19th Hole

Canadian golf loses a legend with passing of Dan Halldorson

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Dan Halldorson greeted my e-mail last week with his usual wit.

“Dan, will you be around on Sunday to chat about the 30th anniversary of your win at the World Cup of Golf with Dave [Barr]?” I wrote.

He replied, “Hey Tim, it has been awhile. I guess you want to take a break from covering the Leafs and write about your true calling. Ha. Dan.”

The two of us wound up talking for an hour last Sunday evening. We discussed his win with Barr at La Quinta, California – the exact 30th anniversary is November 24 – for 10 minutes. The rest were old stories, jokes and catching up.

That was Dan Halldorson, a good man, a caring man. I could picture him cradling a glass of red wine as we chatted. The next day he had a stroke. Then, all of a sudden Canada had lost one of its best golfers and even better people, too young at age 63.

“We had a lot of good times,” said Barr, a few days later. The two played the Canadian Tour together, the PGA Tour and were Canadian teammates a dozen times at the World Cup and Dunhill Cup.

“He was a good golfer, a good person and he really cared about the Canadian golf scene,” Barr added.

After his playing days were over, Halldorson made sure the Canadian Tour survived when he became its executive deputy director. He recently became golf director at Oak Island, near Brandon, Manitoba, where he was raised and honed that dependable swing.

Halldorson was a winner on the PGA and Canadian tours. He was a course designer and author of an instructional book, Keys to Effortless Golf. He leaves behind his wife Pat and a legacy on the golf course.

His career highlights included:

Halldorson was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame. He was so proud of the fact that in the alphabetical list of Canadian Golf Hall of Famers he was next to Dick Grimm, a cherished mentor.

Halldorson is the only Canadian to win the World Cup twice. Canada had won the team championship three times. Al Balding and George Knudson won in 1968. Halldorson won alongside Jim Nelford in 1980.

Barr and Halldorson arrived at La Quinta confident about their chances. The American team of Lanny Wadkins and Tom Kite were the favourites, but the Canadian team was comfortable in the California desert.

Barr and Halldorson had played well enough at past Bob Hope Desert Classics. Barr was coming off a runner-up finish at the U.S. Open earlier that summer. Halldorson also would win on the PGA Tour for the second time five months later.

The two also had plenty of support from Canadians who were wintering there, friends and family.

One of the friends was former Canadian Tour player, Mark Shushack. He was battling brain cancer and shared the victory every step of the way.

“It was an even better week because Mark was able to share the win with us,” Halldorson recalled. “He walked most of the 72 holes. It was nice to have him there because he passed away a few years later.”

Halldorson and Barr began the final round with a five-shot advantage over the Americans. The two North American teams played together in the final round, but the Americans could not put any pressure on the Canadians, allowing England to sneak into second place. Barr and Halldorson combined for a 17-under score for a four-shot win over England’s Howard Clark and Paul Way.

“Danny played really well that week,” Barr said. “I think we had extended our lead to nine at one point.”

Barr remembers two funny stories from that final round. On the par-3, 16th, he and Halldsorson could hear the Marine Corps band practicing the Canadian national anthem for the trophy presentation.

Halldorson looked at Barr and joked that he hoped the rehearsal was not going to “jinx” the potential win. It certainly didn’t. But Halldorson bogeyed the final three holes to allow Clark to slip by him to win individual honours.

“I also remember we bought a couple bottles of Dom Perignon to take back with us to celebrate,” Barr said. “By the time we did all the press interviews and took pictures, we didn’t get back until late. All we had back at the hotel was a can of peanuts. So we had champagne and peanuts and later ordered a pizza for our champions’ dinner.

“It’s sad what has happened to Dan. But I wish Pat and the family all the best.”

We all do.