I learned to play golf in 1970 while attending St. Andrews Junior High School and York Mills Collegiate, in North York. During the early 1970’s, I regularly played golf courses like Willowdale (by Stanley Thompson), Westview (Aurora), Dehavilland (a great nine-holer with a driving range), and Lakeview (Mississauga). I also began playing the main Toronto city courses—Don Valley, Humber Valley, and Tam O’Shanter. I give a loving nod to the memory of my dad, George Sr., and my step-mom, Toini, for both supporting my golfing “hobby” as a teenager.
In 1976, I attended Ryerson and golf disappeared for a time while I focused on getting my C.A. designation, building a career, and courting Bettina Kuypers, my spouse-to-be. I also got distracted with another hobby—riding motorcycles (something I still enjoy doing today). In 1990, after 10 years working in public accounting, I went to work for a prepress and printing firm (Herzig Somerville Limited), and there I started playing golf again as the company had an active golfing workforce. This meant numerous opportunities to play golf with management, sales, suppliers and clients of the firm. On January 1, 2000, Bettina and I together started our own I.T. consulting and accounting business, inbusys inc., and so there were numerous opportunities to play “business golf.”
My most memorable golf experience occurred in late 2000, when Bettina and I travelled together to Hull, England on a consulting trip for a Toronto client. After the business was concluded, we travelled to St. Andrews, Scotland where I played The Old Course after waiting for 3 days of rain and strong winds to subside. They actually closed the Old Course for an entire day! On the 17th hole of my round (“the Road Hole”), Bettina was waiting for me by the green after shopping in the town, and together we walked down the 18th hole together—just as the light drizzle suddenly stopped. At the conclusion of the round, I received two coins from a bet I had made with each of my two playing partners (both local members of the St. Andrews Links). It was the best possible finish to an incredible day.
My career golf round was at age 49 in 2005, when I played Tam O’Shanter with my modern clubs and finished 4th in the Toronto Men’s City Championship shooting a 70, a round of two-under par, and that was after qualifying. I then played in the Golf Channel Am Tour for several years, and I had a handful of amateur wins in my handicap class (generally 9-12 range). I’ve had two hole-in-one’s during my golfing career—using a 4-wood in 1974 at Westview and a 9-iron in 1992 at Lakeview. My battle scars include a herniated disc (1982), a left hip replacement (2010), and a right hip replacement (2022). But I still keep playing anyway and I always use a golf cart.
A couple of years after Bettina passed in 2014, I turned to hickory golf. Playing hickory golf has become almost a spiritual practice for me and something I know intuitively that Bettina would support. To date, I have played in three U.S. Hickory Opens (USHO) and two U.S. Mid Pines hickory tournaments. In one trip to the 2017 USHO in Monterey California, I joined—as the sole Canadian Representative at the three-day event—a small entourage of hickory players and their families who had travelled to the tournament from their homes in Australia and together we formed “the Commonwealth Team.” I met these Aussies at the event’s official bar that first evening when I arrived. Later, we played the practice round together and stood up as a unified group at the event dinner where we were applauded by the other players in attendance. That was a great memory.
For me, hickory golf is zen-like. It’s a mystical game that has the ability to elevate one’s soul for a time. It brings out some great qualities in us — a spirit of cooperation and consensus, a healthy respect for good manners, etiquette and self-control, plus a desire to simplify. Just thinking about hickory golf, with its slower and more deliberate tempo, makes me feel more calm and contemplative. It’s also hugely challenging and the greatest fun! 🙂
My main collectibles are clubs, both pre-1900 and post-1900, some interesting golf books and a few trophies and medals that I won as an amateur player.
I have an original mint copy of Life Magazine’s August 8, 1955 issue in which Ben Hogan “tells his secret.”
I am also very happy with my inspiring historical golf pictures of players like Vardon, Ray, Ouimet, Jones, Hagen and Hogan that I purchased mostly from Stan Lapidus and David Burgess, at very reasonable prices.
Finally, I have an interesting collection of original and replica hickory putters, both pre-1900 and post-1900.
I have a number of historical play sets, as described below.
Firstly, I have a set of pre-1900 smoothies that I put together mostly with original irons I purchased from Bill Stewart. To that I added some long-nose replica woods from Kelly Leonard in Manitoba.
Secondly, I have a set of post-1900, original George Nicoll hickory irons (1930 Pinsplitter Z) along with some original woods (brassie and spoon). My post-1900 set also includes four KL replica long nose woods and a replica putter modelled from the 1800’s.
Thirdly, I have a backup set of post-1900 hickories which includes 5 original Mills aluminum-headed clubs of varying lofts (replacing equivalent irons), plus an original Mills aluminum-headed putter. Bill Southall refinished the shafts and grips for these clubs.
Other post-1900 play sets I have purchased over time have generally ended up in other GHSC members’ collections by way of sale or trade. Essentially, you could say I like to try anything and everything in my search for the best clubs for me.
Finally, I own a set of classic steel Hogan Apex Plus golf clubs (woods and irons) that I got from Lorne Emery via a trade.
I really enjoy links courses, especially The Old Course at St. Andrews. These courses require excellent course management skills paired with both creative and critical thinking—it’s like playing chess in a natural setting.
Mid Pines Inn & GC in NC is my favourite golf course for hickory play, though I enjoy Tarandowah locally. I also like The Belvedere in Charlevoix, Michigan.
Three favourite local courses of mine are Mississauga’s Lakeview, Niagara’s Whirpool and East Gwillimbury’s Shawneeki. These are well-designed parkland-style courses. Lakeview is of course a very historic golf setting, having hosted the Canadian Open in 1923 and also in 1934.
I also enjoy playing my hickories on Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Course (NOTL) which was established in 1875. In 2013, NOTL was the 9th ranked 9-hole golf course in the World, outside of the U.S.A. NOTL is a beautiful Canadian historical golf setting all golfers should periodically experience.
I joined GHSC as a member in 2017 and later joined its Board in 2020, where I have contributed to the Society’s use of technology namely—email communication, helping Stan Lapidus with GHSC’s Collector’s Corner electronic newsletter, and helping to update the website.
I enjoy being a Hickory Ambassador for GHSC and supporting the Canadian historical golf experience.