When a person finally completes all of the entry requirements and becomes a Class A member of the PGA of Canada, they are entitled to a long list of benefits. Many of these centre around continuing education, earning an income and other career-related enhancements.
As a young, aspiring assistant professional and during my tenure as a head professional which included two years playing on the Canadian Tour, I attended every single spring/fall meeting, every AGM, every seminar, every merchandise show, played in every tournament available and listened to every guest speaker.
I played in the CPGA Championship, the Club Professionals’ Championship and usually five or six pro-ams per year. I also served on the Ontario PGA board of directors for a total of 16 years and the national board for a total of 12 years.
In the end, the one most advantageous benefits I’ve received is the friendships and relationships with several thousand people. Understandably, the one group that I have been the closest to and enjoyed more than any other is golf professionals.
Being alongside fellow competitors when they play well or you play well or one of you plays poorly creates a close bond.
Agreeing or disagreeing at the board table builds lifelong friendships. Hearing of the successes of a neighboring peer as winding through daily trials, or feeling the pain when things don’t work, all adds ingredients to the pot called the golf community; the bond between professionals.
In my first year as an assistant almost 50 years ago, I signed up for a bus tour that took us to view the MacGregor plant on Dundas St. in Cooksville, Ont., (now part of Mississauga) and then went around the corner to the Spalding plant.
The adventure was a sellout with over 40 eager young faces with flat bellies anxious to learn. One of them was my great friend, Paul Cluff, who I met on the bus.
Cluffie and I stood in the warm sunshine that bright June day and he said to me, “How many of these guys do you think will end their career as a golf professionaL?”
That subject never occurred to me because I thought they all would, including me. In the end, only 15 become head professionals and only Paul Cluff, Ron Plumski and I are still alive.
The PGA of Ontario has recently lost five longtime members. including Ron Babcock, Laurie Buckland, Irv Lightstone, Bill Ogle and Mel Taylor. Each passing took a little piece out of me.
Ronnie Babcock worked at the Sands Golf Club in Muskoka, Ont. He was one of the most upbeat people I’ve ever met. Ronnie has been my good friend for over 40 years. In the last 15 years or so we’ve played at Frank Whibley’s course at least 200 rounds. I’ll miss him searching through the rough for lost balls.
There has never been a person who had a more disarming twinkle in his eye than Laurie Buckland.
I played basketball for Aurora High School and we played against Laurie’s team at Stouffville Secondary near Toronto. We were about 15 or 16 when we met. I worked at Aurora Highlands in the backshop during the same time frame.
In 1970, we were both interviewed for the head professional job at Sleepy Hollow Golf Club. I got the break of my life up until then when I won out.
Laurie got the break of his life because he lost and then worked for Bruce Butterworth at Aurora Highlands. Laurie became one of the finest event organizers in the history of the Ontario PGA through his responsibilities with Bruce.
Irv Lightstone was the president of the Ontario PGA when I was a board member and we agreed to disagree several times. However, Irv was my second supporting signature when I applied to join the CPGA.
I met Bill Ogle through Wilson Paterson when I played in a pro-am they held at the Thunderbird Golf Club (now Royal Ashburn).
Bill was one of those gentle people who shook your hand like it meant something to him. He was gracious and unassuming, but extremely knowledgeable. Bill was the longest living member of the CPGA when he died last fall.
I worked for Mel Taylor for eight years.
I began in the back shop at Aurora Highlands, working before and after school. In 1966, he moved to Meadowbrook and I went with him and lived in his office. I showered in the locker room and ate in the dining room.
Mel arranged for three members to provide me with a little money that I used to play the Canadian Tour. He also was extremely instrumental in my winning the job at Sleepy Hollow.
Now they are all gone, each one a friend in a different way and each a fellow CPGA member. As I reflect back to 1966 when Cluffie and I got on the bus, I think of all the hundreds of golf professionals I’ve loved and enjoyed.
It is the most important benefit I’ve had as a member of the Canadian Professional Golfers Association.