There are many ways that people are introduced to this wonderful game we all labor at. Like many golfers, I was introduced to golfing by my dad who took up the game in the early 1960s while he was stationed at Sea Island in Richmond, British Columbia, very close to Vancouver. This is dedicated to my dad who not only taught me many lessons in life, but groomed me into becoming a pretty decent golfer too.
Although a fairly low ranking service man in the Canadian Armed Forces, he was afforded many privileges due to his athletic prowess on the various bases across Canada. One of these privileges was accompanying the commanding officer of the Air Force Base at Sea Island in Richmond, B.C., on numerous golf outings in the early 1960s. He parlayed his incredible athletic skill into hitting a golf ball and his hand eye coordination into becoming a prolific putter and chipper. I witnessed him more than once chip in three times in a single round of golf and the number of consecutive one putts he would have on 18 holes bordered on ridiculous.
He was a very skilled dart and billiard player and I always believe that this deft touch that he had in those pastimes were integral in his development of his short game. When he was on, you would struggle to find anyone who could out putt or out chip him.
Due to the amount of stress he put on his body as a nationally ranked athlete in rugby, soccer, track and field and professional boxing, golf became his ultimate passion. Between the age of 40-86 he had many accomplishments including four holes in ones, club champion as well as being a dedicated volunteer running many golf groups and golf events.
When we settled into civilian life in Prince George, B.C., he developed a wonderful and caring relationship with the Norbraaten family who were the owners of his favorite golf course, Aspen Grove Golf Club. From the onset my dad was heavily involved in the development of Aspen Grove and the painting skills he had obtained, as an airplane finisher in the Royal and Canadian Air Force were evident at the golf course. He painted every building, sign, bench, post – anything that needed painting he was there to do it. I too did a lot of painting there, but I did a heck of a lot more golfing really.
Going through some boxes of newspaper clippings, I saw one where he set the new course record at Aspen Grove in one of the annual events. Yet he was far more proud of the friendships he created out there than any hole in ones he made or tournaments he had won.
He honed his short game in Prince George at a cute little local 18-hole par three course called Pine Valley Golf Course and was the man to beat over a few years in their match play events and annual Pine Valley Open. In one year he was runner up in the Pine Valley Open while I as a junior won the men’s first flight and you would’ve thought I had won the Masters. The next day when I had come home from school there was a brand new junior set of clubs with full cart and golf bag all set up in the basement for me as a surprise.
Beginning when I was 10 years old and up until last year, he and I played hundreds of rounds of golf together. We hugged and laughed so many times on the golf course people thought it was just amazing. One time while playing in a golf tournament we were about four holes apart and I could see him close by across an adjacent fairway. He beckoned me to rendezvous with him for a short second, as he would not want to hold up play ever. I jogged over to him and he handed me half a sandwich and a cookie. Some of the other golfers saw this and took to laughing. At the presentation the MC made note of it saying “Did anyone see young Bill running over to Bill Sr. to grab a bite to eat?” It brought out an honest laugh from the whole audience. You see ” young Bill” was about 40 years old at this stage.
As he got older and longer courses were too much of a challenge for him, he loved the smaller executive courses of the world especially a really sweet one up in Kelowna called MichaelBrook. There he played golf with his lovely companion Gladys, who he introduced to golf when she was in her late 70s. In her mid-80s she even made a hole-in-one.
Michaelbrook and the bingo hall were their second homes and on one occasion on the first hole, a short little one hundred yard par three, my dad said to the three guys he was playing with ” Watch this, I’m going to use my hybrid and just play it like a long chip”. It flew about 90 yards bounced up onto the green rolled 40 feet or so and hit the flag and went it in. Hole in one number 4.
I might be a little bit selfish and thinking that the games he played with me were some of his most enjoyable, but it’s true.
Although his grandson, my nephew, Scott isn’t what you call an avid golfer, when the three of us managed to rendezvous somewhere to play golf it was pure magic. The last time we did that was at Pinnacle Golf Course in Kelowna an awesome nine-hole course next to Gallagher’s Canyon Golf Course. Scott and I inherited his athletic talent and played numerous sports very well. We are all very competitive and even these rounds with my Dad had a bit of a competitive edge. Scott brought his “A” game that day tying his Uncle Bill and beating his Papa. Those are really cool memories for me.
In his last few years he moved over to Vancouver Island, one of his favorite places in the whole world, and he played numerous rounds with my lovely wife Myra and me. Come to think of it, as I was still a working stiff while he and Myra were retired, they played rounds that didn’t include me. It was an incredible way for them to bond.
Last year in 2016 he was getting a little less confident on his feet, his old rugby knees giving him a lot of grief so about August he played his last round of golf. He made it to the middle of the eighth fairway at Arrowsmith Golf & CC another one of his favorite places when he said “That’s it. I can’t finish this round my knees are killing me”. He never played again. He managed seven holes and pared three of them. About a month before that he made back-to-back birdies at Arrowsmith and I thought ” My God, that’s an amazing feat for an 86-year-old cancer ridden former athlete”.
Sadly father time caught up with him, and at 10 AM on Saturday, September 30 with my lovely sister Paula by his side and his favorite song My Way by Frank Sinatra playing in the background he breathed his last breath.
The day before knowing he wasn’t going to last much longer, Myra and I went up to see him in Campbell River. He was sleeping soundly in his room at the senior home and I leaned over and whispered to him “There has been no finer father that a son could be prouder of than you Dad. There are beautiful golf courses where you are going and someday we will tee it up again together. You go now Dad. I love you.” We walked out of his room, I turned back saluted him, waved goodbye and we walked out. I turned to Myra and told her we wouldn’t see him alive again, he would go now.
After hearing from my sister Paula that he had passed, I fulfilled something he asked me to do, weather permitting which was to play golf on the day he passed. Two hours after he passed away three of us, me, Myra and a good friend, Ken, who my dad had met just the month before went and played in his honor. He was the fourth in our group on that day. On the first hole looking at a tough uphill shot from off the green I looked skyward for a moment and heard him say his usual “give it a go son” and proceeded to hole out for a par. It was an indescribable and indelible moment.
Myra wearing a little golf angel from my dad on her hat, that my sister Lin had given Dad many years before, broke 50 for her first time ever on the front nine and shot her best 18 hole score ever of 104 on a Par 72 course.
What a beautiful way to be with him once again.