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On leaving Toronto

I’ve not been writing much on the site lately because I’ve been busy — not playing as much as unpacking boxes.

For the past 15 years I’ve lived in Toronto. I went there to seek employment after finishing my Masters degree and deciding I didn’t want to work in Kingston at the newspaper there. I got hooked on golf during that time and was already in love with a girl who ended up at school in Toronto. I married the girl and the golf took care of itself. While in Toronto I worked for a national newspaper, wrote five books and had two children. Then last year we started talking about leaving.

Don’t ge me wrong. I love Toronto, but the city had come to frustrate me. Traffic was never-ending, and costs were always rising. I didn’t see an end to either, and frankly, I didn’t use the central part of the city often. I rarely went downtown — the horrible traffic meant I’d avoid it as much as possible. So we put our house up for sale and as I write this I’m sitting in my new home, backing onto some woods only five minutes from London’s Hunt Club. Boxes still surround me, but it is getting closer.

I’m from the London area originally, having grown up about 15 minutes from the city. I completed both my undergraduate and graduate degrees at Western before heading east. My parents and my wife’s folks are both still in the city.

None of this is to suggest leaving Toronto was easy. Most of my friends are in the city and a lot of people I’ve met through my writing over the years. I’ll miss going to see concerts and catch the latest off-beat films. In both instances most of these will never come to London.

But most of all, I’ll miss the people and the city’s tremendous golf. It was in Toronto that I really started to write about the game, some 14 years ago. I’d come from Kingston, where golf was cheap and where I worked for the Kingston Whig-Standard, allowing me to play weekdays before heading into the office. Toronto was different. Even in the late 1990s, golf in Toronto felt expensive, and I really hadn’t touched the world of private golf. I’d jump in my car and play twilight rates at courses like St. Andrews Valley, Osprey Valley (when there was only a single course), and Thunderbird (today’s Royal Ashburn). But the cost would still eat into my pocketbook, so I decided I had to do something in the business if I wanted to fuel my addiction. I started writing about the game, largely for a site called Golfweb.com that would morph into PGATour.com. Later I’d write for Ontario Golf and SCOREGolf, as well as a slew of American magazines like T&L Golf and Golf Digest. By 2006 I’d written a best-seller and was writing a national newspaper column on golf. That allowed me access to the best golf the city had to offer — and it was a real pleasure and thrill to get to explore it.

I’ll always have great affection for Toronto because of its outstanding golf and the people who work at those courses. Kevin Thistle, who I first met at Angus Glen and who now runs Coppinwood, was a big help when I first started writing about the game. He knew the media was a great inexpensive way to keep Angus Glen in the public’s eye, and was always helpful when it came to stories I was writing.He also let me play at Angus Glen after work — something I’ve never forgotten. I also became interested in writing about golf design after meeting Doug Carrick and writing a story about him for a 2002 issue of the Canadian Open program. It was during that story that I met my now good friend Ian Andrew, who has since become one of the country’s great golf designers, and a stalwart supporter of classic golf. Ted McIntrye, then running Ontario Golf, employed me as a writer than a columnist and Bob Weeks and later Jason Logan had me write about big ideas for SCORE. More recently it is guys like Jeff Dykeman at the PGA that have connected with me and I’ve had a great relationship with not only the PGA of Canada, but also pros in Toronto, throughout the province of Ontario and across the country.

I also started this blog in the city nearly a decade ago.  At the time Going for the Green started I simply wanted to detail my opinions on the courses I was playing in an open and honest fashion. I’ve been doing that now for almost 10 years. It never gets old to me and the notion of discussing and dissecting golf courses remains a big part of what I like to do. In that regard, Toronto has terrific golf — some of best in North America and hands down the best in Canada. When I started to become fascinated by golf design I loved the fact I could visit places like St. George’s, Rosedale, Summit, Scarboro, Toronto GC, and Weston to see what the greats did nearly 100 years ago. On the modern side, places like Eagles Nest, Osprey Valley, Beacon Hall, Copper Creek and the National would generate a lot of my attention. Toronto is a city blessed with terrific courses by tremendous designers. I’ve been fortunate — lucky really — to be able to experience these places, play the game I love and write about it. I never take it for granted.

None of this is to say I’ll not be in Toronto again. I just won’t be practicing on the range at Eagles Nest, pounding new ProV1s till my hands are sore. And I’ll hopefully get to play places like Toronto GC again, but it’ll be once a year, on a special occasion. I’ll miss running into Eagles Nest head pro Jamie Trenholme and having a water while gossiping about the game, but I recognize it was time for a change of scenery.

In London, I’ve already played a few times at Tarandowah. It is my kind of place — without pretension, it recognizes it is a solid, blue-collar faux links that is a hell of a place to play golf on firm turf for a fair price. Thankfully London is blessed with a lot of good golf — with St. Thomas G&CC not far away, Redtail hidden about a half hour from my door, London Hunt’s palatial fairways minutes by car, and the old school grandeur of London Highlands just up Commissioners. There’s lots here to keep me interested.

When I’m tipping it up on Tarandowah’s opener, I won’t be missing the mess that is the Gardiner Expressway. I won’t be pondering whether it is worth risking getting stuck in perpetuity on the DVP. And I surely won’t miss the moron who is the mayor of Canada’s biggest city.

But I will ponder my friends, those I’ve come to know through golf, and hope I can visit, or perhaps they’ll come to visit me.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

29 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Relative to your ‘moron’ comment, look in the mirror, pal.

    You can now mooch golf freebies in the middle of cornfields in the London area.

    You did it for years in the area of Canada’s biggest city. We will not miss you in the slightest.

    At least the Mayor (not mayor) is cleaning up the patronage your left-wing Socialist friend, Miller, left.

    Good riddance to you, Thompson.

  • All the best to you, Rob. I’m starting to get the itch to leave as well…how sweet it would be to have a 5 minute drive to Kawartha for 9 holes with dad. I’d miss the great GTA golf, but I’d get over it.

  • Robert, thanks for the insight into Toronto and Ontario golf for the past many years. Your articles/blogs are usually very interesting, sometimes controversial, and always worth reading. I continue to find the rude and hateful comments on here both amusing and curious. This is golf for heaven’s sake…

    Golf is a sport that demands change as conditions/age/health, etc. play havoc with one’s abilities and perspectives. Sounds like you’ve been given a new opportunity to change both your life and your golf game, which is a wonderful thing.

    All the best. I assume location won’t affect your ability to create your blog and I look forward to your continuing output.

  • Re: Rob Ford. I played golf with David Miller. He was a smart fellow. Couldn’t stand his politics, but he presented himself well and was never an embarrassment to the city. Enough said.

  • Nice post, Robert — good luck with the new digs and hopefully I’ll find some time to join you for golf in London some day.

  • Sounds like a great move, RT. I too did my undergrad & grad studies at UWO. Met my wife there and feel London is one of those “hidden gems” of small cities. Look forward to continue reading the blog.

  • Robert,

    London isn’t far from the GTA. I bet you’ll see yourself in the area more than you think.

    Apart from that, my car is always ready and gased up for a round. Hope we can get out soon…Tarandowah maybe?

  • Political comments have ZERO place with the Game of Golf. Your comment demonstrated who you really are.

    By the way, who paid for the game with you and that socialist, Miller? Since neither one of you pay for anything, I’d be interested.

    I hope you played at Don Valley (which he let go down the drain, condition-wise).

    All of the money cutbacks for city-owned golf course went to ridiculous small theatre groups and condo developers. All his buddies! (nudge/wink)

  • Great article Rob. Thanks for the insight.

    Hope to see you at Tarandowah for a round. I drive there frequently from Chatham to play. To me its worth the hour and a bit up the 401. Nothing quite like seeing horse and buggy plough the fields like the good ol days and then go play good ol golf.

  • I also spent a lot of time in the Forest City at UWO. London is still a great city but the downtown seems to be suffering a bit from the loss of white collar jobs due to the acquisitions of Canada Trust and London Life over the past 20 years.

    is the New Yorker cinema still operating? It used to be a great place to see those independent films that didn’t normally play in London.

    And you still have some good golf there – I used to play Thames Valley while going to school. There is also Sunningdale north of the city.

  • Robert,
    Having enjoyed your blog for some time, it was with much regret to see your “moron” reference to Rob Ford. Hosi was very correct in voicing his displeasure (maybe a little too colorful) and you can only benefit from the fact that others have differing opinions for the reasons behind the decline in T.O.

    • Not a fan of the mayor. Sorry. I like the concept of a fiscally conservative approach to running Toronto, I just don’t think he represents the city well. Sorry to offend. Just an aside, that’s all.

  • Well, it’s just a blog and I can comment as well.

    Now, you can take your left-leaning, socialist, special interest group mindset and beat up on Mayor Joe Fontana and moooooooch freebies down in London.

    By the way, I GUARANTEE Miller billed his credit card purchase of the game back to the City coffers.

    That’s what Socialists do.

  • Robert:

    Enjoy reading your blog always, but you were off base with your Rob Ford comment and I disagree that you can say anything because it is your blog, even you know there are limitations.

    Enjoy London and I do agree with you that Toronto is just too busy, I too almost refuse to drive down to the city, we now have weekend GO train service whcih makes it somewhat better.

  • Gents. Enjoy four more years of the Ford administration if this blog is any sort of poll of support for the mayor. Sorry I made an off-hand remark. Rob Ford really didn’t have anything to do with my decision to leave Toronto, I just think he’s embarrassingly bad at representing the city.

    I don’t want anyone to have the impression I didn’t love Toronto. I did and the city was good to me. The golf is world class. The mayor, less so.

    What do people think is so great about this guy? That he can read while driving? That he flips off constituents? That he almost pounded on a Toronto Star reporter (well, that’s perhaps understandable)? That he couldn’t drop 10 pounds? That his wife has called 911 on him time and again?

    Those are all things we expect out of the leader of a world class city. Makes me wish John Tory had been a better campaigner. Then the city would have had someone who could truly represent it with class.

    Frankly, I’m surprised that people who read this site are fond of Ford, but I also don’t care. It was an aside. The city has big problems and the Ford brothers aren’t smart enough to start to think about how to solve them. That’s a shame. I am very fond of Toronto — but don’t have a lot of hope its problems can be solved.

  • Rob,

    I hope you enjoy London. Good work voicing your opinion on the leadership in Toronto. You don’t hold anything back, and that’s one of the reasons I love your blog.

    Ryan

  • RT,

    I wouldn’t worry too much about all the criticisms. The whole post was an aside really and nobody seemed to care about that…people need to learn to understand and accept others will have different opinions. The only reason they are angered is because they value yours so much 😉

  • Now I know that most of the moronic golfers that post dribble on “Toronto Golf Nuts’ post on this blog as well.

    Thompson, you will have get your ‘mooch freebie’ card for Tarandowah updated to your new London address.

    Good riddance!

  • Best wishes on your move and we look forward to reviews of some of the fine courses in your area.

    I don’t always agree with what you have to say, but I enjoy your commentary and value your opinions.

    As for some of the previous comments, why would a person want to only read things and converse with people with whom they always agree? Not much growth there – may as well stand and speak to your mirror.

    And yes, his blog, his dime, his choice of words.

    Keep up the excellent work.

  • Robert,
    Always enjoy your blog, whether I agree with you or not. Sounds like you made a good decision for your family. As for Politics…..it is always controversial just like golf course reviews. Let hope we all don’t take it too seriously.
    Enjoy

  • hosi – it’s drivel, not dribble. If you are going to call out morons, you might as well use the language correctly.

  • Hey Tight***

    I know what drivel is.

    Obviously you haven’t been in the TGN site – it’s dribble.

    I don’t need some Tight*** correcting my grammar!

  • Rob:
    All the best in London, a great city. As a teenager and university student, I thought about how boring London was. As an adult with kids and then living in Toronto, I thought about how great London was. Having made the move outta the Big Smoke 16 years ago to lovely Rockwood, I can completely understand. All the best, and say hi to my Ma and Pa when you’re around Wortley Village.

  • Enjoy the great courses in and around London Robert. After playing Highland this spring I don’t understand why people aren’t talking more about this course. I thought it was an excellent course with really interesting topography and some very nice bunker work. I’d be happy playing there everyday!!

    I’m also perplexed as to why people are so upset with your comments about Rob Ford. Unless they are a close personal friend of the Mayor, who cares what you think. I thought that’s what free speech was all about.

    Have fun and keep opening people’s eyes to new courses across Canada. If you haven’t played Sarnia or Norfolk, seek them out, you won’t be dissappointed.

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