As the rest of the world is learning and we natives have always known, Canada is a golf hotbed. In fact, we have “the highest per capita participation rate in the world,” according to Scott Simmons, CEO of Golf Canada.
On Heritage Day, we thought it would be fitting to mention some of the important people who are the foundation of our national love affair. Of course, there are far too many to be listed here and we regret that so many deserving people will go unmentioned, but they are all included in the spirit of this message, if not the letters.
We start with the men:
By far the youngest member of our list, Mike may seem an odd choice, but any list of his career accomplishments proves decisively that he is one of our most accomplished golfers. He is an honoured member of Canada’s Golf Hall of Fame and winner of the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s top athlete in 2003.
His monumental win at the 2003 Masters, our own national “Cinderella story” (to borrow a line from Bill Murray), remains etched in the memory of the majority of Canada’s current crop of golfers. Not far behind - his epic 2007 President’s Cup duel with Tiger Woods at Royal Montreal GC.
His impact on the sport throughout North America earned Charles a spot as one of only two Canadians in the World Golf Hall of Fame (2007), which refers to him as “the Father of American Golf”. Born in Niagara Falls in 1855, Charles was sent to Scotland at age 16 to study at St. Andrews University, where he fell in love with the game and quickly became one of the finest players at the Old Course.
Returning to the golf wasteland of North America soon after, he endured 17 years (his “Dark Ages”) with little opportunity to play before being invited to lay out a 7-hole course as part of the 1892 Chicago World’s Fair. This led to a string of requests that ultimately cemented his reputation as “the first great American golf course architect.”
His contribution to the sport includes his achievements as a player, winning the first official U.S. Amateur Championship in 1895, and as a writer. His book, “Scotland’s Gift: Golf” became one of the best and most influential works in the early days of the sport on our continent.
Despite a list of achievements that has earned him recognition in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in addition to the Golf Hall of Fame, Moe may be even better remembered as one of golf’s most colourful characters. Unique and controversial, he has been characterized as a cripplingly insecure introvert whose sensitivity ultimately limited his success at the highest levels.
Still, there are few players who have inspired as much reverence among golf professionals. Possessor of “the purest, most reliable swing the game has ever known,” he has been openly admired by Sam Snead, Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, and Gary Player, among many others. When asked in “Who is the best golfer you’ve ever seen?” in 2004, Vijay Singh said it was Moe Norman.
“Ask any golf professional whether you are an Australian or whether you are in the U.S. or whether you are in Great Britain,” Lee Trevino said, Moe was the legendary “Canadian guy that hits it so damn good … a genius when it comes to playing the game of golf.”
A member of Canada’s Golf Hall of Fame, Karl was also a founding member of the PGA of Canada in 1911 and actively involved for 29 years, serving as Honorary Secretary-Treasurer, Captain, and President. As a player, he has the singular distinction of being the first and only Canadian-born golfer to with the national championship, taking the Canadian Open title in 1909 and 1914 with what the Toronto Globe called a “machine-like accuracy.”
The 1914 Canadian Open was the final one for the duration of World War I. Although qualified for a commission, Karl made a big sacrifice to enlist as a private in the infantry. After serving for two years in France, he was among many who fell victim to the influenza pandemic. After languishing near death with pneumonia in England until January 1919, he pulled through and returned home to defend his Canadian Open title the same year and remarkably finished tied for second place.