Canadian golf lost a character and a builder of women’s golf in the past week, with the passing of Chris Haney and Don Brown.
Haney, who founded the Devil’s Pulpit Golf Association, which includes Devil’s Pulpit and Devil’s Paintbrush northwest of Toronto near Caledon, Ont., died after a long illness at age 59. You can read more here.
Brown, an executive with Imperial Tobacco and a driving force behind the success of the du Maurier Classic and du Maurier Series, died suddenly a week ago. An obituary can be found here along with a guestbook to sign.
Brown was considered by many to be a builder of Canadian women’s golf, helping to build a development series and turn the du Maurier Classic into one of the premier events on the LPGA Tour. The Classic was an LPGA Tour major until 2000, when it was snuffed by federal anti-smoking legislation.
“He was very concerned about the development of players,” said former LPGA Tour player Jocelyne Bourassa, who served as executive director for both the Series and Classic.
Both events were predecessors to what is now the CN Canadian Women’s Open, which has regained similar prestige on the LPGA Tour even if it isn’t a major, and the CN Canadian Women’s Tour development series, both run now by Golf Canada.
Bourassa, the last Canadian LPGA Tour player to win on home soil, was also an advocate of player development. The du Maurier Series was not only about developing on-course skills, but it was also devoted to developing potential tour pros and club professionals off the course, as well.
Bourassa recalls a test run for the Series at Beaconsfield near Montreal in 1989, which had the full support of Brown, who was always willing to listen to the players.
“There was no problem getting the funding for the du Maurier Series to have events across the country,” said Bourassa. “Whenever players would suggest something in their thank you notes, you could be sure it would be passed on to me, either from the LPGA (tournament) or the Series.”
“(Brown’s response) was, `Hey, they know what they’re talking about,’” she added.
“Don was so much a kind man and, whenever we suggested something, he would read notes from the LPGA players and the biggest thing was when we created the du Maurier Series, where he could entertain his guests. He thought the players were just the best ambassadors,” she said.
Brown became more than a bankroll in building women’s golf, but his interest in the players and the game, doesn’t suggest that he interfered in what Bourassa was trying to accomplish. A quiet and elegant man, Bourassa says he found a good balance with his involvement.
“There was a plan and we could add to the plan with his support,” she said.
Haney, on the other hand, became one of the legendary characters in the game, but he was a character even before striking it rich on Trivial Pursuit with CP colleague Scott Abbott.
“The way we lived in Montreal, we lived hand-to-mouth. We didn’t save all that much. We had the best time,” said photojournalist Doug Ball, who worked with Haney at CP in Montreal. “
“That was the highlight of our lives was the ‘70s in Montreal. We had the Olympics. We had the Habs winning everything, the Expos were great … the Alouettes,” recalled Ball.
Like many others, Ball was offered the chance to get in on the ground floor of Trivial Pursuit as Haney and Abbott worked on it, but he wasn’t biting.
“Your first mortgage, I don’t care how big it is, feels like the world on top of you,” said Ball. “(Haney) said, `Don’t worry about it, we don’t even know if it’s going to work anyway.’”
It’s no secret that it did work, big time, but Haney didn’t forget his old pal when plans started coming together to build what is now the Pulpit. Ball was working as a photo editor for the Montreal Gazette when he got a phone call from Haney in May, 1987.
“Chris phoned me in Montreal and said, `Can you get here tomorrow? There’s a piece of land I want to look at. The architect I like (Michael Hurdzan) is in town. I’m going to chase him down and, hopefully, we can go look at it in the morning.’
“I booked off and left at six in the morning and flew to Toronto. We took a little walk and Haney held the fence for Hurdzan to go through, right up by 18 tee and away we went,” said Ball, who got another phone call from Haney in July that year.
After a long pause, Haney asked one simple question. “`Does today seem like a good day to quit?’” recalled Ball, who says he asked his boss out to lunch to quit. That lunch became very liquid and stretched until the late afternoon news meeting.
“Haney was so good. He said, `Get here before school starts, think of that for the kids, so they don’t have to change schools,’” said Ball, who served in several capacities, including director of golf and in memberships.
He recalls opening day at the Pulpit, playing with Haney and Abbott. “It’s still the best drive I ever had in my life. No kidding, it was just a sand wedge in,” said Ball.
That would set the tone for life at the Pulpit for Ball, who no longer works there, but still maintains his relationship with the golf course, which will remain strong but different with the passing of Haney.
“We’re losing our heart,” said Ball.