HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
The Ottawa region has produced some exceptional golfers over the past century and they’re about to be recognized with the ultimate honour. And they can keep this title for a lifetime.
The Ottawa Valley Golf Association, a non-profit group dedicated to promoting and developing the game, recently announced the creation of its virtual Hall of Fame. The inaugural class of 2021 will have as many as 10 golfers and builders.
Since OVGA Hall of Fame committee co-chair Dru Lafave conceived the idea in January, a five-member committee has built the framework and debated the first members, who will be announced June 28 (first day of the Alexander of Tunis tournament).
“Criteria for the first class was they had to win a major (national) championship,” Lafave said in an interview. “We’re looking for champions. We wanted the cream of the crop. We could have inducted 20, but that would have been overwhelming.”
Lafave, the OVGA tournament chair and owner of Golf O Max Indoor Golf Club, works on the Hall of Fame committee with co-chair Joe McLean, the OVGA historian; OVGA directors Alex Pugh and David Ferries; and OVGA rules official Lyle Alexander.
“In January, I realized it was the 100th anniversary of the City and District Golf Championship,” added Lafave, who also learned from McLean the former Ottawa City and District Golf Association was founded on Aug. 4, 1921.
“I was thinking about how we could celebrate and this idea popped into my head: why not our own Hall of Fame? I contacted Joe and asked him if he could help out and volunteer to be on the committee. He is a wealth of information.”
When it came time to realize how a Hall of Fame works and who should be considered for the first and future years, McLean was invaluable. He previously worked with the Golf Quebec and Ontario Golf halls of fame.
McLean also is celebrating the OVGA’s centenary by writing a 7,000-word story on the region’s golf history, which will be published in an upcoming, virtual issue of Flagstick magazine on flagstick.com. He is an editorial assistant for Flagstick.
Lafave was tight-lipped about the initial members entering the OVGA Hall of Fame. But he said Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, who has 10 LPGA victories, isn’t on the list. At 23, she’s too young. Candidates must be a minimum 35 years old.
But Ottawa and region has produced its fair share of male and female national champions over the past 100 years, who likely have been considered by the committee and could be part of the inaugural inductee class.
Alexa Stirling Fraser was a three-time United States women’s amateur champion, who captured the Canadian women’s amateur crowns in 1920 and 1934. Fraser, who married an Ottawa doctor in 1924, is a Charter Member of the Ladies PGA Hall of Fame.
Englishman John H. Oke was one of Royal Ottawa Golf Club’s first club professionals. In 1904, he won the first Canadian Open championship at the Royal Montreal course. He shot a 36-hole score of 156.
Royal Ottawa pro Karl Keffer followed in Oke’s footsteps by capturing the Canadian Open championship in 1909 and 1914.
In 1980, Greg Olsen won the 1980 Canadian men’s amateur in Halifax, shooting a four-round total of 290 and winning by three strokes. He used a set of Ben Hogan director irons, a Toney Penna driver and an old Spalding Cash-In putter.
The OVGA Hall of Fame plans to induct golfers and builders on an annual basis. Individuals interested in nominating a golfer or builder for future consideration can find the form on the OVGA website at www.ovga.org
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.