With all the negativity that has been going on in golf in recent years, GNN bloggers have been asked to discuss what they’re thankful for in the golf industry as Thanksgiving weekend approaches. It’s Kevin Thistle’s turn below.
When it comes to being thankful this Thanksgiving, the first thing that comes to mind is my family, my mom and dad, who supported me because I actually went to university to become a chartered accountant.
I remember telling them, `Hey, I think I’m going to be a golf pro.’
I think my dad said, `What?’
Then, my mom said, `Whatever you want to do,’ and we never looked back.
Of course, there’s my wife Heather and my sons Calvin and Christian, but looking back in the golf business, I started at Seaton Golf and Country Club in Pickering, Ont., when I was 15, so that’s 37 years ago.
Clayton Cary was my boss and I was there for 14 years and what a place to grow up and I really did grow up there, Wilson Paterson was the first pro there and he went on to build Thunderbird/Royal Ashburn Golf Club and there was Ron Morris at the Whitevale Golf Club.
Those are the three clubs I frequented back then and they were great friends of Clayton, so they became great friends of mine. The nice thing about these three gentlemen is that they were mentors to me as a young man.
It was during those days that I first met Dick Grimm, rest his soul, who was Mr. Golf to my era and many eras that followed.
Dick was so good to me. It didn’t matter if I was at Seaton or Angus Glen or Coppinwood, we would have coffee once or twice a month and he was always there for you, even though he played such a great role in building Glen Abbey and the Canadian Open. He still had time for fresh, young guys.
Even later in his life, we got to spend a lot of time together and went down to some golf shows together, which also leaves some great memories.
At Seaton, I was an assistant who used to play head pro/assistant pro tournaments with Bill Walsh from Thornhill, Ron Raynor from Summit, John Porter from Rosedale and Warren Crosbie from Bayview.
That was our group and I always thought who doesn’t belong here? You’ve got four great professionals from some of the greatest clubs in the area and a snotty-nosed assistant from Seaton.
Alan Ogilvie was a great mentor as was Gordon Stollery from Angus Glen. It was Gordon’s father Arthur who hired me and I first went to work for Laurie MacLachlan (Stollery).
It was a big decision to go to Coppinwood, but a lot of it had to do with Dick Grimm, Gary Pottruff, Gerard Waslen, Paul Fox, Syd Menashy and Paul McLean. That was a big decision in my life after 16 years at Angus Glen.
I’m blessed to have been at Toronto Hunt, even if it was just for one year, but it’s a great spot. Assistant GM Marcel Bregstein and the ladies in the office remain great friends to this day.
I’m also thankful for the Ehlert family, Barry and his father Ron who have also offered me another fantastic opportunity to grow and reinvent myself with the Windmill Golf Group, here in Calgary.
Looking back, I thought we played golf and taught golf, but it’s been beyond that in this path I’ve taken to where I am now with the Windmill Group, with Mickelson National being built and all the projects we have on the go.
Without the people I’ve mentioned and so many more, I think of where I would be without them. I’m blessed. Who would have thought that when I started 37 years ago, I’d be in Calgary, involved with a great family such as the Ehlerts?
I’ve loved every place I’ve been. I’ve been blessed to meet some world-class people through golf. I met my wife through golf.
Even a guy like Wil Koopmans, who I worked with for so many years at Angus Glen and one of my best friends in the world. We didn’t meet at Angus. I was at Seaton and he was at Camp Borden and we just happened to be in a pro tournament together and met on the first tee before becoming lifelong friends.
I’ve missed 500 people and I could go on and on. I could write 1,000 thank you notes and every name would be so important. Names that were so close to me and some of which have left us far too early come to mind – Michelle Reeves, J.C. Cunningham, Michelle Hobor, Bain Arnold, Ernie Amsler.
I look at a guy like Dennis Firth, who started as an assistant and became head pro at Angus Glen and moved on to become director of golf at Coppinwood, before moving on to Mississaugua Golf and Country Club. You’re proud of those guys and the success they’ve achieved.
There are the sales reps and other professionals and general managers that you see at the trade shows where there’s an outpouring of friendship.
I think of where I’d be if I was a CA and it would be in a cubicle downtown. At any operation, it’s the people and that’s why I’m still excited to go to work every day.