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The Roar of a Lyon: He Won the Olympic Gold Medal in Golf in 1904

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It was quite an accomplishment for the unknown golfer George Lyon, to win the Gold Medal in the Olympics.

1904 Olympic Gold Medal Won by George Lyon

1904 Olympic Gold Medal Won by George Lyon

Glen Echo Golf and Country Club 1904 Olympics

Glen Echo Golf and Country Club 1904 Olympics

Early Life of George Lyon

Born George Seymour Lyon in Richmond, Canada 1858, one of thirteen children of Robinson and Sarah Lyon. His grandfather, also George Lyon, was from Scotland and immigrated to Canada in 1812 after aiding to defeat Napoleon in Portugal; also fighting in the 1812 war and, as a result, given land in Richmond, Canada making him one of the first settlers of the town. George's father, Robinson, also served as mayor of Ottawa in the 1860s. Our subject, George, served in the Canadian military and served in the Metis uprising.

While attending school in Richmond, George excelled in cricket, football, baseball, and tennis. He went on to play competitive competition in cricket for eleven years. At the same time, he was one of the best baseball players in the Toronto area in the 1880s. He was definitely an all-around athlete.

While waiting for practice to begin in cricket at the Rosedale Cricket Club, he was invited to try golf on the adjacent field. So apparently, he went over, picked a golf club up, tried the game, and fell in love with golf. The following year he won the golf title at Rosedale. And George was already thirty-eight years old when he began to play golf.

Strangely, he adapted his cricket swing for his golf games, becoming the butt of jokes by the media. George was such a colorful and enthusiastic character chatting and singing his way around the course. His accuracy and putting skills were legends. He would go on to win the Canadian Amateur Championship eight times from 1898 to 1914.


A Cricket Bat of George Lyon

A Cricket Bat of George Lyon

George Lyon and his Swing

George Lyon and his Swing

George Lyon, Golfer

George Lyon, Golfer

Evolution of Development Lambton Golf Course, Toronto, Canada

Evolution of Development Lambton Golf Course, Toronto, Canada

History in the Making

But soon, George's most famous accomplishment was on the horizon. In 1904, George and two companions drove to the Glen Echo Golf Club in St. Louis, Missouri, to qualify for the Olympics. Unfortunately, his two companions did not qualify. But George made qualifying. George and 71 golfers were competing.

The day was cold, raining, and gale-force winds were blowing. George was head to head with golden boy Chandler Egan who was the favorite. George kept playing his game while Egan fell apart. The crowd went wild. Here was George with his unorthodox swing winning and beating the best. He was quoted as saying:

"I do not think that winning this trophy and GOLD MEDAL means I am the best in the world, but I do know that it means I am not the worst." George was a true gentleman and extremely likable. At the awards banquet, George walked to the podium on his hands, all the while singing My Wild Irish Rose! That was George, always the fun guy enjoying life and laughing and singing.


The 1908 Olympics

In 1908 George flew to Britain to defend his Olympic Gold Medal. However, a strange thing happened among the countries of Britain, Ireland, and the USA. It seems they couldn't agree on what constitued an amateur. Therefore, that left George as the only eligible player. The Olympic committee voted to give George the Gold Medal but he REFUSED! When asked why he refused, he answered:

"I will only accept an award having won it through proper competition." Again George the gentlemen of honor and rules.

There was another time during a Canadian championship match play with his opponet desperately trying to get back in the game that he deliberately aimed his ball at George's golf bag. When the ball hit the bag, he claimed the hole by defauly. George went up to him and said "Sir, this is a gentlemen's game and clearly, you are not a gentlemen. If you need to win that badly, I'll give you the match." And George walked off the course. That was George, a man of principle.

George's 1904 Lost Olympic Gold Medal Lost

Although extensive searches have been done, the Gold Medal seems lost forever. Some say that George could have sold it to help during the depression, but most believe it is lost in oblivion. Think what it would be worth to a collector today.

George was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 1955, and in 1971 he was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. A remarkable true athlete and gentleman. George died in 1938 and is buried in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto, Canada.

A painting of George Lyon by Sir Grier hangs in the lobby of the Lambton Golf and Country Club, Toronto, Canada, and another hangs in the St. George's Golf and Country Club.

The book Olympic Lyon: The Untold Story of George Lyon by Michael Cochran covers his life and the history of Canadian golf.

George Lyon Olympic Trophy

George Lyon Olympic Trophy

Comments

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on May 11, 2021:

Thank you for visiting. I agree, he was a true gentleman and an honest one. Glad you enjoyed the article.

Readmikenow on May 10, 2021:

This is a fascinating story. Wow, what an honest guy. I enjoyed reading this.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on May 10, 2021:

MG, thanks for visiting. Golf is so beneficial to health. Keep playing. I am learning so much about golf.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on May 10, 2021:

1904 looks so long back. So nice you highlighted this achievement. I love golf it's my favorite sport.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on May 10, 2021:

Alicia, thank you for visiting. Hope you liked the article.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 09, 2021:

I’ve never heard of George Lyon before. He sounds like a very interesting man.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on May 09, 2021:

Pamela, thanks for visiting. I always enjoy your cimments.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on May 09, 2021:

I so enjoy your comments and appreciate your welcome visit. Thank you.

Liz Westwood from UK on May 09, 2021:

This is a fascinating biography. George sounds like a sporting all-rounder.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 09, 2021:

George Lyon had an interesting life. Thanks for this good article about hikm, Fran.

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