It’s customary to admit when you’re close to the subject matter, so I will do so before starting this blog about Norm Woods being named a co-recipient of Golf Canada’s distinguished service award.
By no means does that mean that volunteer Barbara Allan of Kingston, Ont., should be overshadowed for the long and dedicated service to the game that she has provided, a record that can only be met with a hearty “Well done!” for the award she’ll receive.
Click here for the backgrounds of both Woods and Allan, each being the type of individual that epitomizes such an award.
More high profile individuals earn recognition through various halls of fame, but even those people often look back on those who made a difference as parents, organizers, friends or supporters.
It is those people who build the game quietly, not expecting any recognition or return for their efforts and such is the way of Woods and Allan over the years. The recognition of both should be celebrated in the same manner as any Hall of Fame induction.
The reason for the full disclosure is that Woods was not only a colleague, but a close, personal friend, so I am, indeed, biased and proud to be when it comes to somebody like Norm.
I first met Norm back in the early ‘80s when his son Steve, who carries on his legacy at GolfScene Magazine and is an integral part of GNN, was playing peewee hockey in Mississauga, Ont., where I was working as a sports writer.
As golf tends to do, golf brought us together again as colleagues with Norm running junior golf tours and GolfScene, which covers southwestern Ontario. I still write regularly with GolfScene.
It also cemented a friendship. We’ve walked fairways in Scotland, Ireland, the United States and all across Canada.
He encouraged me when I started GNN and I fondly remember the way our conversations would begin.
I would holler “Norm!” the same way they did in the sitcom Cheers when I heard his voice. He would return a “Hutch!” in similar fashion and the discussion of golf’s topics of the day would ensue.
I miss those chats once or twice a week after Norm passed away in 2011 and I’m not the only one, which is why anybody who knew Norm would agree with this blog.
A fellow who coached another Woods, this one named Tiger, not to mention a lot of other PGA Tour players, is one of them.
“With Norm, to me, he always was a guy who was comfortable being Norm Woods. I think there’s not many people who are cool with who they are and okay with themselves,” said Sean Foley, whose duties had kept him from seeing Norm as much as he once did. “It’s a sign of the relationship you have with someone when you haven’t seen them for two years and when you start talking, it’s like you’ve been hanging out the whole time,” he added.
“Not a lot of people know this, but Norm’s GolfScene Magazine was the first time I’d ever done an instruction article,” said Foley, who grew up in Burlington, Ont.
“I remember when I did it and I saw it in print. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. When I started to write for Golf Digest, the editors really liked my content and I said, `I’ve been doing this for 10 years,’” said Foley of his GolfScene contributions.
“The first time I saw myself in Golf Digest, I was excited then, but the first time I remember taking GolfScene home to my parents and saying, ‘Look at this, look at this.’ I thought it was the coolest thing ever,” he said.
There were other benefits, including junior golf tours run by Woods and his wife Linda.
“Norm used to send a lot of kids to me to help with their coaching and to help my career. I don’t think I charged them anything, but it was a good experience to work with kids who wanted to be good,” said Foley.
“Norm was about the kids,” he said.
“You could tell in his voice how much he loved that GolfScene Tour. For Norm, it wasn’t about kids winning tournaments. It was about kids getting an opportunity. It was kind of a feeder tour and it was economically feasible for a lot of people who couldn’t play in other events,” said Foley.
“The parents played along. We’re in a world where parents are yelling at their kids from the side of the fairways and here’s a guy who created a golf tour where the parents teed off after the kids,” he said.
Foley is a high profile example of somebody touched by Woods, who wasn’t nearly as high profile himself, leaving one to wonder whether he would ever receive the recognition he deserves, even if he didn’t seek it.
That’s what makes the distinguished service award from Golf Canada so special for both Norm and Barbara Allan who I’m told went out of her way to thanks volunteers and commend those who put in extra effort at various events.
Being close to such people may make you biased, but it also offers great insight into the foundation of the game.