Not finished yet

Clifford Robert in the middle, a young pro on the right!

On there is a thread about the five or six people you’d like to meet. As I pack our tings for the move to Scotland a lot of memories of people that I’ve already met and played with keep surfacing. And I wish I could remember them all!

I think I’ve met the best of the lot in Canadian golf: Sandra Post, Marlene Streit, George Clifton, Stan Leonard, Nick Weslock, Moe Norman, Geroge Knudson, Gordie Brydson, Gary Cowan, Gerry Magee, Al Balding to name a few. And I can remember playing with all of them, and I think I’ll tell you about every game, at another time.

I’ve enjoyed playing with several baseball players, including Joe Dimagio, Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Whitey Ford, Goose Gossage. Hosting the Celebrity Players Tournament two years, and Superstars four years really helped. I remember the day that I introduced Gary Carter and Joe Theisman to Reggie Jackson! As if they were all friends of mine. Joe was great before he became a “superstar”. One year he was going to speak at my kids school (we picked his bike and he won Superstars), the next year he was acting like Paris Hilton. We “fixed” his bike and he came second in Superstars, many people thought the broken leg ended his football career, actually it was a loose seat.

One of the most successful golf pros in Canada in 2006 was Grant Fuhr, the net minder. He won a couple CPTs plus a big one in Germany (including a Mercedes as a prize). I’ve only played with Grant twice but my wife played on his team several times, super guy and a nice family! Other hockey players that I’ve played with, Mike Palmateer, Tod Sloan, Ed Chadwick, the first Shack (Eddie), Bobby Orr, Andy Bathgate, Vick Hadfield and Darren Veitch. I have a story for every one. Most successful – Dave Creighton.

Only a foursome from Hollywood, Jackie Gleason, Kevin Costner, Sean Connery and Bill Murray. Bill Murray’s the best golfer, when he wants to be. My boss at Atlantis called one day and asked me to play with Joan Rivers. Fortunately my wife filled in for me, and really enjoyed the round (“you owe me bigtime”); later Joan invited her and her sisters to sit in the front row as they did a TV show with Reggis and Kathy Lee.

the Fuhr family with some other hosers

Politicians included George Bush Sr., Dan Quayle several times, Jean Chretien, Senator Sloley and Mike Harris. I also met Jimmy Carter waiting in a line for dinner reservations in Acapulco but never played with him. Lots of stories here, one quick one is when I played with Dan Quayle the second morning there was a single waiting and I asked him, Quayle, if we could invite the gent to play. It turned out to be the Joe or John McLaughlin from the McLaughlin Group and one thing they talked about was how McLaughlin had wanted to hire Rush Limbaugh and had to buy a TV and radio station to get his contract. That reminds me of a time when I was invited to a Mad River Golf Club house party – I stood in the living room listening to the men talk for an hour, then went into the kitchen to join the women. When my wife asked why I wasn’t with the men I had to explain that I had no idea what they were talking about, at least I knew something about menopause!

Speaking about leaders of industry (and Mad River had a few!) I consider John Akers (IBM CEO) my best. He was around a 30 handicap when I gave him his first lesson, four years later he was a member of Cypress Point, Augusta National and 3 other clubs, and around a 10 handicap. One morning I was sitting with an IBM VP and from across the lobby I heard Akers call “Hello Gary, will we play later?” The Director said something like “That *****, I’ve been with the company 30 years and he doesn’t even know my name, yet you guys are on first name basis”. I explained that he should switch from tennis to golf if he wanted to get ahead.
Clifford Roberts used to play 9-holes with me on Wednesdays in January. Other visionaries were Carl Ross (invented Lynx), Ian Craig, Jim Blaney, Jay Lilge. Golf is a wonderful way to meet people, but the stock tips can be killers. Once at the Comdex computer show in Las Vegas we were running a putting contest in the evening and there was one guy sort of hanging around so I invited him to play, and played with him. He was the last one to participate and I did notice that most of the Ingram/Lotus people were gathered round as we played the last hole. It turned out to be Bill Gates, and he became hooked on golf shortly after.

But there are people I really look forward to meeting, including people I feel that I know through our email relationship. Jeff Mingay the golf designer, Ian Andrew another designer, Robert Thompson the journalist. I’ve been lucky to have played with Lorne Rubenstein, although not often nor recent enough, never played with Tim O’Connor but like his Moe Norman book, played with Charles Price and Bob Drum, and John Steinbreder. Would love to meet George Peper, more so now that we are moving to St. Andrews and he wrote “Two Years in St Andrews.

Tomorrow we’ll get into the “golf education” of an old Pro, and the professional influences.

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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.

6 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Morning Gary

    Its 5:30 and I just read your – Not Finished Yet. It was fun to read. I left a golf meeting last night at about 9pm and Mike Harris, the our Pro and the former Pro at North Halton was one of the particpants. It got me thinking about the time we played North Halton in a Ontario PGA event with Moe and Greg Pidlaski – pouring rain most of the day. I enjoyed it anyway as I was playing with 3 real players. Just think of the additions you will make to this column one year from now.

    Oh Oh “Snarly” needs to go for a walk.


  • Jay, I think that fourball at North Halton had ONE real golfer (Moe), one future tycoon (you), and Greg and I. Not sure where Greg is, maybe Manitoba. But the key is the GOLF, brings us all together on one level, so many different people all trying to beat a little ball better than they did the day before.

  • Gary I believe Greg Pidlaski is the Director of Golf at the Kelowna Golf Club and has been there for probably 15 years. Leading a quiet existence doing an exceptionql great job, from what I hear from a lot of the “Alberta People” that are members there for the summer while going out once in a while “kicking’ all the young lions butts in their local zone tournaments.

  • Eric and I worked as Assistant Pros at the King’s Inn, Freeport, Bahamas in 1969. . . only Eric could do this. . . we played together often after work and one day Eric thought he would like to try out a different set of woods as his were not working too well. He borrowed the head Pro’s (Mike Smith) without his permission of course. Eric, as usual, was 14 over thru 14 and getting more upset by the stroke. After driving into the bush on the par 5, 15th. “enough was enough”. He gave the driver (Mike’s) a mighty heave and it too went sailing into the bush. We looked and looked but no driver could be found. Suddenly I felt alone in the bush – no Eric. I looked through the undergrowth and saw him back on the tee winding up to throw another wood. He let forth a mighty heave and I watched the club come sailing towards me and the bush. I walked over to where the club landed and believe it or not – right beside it was the driver. We found both clubs and Mike was none the wiser. Vintage Eric. . . .

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