Golf was Nick Weslocks life right up until the end. The 89-year-old member of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame died suddenly in hospital on the weekend, but played golf up until just a few weeks before his death.
Known as Nick the Wedge, for his stellar short game, the Burlington, Ont. resident won the Ontario Open seven times between 1946 and 1969 as an amateur in tournaments that involved many top professional golfers. He also played in four Masters and in 1947 he finished third in the Canadian Open, just four strokes behind eventual winner Bobby Locke. Only George Lyon, who was second in the tournament in 1910, came closer as a Canadian amateur to winning the tournament.
It was his play in that tournament that generated Weslocks nickname. In the third round at Scarboro Golf and Country Club, Weslock consistently fired wedges close to the pin, spinning the ball into position. Not everyone believed such shots were possible.
I played with Clayton Heafner, he said. He wouldnt sign my card because he thought it was an illegal wedge. However tournament officials ruled there was nothing illegitimate about Weslocks short irons, and a legend was born in the process.
Not that Weslock needed such a story to support his status as one of the best to ever play the game in Canada. Weslocks record of being low amateur in the Canadian Open 11 times, a record that will likely never be touched given the emergence of professional golfers as the games best players.
Former Canadian PGA Tour winner Dick Zokol spoke regularly with Weslock after winning the Canadian Amateur in 1981. Zokol says what Weslock lacked in ball striking was made up for in his competitive nature. He was tenacious, says Zokol. He was so cunning and because he was never the best ballstriker, thats why he became so good with his wedges.
Zokol says he would run into Weslock, often alongside Moe Norman, in the players lounge at the Canadian Open, where Weslock and Norman regaled the players with stories.
Thats where he shined, telling stories, says Zokol. He was a real character, the real deal. Guys like him dont come around much anymore. He dug his knowledge out of the dirt, if you know what I mean.
It strikes me that Weslock is the end of a line of great Canadian golfers that excelled in the post-war period, including Al Balding, George Knudson, Stan Leonard, and Moe Norman. We may not see their likes again.