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Posts Tagged ‘Glen Abbey’

Have you ever had the honour of seeing the Golden Bear? Legend has it that the Golden Bear had no equal. The Golden Bear is believed to be a symbol of strength, wisdom and good fortune.

Here is my story of my encounter with the Golden Bear. Although he didn’t look like this one, in my humble opinion he has no equal and definitely is a symbol of strength, wisdom and good fortune.

Back in the ’70s…yes, I do remember parts of them but some dates are a little foggy so I will just say mid ’70s I went off to college for the first time. I had enrolled in the Professional Photography Program at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario. I moved to Oakville early in the spring so that I could get sorted and find work before the school year started in September. I found a place to live behind the Towers Plaza (it isn’t there anymore). For the next several months I worked three jobs. Mornings I was a chambermaid at the Holiday Inn (it isn’t there anymore), afternoons I was a cashier at Dominion (it isn’t there anymore). In the evenings I babysat (those kids are long gone). Eventually I settled into the mad race between jobs. As anyone will tell you being a chambermaid is not very glamorous and there are times when things get a little…oh, those are stories for another day. However, occasionally rarely you found a room that was actually a pleasure to clean. This room, or perhaps I should call it a “den” was occupied by a nice young fellow who was a “permanent” resident  for a lengthy period of time. One day he asked if I would mind if he stayed in his room while I made the bed and cleaned the facilities. I didn’t see it as a problem. You can tell a lot about someone from cleaning their room and his lack of mess and general politeness was good enough for me. After that, he would stay in his room while I worked and he would chat about what he was doing there, far from home and his family. He had the most amazing drawings and plans all laid out and he would show them to me and explain. He was a wonderful man and I looked forward to that part of my work day.

At one point I went home to Niagara to visit my family for a couple of days. Most of my family were golfers. I am not. Dad loved the game and always enjoyed playing with my brothers even though they were all better than him. One of my sisters was really good. She could beat them all and could have gone pro but in the end she preferred the 19th hole to the other 18. My strategy was to watch golf with him on TV. In reality I watched him watch golf. I didn’t have a clue. This visit was going to be different. I was going to talk “golf” with him.

Dad and I watching golf in the ’70s.

“Hey, Dad…”
“Uh, huh.”
“They’re building a new golf course in Oakville…”
“Uh, huh.”
“It’s supposed to be the permanent site of the Canadian Open…”
“Uh, huh.”
“and they’re making it crowd-friendly so you can actually go and watch them play…”
“Uh, huh.”
“It’s to be called Glen Abbey.”
“Uh, huh.”
“It looks really cool.”
“Uh, huh.”
“Yeah, I know the designer and he showed me the drawings and the plans…”
“What do you mean you know the designer?”
“Yeah, his name is Jack and he’s really a nice guy and he showed me the drawings…”
“Jack?”
“Yeah, Jack.”
“Any chance he looks like that guy?”
Dad pointed to the golf game on TV and looked at me. My gaze followed his finger and sure enough there was Jack on TV. My Dad was incredulous. He was more shocked at the fact that I didn’t know who Jack Nicklaus was than that I knew Jack. The rest of the weekend was pretty much him looking at me and laughing and shaking his head.
The next time I rapped on Jack’s door and said “housekeeping” he let me in and I gave him a swat on the shoulder. “You could have told me who you were!” I explained that my Dad had outed him, much to my embarrassment. He laughed and all he said was, “I thought it was kind of cool you didn’t know who I was.” I guess celebrity can run thin some times.
Jack Nicklaus at Glen Abbey before it was completed

Jack Nicklaus & Dick Grimm survey the land before Glen Abbey was completed

Many years later (about 30), I was invited by the Toronto Star to golf at Glen Abbey. At this point I was well aware of the caliber of course it was and had seen it on TV. I now lived in the “The Abbey” as they called it and had driven by it many times. I certainly knew that it was the first solo design of the legendary Golden Bear — golfer Jack Nicklaus. I offered my spot to one of my higher-ups (wow, was I good for brownie points on that one) but explained that I would really like to join them afterward for dinner in the Club House as I had never seen Glen Abbey from the inside. I told them my story and we all agreed to meet later. When I arrived someone from Glen Abbey greeted me and whisked me away in a golf cart for a private tour of the course. My colleagues had shared my story and arranged for me to see it. It was wonderful to remember all those years ago those lines on those big sheets of paper and see them here come to life.

Glen Abbey

More recently I found myself signing petitions to save Glen Abbey. One of Canada’s most famous golf courses and  home to Golf Canada and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. It has also hosted 30 Canadian Open Championships! It was slated for demolition by its current owners. In 2017 they proposed transforming the 80-hectare golf course into a subdivision with office buildings. Oakville council unanimously rejected this proposal and designated it a heritage site. Finally, after years of back and forth between the town and the company, on July 9, 2021, Steve Clark, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, announced that Glen Abbey will be preserved and continue to operate as a golf course, and the company withdrew its development application.

A few years back Jack’s face showed up on my screen. He was in tears. Oh no, what could have happened to this lovely man? Then I read what it was about. He had just witnessed what he called his “#1 Masters moment” when his grandson Gary aced the final hole of the 2018 Par 3 Contest and it brought him to tears. Yep. He is still one of the nicest guys I have ever met, and “The Golden Bear Legend” lives on.

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