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Where did the fun go? or how did we survive

Today I spent two hours talking to an old friend, Fred Bell. Fred played and coached hockey, worked for Air Canada, then started his own travel agency, ended up in the golf business in Alberta and now lives “near Stouffville”. I have known Fred since 1967, he organised Pro Ams and charters and I helped with the golf part. He did 4 Pro Ams in Freeport, 66, 67, and 68 at the King’s Inn, and then 1969 moved to Lucayan. (I worked winters at King’s Inn and then Lucayan, same years!)

“1968 was the best, Al Balding had just won the Canada Cup, great group, Ron Hewatt was MC”. Fred then named every professional and every club that played, and most of the amateurs. For every year!

“In 1969 I divided it into two tournaments, the Quebec teams had different handicaps so I thought they’d rather have their own week”. The next year Fred branched out and the tourney was at Atalaya Park in Spain. I recall a great week, Leon Decaire, Bruce Butterworth, Gord Stein, lots of fun. The next year the Quebec group got hijacked. As the date for the event drew closer the Pro that Fred had trusted to look after the province kept saying no one was signing up. When we arrived the Quebec group was leaving, a new travel company was born, and the pro’s wife still, in 2007, runs it. Golf Holidays.
Fred took the group to Athens Greece the next year, 1972. The night before the departure from Toronto Fred had a party at Ports of Call. When the plane arrived in Athens there was an extra passenger, a Czech without a passport! She had joined the group somehow, was delayed by immigration, but two hours later they personally drove her to the hotel! Turns out she was Xavier Hollander’s friend.

The next year they went to Rio, I didn’t because I stayed to work in Greece at the new Corfu Golf Club. Fred Bell has been a big part of my life, one reason I’ve travelled so much. We moved back from Greece when I got the Head Pro job there (do I need to say Fred Bell was a member at Bayview?).

Where did the fun go, or When did the fun stop: Fred has an unbelievable long term memory and today names and stories kept coming…Jimmy Hoffa hiding at Bayview….Chicote’s Bar in Madrid..Chez Moi Tournaments…Balding, Knudson..the two Erics, Bailey and Hanson, both superb golfers, used to go to the British Amateurs, Lou Molner, Wally Crouter, Bob Gray, pro at Scarboro, Bob Cunningham pro at St. George’s, Ted Davey, Bruce Irwin “The Midas Touch”…….”Do you remember we were driving back to Bayview from Brampton and we got pulled over on Highway 7, it was 1:00 am. When I got out, the policeman noticed I had my spikes on, and asked if I’d been drinking, and I said It was mandatory!” After a change of drivers the OPP gentleman escorted us to the Bayview parking lot. The good old days!

Sorry to ramble but I realized today, as Fred drove off to watch his friends play (he can’t as he’s getting over surgery), we have to remember our friends, it’s a long life (hopefully) and we don’t live it or get through it by ourselves. And golf makes the greatest way to get through it cause you can play with friends.

Robert Thompson – you have to sit down with Fred and a recorder, could be a series!

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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.

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