I’m in Cape Breton at Stanley Thompson’s remarkable Highlands Links, and may not get back in time, but Dave Kemp has been so kind as to mail me the details of the Al Balding funeral.
If I may given Robert’s travel plans this week. From today’s Globe and Mail, visitation is at Turner & Porter Peel Chapel on Thursday 2-4 and 7-9; service at Islington United Church Friday at 1 pm.
Thanks Dave. I spoke with Al’s son on Monday as I was heading to the airport. Apparently he had throat cancer that went undiagnosed until the start of July. It was stage four before they even knew what was happening.
Al was truly a man I considered a friend. One of the first prominent golf stories I wrote was on Al after he won the Canadian Senior CPGA at the age of 77. I spent a lot of time with him afterwards, and wrote a large feature on him in Golf Magazine. When I return home I’ll try to scan it and post it. It was one of the proudest moments of my professional career, and I know Al was thrilled to get the recognition at the time. We spoke regularly on the phone up until last fall. I kick myself for not calling him in Florida over the winter. He always called me “lad,” as he did with most people he met and spoke regularly of his fondness for golf courses like Hoylake. George Knudson should have been great, Al said, but he drank too much in the middle of his career to calm his nerves. Balding, as you might gather, was not a man short on opinion. I really liked him for it and will miss him. As a golf enthusiast, I could sit at a table at Credit Valley GC and listen to him tell stories of his time playing the Masters or the British Open and not say a word. I just wanted to soak it in. He was an amazing player and one of Canada’s all-time greats. Rest in peace, Al Balding.
On a not entirely unrelated note, Highlands Links is in the best shape I’ve seen in my three visits. Too many trees, and an awful Graham Cooke bunker job, but the bones of this course are still better than 99% of the other courses in Canada. Balding played Knudson in a Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf event here in 1963. I asked Al about it and all he could say was, “Lad, it was really, really windy.” And it was. From the footage of the first hole, both players hit long irons into a green that was barely 400 yards. Windy indeed.