There are countless memorable golf shots witnessed while playing the game or experiencing on television. Tiger Woods is synonymous with many of those iconic shots, including his 2000 Canadian Open bunker shot at Glen Abbey Golf Club to solidify his rare status as a Triple Crown winner.
Outside of the professional tour ranks, it is another moment by a Canadian legend that included among the greatest shots in the storied history of amateur golf. With a one-stroke lead on the 18th hole at Wilmington Country Club during the 1971 U.S. Amateur Championship, Gary Cowan’s tee shot caught the last fairway bunker, kicked out, and left him with a shot in 4-inch rough, 135 yards from the green. The Kitchener native needed to bogey the hole, at a minimum, to force a playoff with American Eddie Pearce. A par, and Gary wins.
He grabs his 9-iron and swings, reliving the moment – “As I, and the hundreds of spectators crammed around the 18th green watched, the ball carried to the front of the green and began rolling. Initially, I was unhappy with my execution. I thought I had hit the ball too hard and yelled for it to stop. I lost sight of the ball as it started to skate towards the back of the green and the flagstick. That’s when I heard the spectators gasp. I thought, ‘maybe I hadn’t hit it too hard after all?’ I never imagined I had sunk the shot, but just then I heard somebody yell, “It’s gone in for an eagle!”
Gary Cowan is one of the most successful and revered amateur golfers of the past century. An honoured member of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame, he chose to write a memoir with journalist David McPherson about his life in golf in his new book “From Rockway to Augusta”. To mark the 50th anniversary of his second U.S. Amateur title, the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame has partner with Cowan to create a website featuring some of the stories published in the book. The website launches on September 4th, the same day 50 years ago that that eagle launched Cowan into the records book for a second time.
Golf writer and fellow honoured member Lorne Rubenstein supplied the forward to the book and wrote, “Fifty years have come and gone, but I remember and can see Cowan setting up on the tee, taking very little time, and drilling his drive down the fairway. The golf ball curved a lot more in those days, but it curved only when Cowan wanted it to. He could hit any shot he wanted to, when he wanted to, and had proven himself one of the finest amateurs in the game. He was a world-class golfer.”
Golf pioneer and Canadian Golf Hall of Fame member Jocelyne Bourassa passes away at 74
Jocelyne Bourassa (Bernard Brault/ Golf Canada)
Golf Canada and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum are sad to report the passing of Jocelyne Bourassa.
The Quebec golf legend was a pioneer and inspiration to young female golfers across the country for close to 60 years.
“I wouldn’t be here and able to talk about my career without Jocelyne,” said Lorie Kane who won four times on the LPGA Tour and was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 2016.
“When I decided to turn pro in 1993 she was working with du Maurier to establish the du Maurier series so I was able to learn how to be a pro from one of the best.”
Kane said the lessons included dealing with sponsors and how to give clinics and how to make the game fun on the corporate level.
“All of those things helped elevate me to who I am today,” she says. “I think it was my second tournament I played in that series I was pretty nervous about how I might be accepted or treated and Jocelyne made a point of coming over to me and telling me I was welcome and that if I ever needed advice she was there for me.”
During her amateur career in the 1960s and 70s Bourassa won three Quebec Junior Championships (1963, 1964 and 1965) and four Amateur Championships (1963, 1969, 1970 and 1971).
She also won the Canadian Women’s Amateur in 1965 and again in 1971 and then turned pro the following year.
“She and I went head-to-head a lot as junior players,” says Sandra Post who has fond memories of her follow Canadian Golf Hall of Famer.
“We were competitors back then but as the years went on we became very good friends. She was so much fun to be around. Very popular and very talented.”
Bourassa joined the LPGA Tour in 1972 and won their Rookie of the Year award. That helped her garner the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award that year as Canada’s best female athlete.
The Shawinigan, Que., native was also named to the Order of Canada in 1972.
Her biggest professional victory came the following year when she captured the inaugural La Canadienne at the Municipal Golf Club in Montreal.
No other Canadian was able to win the Canadian Women’s Open until Brooke Henderson’s victory 45 years later in Regina.
Bourassa’s eight-year LPGA Tour career was cut short by injuries but she began a second career immediately by becoming the du Maurier Classic’s executive director.
Post says it was Bourassa who helped make that event one of the most popular on the LPGA Tour with the players.
“They updated the accommodations, and the hospitality wanting the players to have a great experience,” said Post. “At that time they were really cutting edge.”
Bourassa was active in helping promote golf in Quebec at all levels and served on the Quebec Golf Hall of Fame Committee from 2011 to 2019.
Bourassa was inducted into the Quebec Sports Hall of Fame in 1992, the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Quebec Golf Hall of Fame in 1996 and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.
The Golf Journalists Association of Canada honoured her in 2014 with their highest honour, the Dick Grimm Award, for a lifetime of service to the game.
“This is a sad day for Canadian golf,” said Meggan Gardner, head of Heritage Services for Golf Canada. “Jocelyne Bourassa was Canada’s first golfer to win an LPGA event in their home country but she took her national pride to the next level by helping to develop a competitive tournament series for women.
“Outside of her playing record, which is very impressive, she was a great mentor to golfers of all levels. Her legacy will continue to shine for many years to come.”
Bourassa, who was 74, had been battling dementia for several years.
Donations can be made in memory of Jocelyn to First Tee – Québec at this link.
Canadian Golf Hall of Fame Celebrates 50th Anniversary with Virtual Gala
The first full week of June brings warm weather, excitement for summer, and in normal times, the RBC Canadian Open. This year is extra special, as the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame celebrates 50 years of existence.
Despite the RBC Canadian Open’s cancellation due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, it didn’t stop the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame from hosting its 50th anniversary with a virtual gala.
On Tuesday, June 8, co-hosts Bob Weeks and Gail Graham brought Canadian golf fans together with a one-hour ceremony, celebrating the sport’s rich history in this country.
“Although we aren’t allowed to commemorate this achievement in person, it doesn’t diminish the importance of this celebration,” said Golf Canada President Liz Hoffman.
The night began with Gail Graham interviewing Sandra Post, the 1988 Canadian Golf Hall of Fame inductee. The two reflected on Post’s career, where she became the first woman from Canada to compete on the LPGA Tour. Post won eight times on the LPGA Tour including the LPGA Championship in 1968.
“I was very privileged to represent the LPGA and Canada around the world,” Post said.
One of those memories was Adam Hadwin’s 59 at the 2017 CareerBuilder Challenge. The Abbotsford, B.C. native recorded 13 birdies on the card that day, which at the time was the ninth sub-60 round in PGA Tour history.
Brooke Henderson occupied two top-10 moments; winning the CP Women’s Open in 2018 at Wascana Country Club in 2018 (#3) and becoming the winningest Canadian (man or woman) with nine titles following her victory at the 2019 Meijer LPGA Classic. Now, with 10 victories, Henderson reminisced on the importance of winning the CP Women’s Open in her career.
“CP Women’s Open has always been a big part of my life. Finally winning the tournament in 2018 was honestly a dream come true,” Henderson said.
Winning top honours was Mike Weir’s Masters victory in 2003. Weir converted a par putt on the 72nd hole to force a playoff, which he won on the 10th hole. As the Sarnia, Ontario native continues to succeed on the Champions Tour, he still marvels at his major achievement 18 years ago.
“It somewhat feels surreal that happened so many years ago,” Weir said during the ceremony.
Weir became the first Canadian man to win a major golf championship. At that time, many of the current Canadian golfers on the PGA Tour were teenagers at the time, including Corey Conners and Mackenzie Hughes. Weir understands how this win inspired so many Canadians to believe they can succeed on the PGA Tour.
“I can’t say enough what he showed Canadians what can be done in golf,” said David Hearn when discussing the impact of Weir’s Masters victory.
“I very much enjoy encouraging these young guys on,” Weir said. “Any bit of advice that may be helpful, I relish that.”
GJAC Virtual Summit presented by RBC – Canadian Golf Hall of Fame & Museum
The Golf Journalists Association of Canada (GJAC) Virtual Summit presented by RBC on the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame & Museum took place May 12, 2021, which is part of an ongoing GJAC series intended to help membership stay connected, as well as to generate discussion and opportunities around important issues in the game.
GJAC Virtual Summits presented by RBC are one hour in length and are recorded for public viewing. You can watch this one below. The format consists of a moderated question and answer period, followed by a brief opportunity for questions from attendees.
Panelists for the event included:
Cathy Sherk – Honourable CGHF Member
Ted Fletcher – Son of Late Honourable CGHF Member Pat Fletcher
Meggan Gardner – Director, Heritage, Golf Canada
Garry McKay, GJAC Moderator
The Canadian Golf Hall of Fame & Museum will be holding a virtual gala on June 8 as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations. The FREE event will be co-hosted by Bob Weeks and Gail Graham.
Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum to celebrate 50th anniversary in 2021
The Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum is inviting Canadians and golf enthusiasts to help celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2021 by weighing in on the 50 most influential moments in Canadian golf.
The Canadian Golf Hall of Fame enlisted the support of golf leaders, media, and historians to help create a list of the 50 most influential moments in Canadian golf history. The moments will be showcased online and Canadians are invited to share in the history and vote on their favourite moments.
The 10 most moments receiving the most votes will be showcased on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 during the RBC Hall of Fame 50thAnniversary Gala presented by Nike Golf. The virtual gala celebration will take place on what would have been RBC Hall of Fame Day during the RBC Canadian Open which was cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Following the virtual gala, the top moments will also be celebrated through social channels through the end of the 2021 season.
“Canada’s storied golf history is marked by the signature accomplishments of so many talented legends of our sport and the Top-50 Most Influential Moments voting celebration invites Canadians to share in the moments they feel are most meaningful,” said Golf Canada Director of Heritage Services Meggan Gardner. “While we won’t be able to celebrate in person, the virtual RBC Hall of Fame 50th Anniversary Gala presented by Nike Golf lets us pivot to invite more golf enthusiasts to be a part of the celebration.”
The virtual gala will feature a video showcase of the top-10 greatest moments in Canadian golf as well as interviews with golfers or individuals connected to the moments. The gala will be co-hosted by a pair of honoured members – TSN golf personality Bob Weeks and former LPGA Tour player Gail Graham.
As part of the 50th anniversary celebration, an online auction is currently underway to raise legacy funding for the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum through the Heritage Fund of the Golf Canada Foundation.
Founded in 1971, the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame began honour the legends of our sport, beginning with the inaugural induction class that included Ada Mackenzie, George Lyon, Charles Murray, Marlene Streit, George Cumming, and Sandy Somerville. To date, 83 honoured members and their accomplishments as players and builders of the game are showcased in the Hall of Fame and Museum along with history, innovations, and standout moments through the storied history of golf in Canada.
JOIN IN CELEBRATING THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CANADIAN GOLF HALL OF FAME
With its long history and vast geography, Canada boasts many strange and spooky tales. There are haunted coal mines in Cape Breton, poltergeists in Calgary and even a pair of haunted boots in St. Vincent’s Newfoundland. It is no wonder, therefore, that golf courses across the country are rumoured to be home to some extraordinary spirits.
Winning the award for the Canadian golf course with the spookiest name is Haunted Lakes Golf Club in Alix, a town east of Red Deer, Alta. It is here an ancient drama plays out every winter along the third fairway, where Haunted Lake hugs the front right of the green.
Before Europeans arrived, native groups camped on the lake’s eastern shore. One winter, seven hunters camped there for the night. In the morning, they looked out across the lake and spied the magnificent head and antlers of a deer caught in the ice.
The seven headed off and upon reaching the creature, they started to chip away at the ice. The mighty animal, which was very much alive, gave a great heave and smashed through the ice. It swam for shore, breaking a path before it. The deer made it to shore and the safety of the woods, but the men were not so lucky. They plunged through the ice and all seven drowned.
It is said the seven hunters have haunted the lake ever since, giving the spot its name. Locals also claim that every winter a mysterious phenomenon can be observed as each year a huge fissure appears in the ice along the path the deer travelled to the shore.
Several provinces east of Alberta you will find Glen Abbey Golf Course in Oakville, Ont.
The story says there is a house on the property which was built in 1937 by a mining engineer as his weekend retreat. The engineer, Andre Dorfman, was a leading figure in the Canadian mining industry at the time.
In 1953 Dorfman sold the house to the Jesuit Fathers of Upper Canada as a retreat. The property was sold again in 1963 to businessmen who opened a golf club. In memory of the Jesuits, the course was given the name Glen Abbey. Soon after the club opened, reports of a specter began to surface.
Within 10 years, they started talking about a ghost in the building. The story is that the ghost lives in the old mansion and walks up the back stairs and down the main hallway towards the library.
The mansion is a good example of the stately homes built in Oakville in the early twentieth century. It is constructed of stone with a red clay tile roof and features a wood-lined library on the second floor. Originally known as RayDor Estate House, the building has been designated as a heritage property. Prior to 1975 it served as the golf course’s clubhouse and currently is home to an investment company.
One of the rooms in the basement is actually made to replicate the ship in which the original builder came over from Switzerland.
The ghost in the old mansion is said to be male, and eyewitnesses agree that it resembles a Jesuit father.
Victoria Golf Club in Victoria, B.C., boasts both an impressive course history and a ghost or two of its own. The club is beautifully situated on a rocky point at the southern end of Vancouver Island.
The club dates back to November 1893 when local golf enthusiasts negotiated for permanent rights to play the rough fields of Pemberton Farm. Originally, golfers were prohibited from using the grounds over the summer, when cattle grazed what would become today’s fairways.
Like Haunted Lakes, the Victoria Golf Club may be haunted by early aboriginal inhabitants. One researcher suggests that some of its phantoms may be the souls of native warriors killed in battle centuries ago. However, these spirits pale beside the club’s other resident, the late Doris Gravlin, possibly Victoria’s most famous ghost.
John Adams is an expert on Doris, as she’s affectionately called by locals. A historian and author, Adams is best known as the proprietor of the “Ghostly Walks” tour, which explores historic courtyards and spooky places where spirits like Doris make their presence known.
“Doris Thomson was born in Blackburn, Lancashire in 1906 and immigrated to Canada with her parents,” recounts Adams. The Thomson family settled in Victoria where Doris’s mother worked at a private hospital. Doris became a nurse as well, until 1930 when she married Victor Gravlin.
Victor was a sports reporter for the Colonist newspaper, spending many happy hours golfing with his brother Walter, head pro at the Uplands Golf Club. The hours Victor spent with Doris would prove to be much less happy.
“When her husband began to drink heavily, Doris left him,” explains Adams, adding that Doris found work as a private live-in nurse.
“In mid-September of 1936 Victor delivered a letter to Doris,” Adams says. “Its contents were unknown, but are believed to have been a request for her to meet him to discuss reconciliation.”
Doris stepped out for a walk at about 7:45 pm on September 22, 1936; Victor left his parents’ house shortly thereafter. One observer saw them together on Runnymede Avenue, but after that, neither was seen alive.
Doris and Victor were reported missing. A search ensued and days later, Doris’s corpse was discovered. Her body was later discovered amid the driftwood on the beach near the 7th green by a caddy looking for lost balls. She had been strangled and her shoes, belt and felt hat were missing.
Gossips maintained that Victor had escaped. But they were wrong.
“One month later a fisherman found Victor’s body floating in the kelp beds off the ninth fairway,” describes Adams. “A length of rope was found in his coat pocket, along with Doris’s missing attire. The police concluded he had murdered his wife then committed suicide by walking into the water.”
The discovery of two bodies on the grounds gave rise to the notion the club was haunted, and many sightings have been reported since.
“Typical manifestations are a fast-moving figure in white, a feeling of doom, a cold wind and a globe of spectral light,” says Adams. “Doris also plays havoc with motorists along Beach Drive, sometimes flying through open windows and even penetrating windshields as a cold mist.”
Doug Sanders, colourful RBC Canadian Open winner, dies
Doug Sanders (Golf Canada Archives)
Doug Sanders brought a flamboyance to golf fashion ahead of his time, a colourful character known as much for the 20 times he won on the PGA TOUR as the majors that got away.
Sanders died Sunday morning in Houston, the PGA Tour confirmed through a text from Sanders’ ex-wife, Scotty. He was 86.
Sanders was still an amateur when he won his first PGA Tour event in 1956 at the RBC Canadian Open in a playoff against Dow Finsterwald, and his best year was in 1961 when he won five times and finished third on the PGA Tour money list.
But he is best known for four runner-up finishes in the majors, the most memorable at St. Andrews in the 1970 British Open. He only needed par on the final hole of the Old Course to beat Jack Nicklaus, and Sanders was 3 feet away. He jabbed at the putt and missed it, and Nicklaus beat him the next day in a playoff.
“If I was a master of the English language, I don’t think I could find the adjectives to describe how I felt when I missed that short one,” Sanders said after the playoff, where Nicklaus beat him by one shot. “But that’s golf, and that’s the fascination of the game.”
Sanders also finished one shot behind Nicklaus in the 1966 British Open at Muirfield. He had a one-shot lead going into the final round of the 1961 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills and finished one behind Gene Littler, and he finished one shot behind Bob Rosburg in the 1959 PGA Championship at Minneapolis Golf Club.
The loss to Nicklaus took its place with other near-misses in golf, such as Scott Hoch at the 1989 Masters. Sanders once cited Walter Hagen saying no one ever remembers who finishes second.
“But they still ask me if I ever think about that putt I missed to win the 1970 Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I tell them sometimes it doesn’t cross my mind for a full five minutes.”
But there was never any mistaking Sanders, known as the “Peacock of the Fairways” for his Easter-egg collection of colours he wore on the golf course, even after he was done competing.
“The two most frequent questions on tour were, `What did Arnold Palmer shoot?’ and `What’s Doug Sanders wearing?”’ Sanders told Golf Digest in 2007.
Tommy Bolt once said of Sanders, “The man looks like a jukebox with feet.”
Also overlooked were his 20 victories on the PGA Tour, the last of which was the 1972 Kemper Open by one shot over Lee Trevino. He won at some of the bigger spots on tour, such as Colonial, the Western Open and Doral. When he won the RBC Canadian Open in 1956, it was 29 more years before another amateur – Scott Verplank – won on the PGA Tour.
Sanders played in one Ryder Cup, in 1967 in Houston, with Ben Hogan captain of what is regarded one of the best U.S. teams from that era of the matches.
He was born in Cedartown, Georgia, and played college golf at Florida.
Sanders stayed active after no longer competing, sponsoring the Doug Sanders Celebrity Classic for six years and a junior golf championship in Houston.
Canadian Golf Hall of Fame introduces age restriction of 40
Oakville, Ont. – The Canadian Golf Hall of Fame has announced that following a significant review and subsequent change to its terms of reference and election process, the Hall of Fame Selection Committee has instituted an age restriction of 40 going forward for induction into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.
This change to the nomination and election process is the first-ever introduction of a minimum age restriction on candidates submitted for consideration to receive the highest honour in Canadian golf.
The decision to introduce an age restriction aligns with the selection protocol for other internationally recognized golf halls of fame, most notably the World Golf Hall of Fame which introduced an age restriction of 50 in recent years.
“The Selection Committee undertook a deep review of our terms of reference and election process with a goal to better align Canada’s National Golf Hall of Fame with selection protocols for other hall of fames across the global golf community,” said Sandra Post, Chair of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame Selection Committee. “With the World Golf Hall of Fame age restriction of 50, we felt that our own National Hall of Fame would be best suited with an age restriction of 40. The Committee also felt that instituting this change makes our selection process more standardized and better defined going forward.”
Throughout its 50-year history, only four individuals under the age of 40 have been elected as honoured members of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame – Marlene Streit in 1971 (37); Mike Weir in 2009 (39); Doug Roxburgh in 1990 (39); and Gary Cowan, who at 34 years old was inducted in 1972 as the youngest honoured member ever.
The Canadian Golf Hall of Fame Selection Committee will be meeting in the coming weeks to review and vote on the slate of candidate nominations submitted for consideration through the CGHF’s open submission process for nomination.
“Given our open process for nominations to the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and our upcoming review of candidates who have been submitted for consideration, the Selection Committee believes it’s important to be transparent with the Canadian golf community and future nominators that an age restriction has been instituted which will be added to our Canadian Golf Hall of Fame nomination form going forward.”
Nominations for the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame can be submitted at any time of the year (click here for a link to the nomination form). However, for a candidate to be eligible for election to the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame for the next calendar year, the nomination must be submitted and received by July 31
It is with great sadness that Golf Canada, the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame Museum as well as the entire golf community mourns the loss of Margaret (Sutcliffe) Todd, who passed away July 15, 2019 at the age of 101.
Born May 31, 1918 in Montreal, Todd was a pioneer in Canadian women’s golf. A natural at the game, she won three British Columbia Amateur titles, two Canadian Women’s Senior titles and played on a host of teams, including Canada’s first international team to Great Britain. She also won the Victoria Golf Club championship an astonishing 14 times.
But beyond the fairways, Todd gave back to the game three-fold, through administrative work with the Canadian Ladies’ Golf Association (CLGA). She served the CLGA in many capacities, including stints as National Course Rating Director, National Teams Director and National Director of Rules. Her most significant contribution has perhaps been in the realm of enhancing player development opportunities whenever possible. The CLGA amalgamated with Golf Canada (then the Royal Canadian Golf Association) in 2006.
In 2010, Todd donated $100,000 to her alma mater, the University of Victoria, for the creation of the Jack and Margaret Todd Women’s Golf Award, an athletic scholarship awarded annually.
Her contributions to the game earned her induction into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 1973, when she became the first female golfer to earn the honour. She was called to the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 1997 and the BC Golf Hall of Fame in 2001. Additionally, the Pacific Northwest Golf Association Super Senior Women’s Amateur Championship trophy is named in her honor.
Predeceased by her husband of 65 years Jack Todd, Margaret will be missed by her three sons John, Rick and David, as well as her many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Statement from Meggan Gardner, Golf Canada’s Director of Heritage Services
“On behalf of the entire golf community, we are saddened by the passing of Margaret Todd. Margaret’s accomplishments on the golf course and her contributions to the game were outstanding and although we are mourning her loss, her tremendous legacy will live on and continue to be celebrated.”
Margaret Todd’s competitive accomplishments across the provincial, national and international golf landscape included:
Rod Spittle returns to Hamilton for historic career milestone
While the 63-year-old St. Catharines native won’t be teeing it up with the best on the PGA Tour, it will mark the first time he’s visited the historic Harry S. Colt layout since winning the Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship in 1977.
It’s hard to believe that Rod hasn’t been back, but that will change when he’s inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame on Tuesday, June 4 during RBC Hall of Fame day at the RBC Canadian Open.
When the 22-year-old collegiate golfer arrived at HGCC in the summer of 1977, he was just happy to be playing at the private country club where his dad caddied as a kid in the 1940s. Nobody expected Rod to win, as seasoned BC amateur Jim Nelford was trying to make it three consecutive Canadian Men’s Amateur Championships, but Spittle’s parents watched from the sidelines as their son made a name for himself.
“It was a huge victory for me and so unexpected. I was home from school for the summer looking to play a few tournaments and it all came together,” says Rod, who didn’t play much on the Ohio State men’s golf team in his first two years – that changed after winning our national amateur championship.
“It was the biggest tournament I had won to that point. Looking back over 40-plus years of golf, it remains significant in my journey, because I learned what it felt like to win for the very first time. It gave me some confidence and the drive to take my game to a higher level,” he adds.
”To be able to go out a year later and win the title for a second consecutive time at Laval-sur-le-Lac was another incredible moment. I’m very proud of both trophies,” says Spittle, who won by a commanding 10 strokes in Quebec.
Rod’s victory at HGCC, which was hosting the Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship for a fifth time, wasn’t nearly as convincing. Nelford was highly favoured to become the first person to win the championship threeyears in a row since the great George Lyon accomplished the feat from 1905 to 1907.
The opening two rounds of medal play suggested an easy Nelford victory. Jim’s first-round 69 was followed by a brilliant performance on the second day, during which he tied the course record of 64 that had stood since 1930, when the great Tommy Armour established it en route to winning the RBC Canadian Open that year.
Nelford’s 36-hole total of 133 gave him an impressive seven-shot lead over Spittle, but a third round 73 saw his lead reduced to four, before a closing-round 75 left him two shots back of the mark set by Spittle, who posted scores of 72-68-70-69 over the four days of competition.
“After the first two rounds Jim had a seven-stroke lead and all the reporters were writing that it was almost a foregone conclusion that he was going to win the championship, and that the rest of the field was playing for second and third place,” says Rod. “After the first two rounds I just dug in and tried to make every shot count. I was playing well and slowly chipped away at the lead. There wasn’t a lot of pressure on me. Nobody was expecting me to win, but in the back of my mind I believed that I wasn’t out of it.”
The two leaders didn’t play in the same group for the final round, so they only had glimpses of each other over the closing holes. Rod birdied No. 17 after hitting the green in two on the par-5, and then he bogeyed No. 18, but it was enough for the two-stroke win.
In the Willingdon Cup, the Ontario team of Gary Cowan, Ian Thomas, Nick Weslock and Spittle posted a 215 on the first day and a 213 on the second day for a total of 428, which gave them the victory by 11 shots over Alberta.
Rod graduated from Ohio State in 1978 with a degree in Business Administration. After a brief stint as a professional golfer and not enjoying life on the road, he opted to focus on supporting his family by selling insurance for 25 years in Dublin, Ohio, and continuing his passion for the game in amateur golf.
In 2006, Spittle and his wife, Ann, left their regular jobs behind and made a five-year plan to fulfill the dream of playing professional golf. In 2009, four years into that plan, Spittle’s goal of being a full-time Tour professional took a severe hit after he failed to secure his PGA Champions Tour card.
In 2010, the final year of the five-year plan, Rod was forced to Monday qualify into events. Playing with limited status, Spittle got into only five events the entire season. He Monday qualified into the final event of the year, the AT&T Championship in San Antonio, and in a storybook ending, he played stellar golf all week to beat Jeff Sluman in a playoff for his first-ever professional title. Just like that, his dream of playing professional golf, nearly dead and gone, gained new life with a full exemption for 2011 as a PGA Tour Champions winner.
Spittle stats are remarkable! In 195 starts over his 13-year PGA Tour Champions career, Rod missed just five cuts and earned more than $4M in prize money. He never missed more than one cut in any year, and played nine full seasons without missing a single cut. He had a pair of runner-up finishes, a pair of third-place finishes and 23 top-10s. He played his final PGA Tour Champions event on home soil, finishing T17 at the 2018 Shaw Charity Classic.
CALGARY, CANADA – SEPTEMBER 1: Rod Spittle of Canada hits his tee shot on the 7th hole during the second round of the Shaw Charity Classic at the Canyon Meadows Golf and Country Club on September 1, 2018 in Calgary, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
On the personal level, he and his wife Ann have three children (Leslie, Steve and John) and seven grandchildren. His mother still lives in Niagara Falls. His father passed away in 2010 at the age of 84, six months before Rod won in San Antonio.
“It’s very exciting thinking about going into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. It’s been very emotional. I’m looking forward to it, and to be able to go back to Hamilton G&CC, where I enjoyed that first win four decades ago, is going to be very special,” Spittle says. “It’s been a great run. I could never have dreamt up a story like this when I won the Canadian Am at HGCC in 1977.”
While he may not have been able to dream it, there is an undeniable symmetry to that national championship of 42 years ago in Ancaster. Rod first took up the game of golf at age 10 when his father became one of 25 original founders of Willodell G&CC in Niagara Falls. The course designer was none other than Nicol Thompson, who, from 1912-1945, was the head professional of Hamilton G&CC.