amateur and the Canadian Amateur holding off the hard-charging Phil Farley of Toronto 2-and-1 in the 36-hole match play final. His victory in the Canadian Amateur was the second consecutive year a BC golfer took the title, succeeding Vancouver rival and fellow BC Sports Hall of Famer Bill Mawhinney.

In 1952, McElroy won the inaugural Ogopogo Open in Kelowna outlasting the ever-present Mawhinney. McElroy also made the sixth round of the US Amateur tournament that year eventually losing to Washington State’s Al Mengert, a future PGA Tour pro. Twice that year McElroy defeated top American amateur Frank Stranahan to rank as one of best amateur golfers in the world.

1954 proved another banner year for McElroy as he finished 27th among the pros at the Canadian Open, a very high finish for an amateur, and represented Canada on teams at both the America’s Cup in London, Ontario (his second America’s Cup appearance after debuting in 1952) and Commonwealth matches at The Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland. In both competitions, McElroy’s Canadian teams placed second. Just before retiring at the end of 1954 he reached the quarterfinals of the British Amateur at historic Muirhead Links in Scotland.

Retiring from competitive golf at just the age of 27, McElroy focused his time thereafter on his family’s Vancouver jewelry business that had operated in the city since 1886. Perhaps the only thing that glittered brighter than the jewelry pieces in the Grassie’s store showcases were the many golfing gems turned in by McElroy on courses around the world.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.