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.