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Senior champion Margaret Todd (right) receiving the Ada MacKenzie Trophy from National President Audrey Gordon in 1977.Hugh Allen/Courtesy of the Canadian Ladies Golf Association and Canadian Golf Hall of Fame

The amateur golfer Margaret Todd was known as the Queen of the Green and the First Lady of B.C. Fairways.

Mrs. Todd, who has died at 101, was a trailblazer who served as an inspiration to succeeding generations of female golfers. Known for her long, accurate drives, as well as for her subtle touch in fairway play, she won 10 city championships in her home of Victoria, B.C., as well as three consecutive British Columbia amateur titles, the final one in 1949 completed when she was six months pregnant.

In the 1950s, she was a prominent figure on Canada’s national golf teams in international competition, serving in the 1960s as a non-playing team captain. Later in her playing career, a pair of provincial senior amateur titles and back-to-back national senior titles in 1976 and 1977 revived interest in the golfer.

After returning to recreational play, she went on to a distinguished career as an administrator for golf’s governing bodies.

Mrs. Todd competed in an era when a woman’s accomplishments in sports were usually acknowledged by male sportswriters only in relationship to their attractiveness, or domestic responsibilities. She was described as “comely,” “a tall, blonde girl” and “every bit as attractive in the flesh as she is on the cover page.”

Her clothing choices were featured on newspaper pages dedicated to what were deemed to be women’s interests, where her coordinated cashmere skirts and sweaters were praised. “She sometimes wears an all-beige set,” said Nona Damaske in the Victoria Daily Times, “which is most becoming against the green of the fairways.” Pearls were a favoured accessory.

Once, her team’s golfing wardrobe caused a minor international sensation. In 1963, the Canadian Commonwealth team shocked members of the Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia when they appeared on the course in slacks, a fashion faux pas not seen at the club in its 72-year history.

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Margaret Todd, far right, presents the 'Margaret Todd Trophy' to Prince Edward Island Team low net winners (Nettie MacLeod, Zelda Stuart, Joyce Beer, Edna Lord).Hugh Allan/Courtesy of the Canadian Ladies Golf Association and Canadian Golf Hall of Fame

“We always wear slacks at home,” explained a defiant Mrs. Todd, the team captain. “And when not wearing slacks we wear Bermuda shorts.”

On the sports pages, credit for her relaxed, natural swing was given to her husband, Jack Todd, a 10-handicap golfer who was described as her Svengali. While Mr. Todd spotted flaws and kinks on occasion, and quietly advised his wife, her skills were hard-earned and fine-tuned through hours of practice by a dedicated player. It did not hurt that the family home in the tony Victoria suburb of Oak Bay backed onto a fairway of the Victoria Golf Club, a beautiful links that served as her home course and on which she won 14 club championships.

Margaret Agnes Sutcliffe was born in Montreal on May 31, 1918, to the former Florence Agnes Hewett and Ernest Snowdon Sutcliffe, an executive with J.J. Gibbons, the first full-service advertising agency in Canada. Her mother had been born in Singapore, where her father served as British financial commissioner for the Malay States.

Young Margaret attended the private, all-girls Norfolk House School and Oak Bay High before graduating from Victoria College in 1936. After attending business school, she worked for Household Finance for several years. As a student, she showed athletic prowess in swimming and track and field before being introduced to golf by a boyfriend. Using her Aunt Nelle’s old set of hickory-shafted clubs, she showed so little aptitude for the game that the boyfriend suggested she stick to track.

She later dated John Hebden (Jack) Todd, a fellow swimmer who hailed from a prominent Victoria family. She was his playing partner on one date when he accomplished a hole-in-one on the 148-yard seventh hole at Royal Colwood outside Victoria. That good fortune heralded their own union, as the couple married a little more than two years later. They lived in Calgary for two years when he was posted to Alberta while serving in the army.

Mr. Todd, who managed a division of the famous J.H. Todd & Sons Ltd. salmon-canning company, started by his grandfather, was better known away from the course for his long tenure as a swimming instructor. For five decades, he worked with people with visual impairments, most notably creating a swimming program for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, for which he was awarded an Order of Canada in 1999. The couple both assisted as swimming guides.

Away from the golf course, the couple operated a sheep farm on Sidney Island in Haro Strait and were active in numerous charitable activities.

Mrs. Todd, who died on July 15, was predeceased by her husband, who died at the age of 90 in 2007. She leaves three sons, six grandchildren and five great grandchildren. She was also predeceased by a younger brother, E. Douglas Sutcliffe, an engineer who died at the age of 61 in 1982. A park in Vancouver’s False Creek neighbourhood is named after him for his role as housing project manager in the development.

In 1973, Mrs. Todd became the first female golfer to be inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame. She is also a member of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame (1997), Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame (1997), Golf Hall of Fame of B.C. (2001) and the Pacific Northwest Golf Hall of Fame (2011).

In 2010, she donated $100,000 in the name of herself and her late husband to finance an award for female varsity golfers at the University of Victoria.

“I’ve had a wonderful life in golf,” she told Cleve Dheensaw of the Victoria Times Colonist, “and wanted to give something back.”

An unflappable competitor on the course, she later admitted to being overwhelmed by the pressure, notably while competing in the 1946 provincial amateur championships. “That week I was a basket case,” she told golf historian Arv Olson. “I had to stay by myself in the Hotel Vancouver and I was scared out of my wits. The night before the semi-final I had the trots and I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t dare phone home because I was afraid I might start crying.”

She lost her semi-final match, but went on to win the next three championships, defeating Rena O’Callaghan of Vancouver in the finals in 1947 and 1948. The 1949 tournament was held on her home course, where she triumphed 5 and 4 over Marjorie Todd, her sister-in-law, in a 36-hole match played in near-gale winds. Some 200 spectators braved the elements to witness the Todd family battle.

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