By Martin Cleary
Former Ottawa amateur golfing greats Greg Olson and Eric Kaufmanis took a trip down memory lane this week. They certainly enjoyed it. And there’s more reminiscing on the horizon.
Olson and Kaufmanis were guided down that feel-good path, when the Ottawa Valley Golf Association announced they were two of the 10 players and four builders named as inaugural-class inductees into its hall of fame.
The OVGA Hall of Fame was created as an integral part of its celebration for 100 years of amateur golf in the region. The first group of inductees were all Canadian amateur or pro champions. That was the sole criteria for the initial class.
There will not be a formal gathering to honour the members of the hall of fame, which will be housed on the OVGA’s website. Plans for individual and group award presentations will occur based on travel schedules, and health and safety protocols.
The hall also will welcome Canadian champions Diane Dolan, Alexa Stirling Fraser, Robert Fugere, Karl Kaspar Keffer, Margaret Masters, Alison Murdoch, Helen Paget Holmes and Brian Vance.
On the builders’ side, the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club, the Rivermead Golf Club and the Royal Ottawa Golf Club, which have opened their courses to tournament play for more than a century, and S.F.M. (Swatty) Wotherspoon will enter the virtual hall.
When Olson, the only Ottawa golfer to win the Canadian men’s amateur championship (1980), was asked about his induction, three words came to mind: “Surprised. Grateful. Humbled.”
“It’s certainly an honour to be in the first induction class and to be associated with everyone on that list, including the Royal Ottawa, Hunt and Rivermead clubs, all very special places to me,” the Pine View Golf Course, Hylands Golf Club, and Chaudiere Golf Club player wrote in an email interview.
“Ottawa will always be home. But my career took me elsewhere many years ago. To be remembered with something like this from the city that means the most to me, after so many years away, is very special.”
By winning the Canadian amateur title in 1980, he also was named to the national Eisenhower Cup team and was selected the Athlete of the Year at the A.C.T. Sportsman’s Dinner (now Ottawa Sports Awards Dinner).
Before turning professional in the fall of 1982, the University of Florida grad won the 1982 Quebec amateur championship and the 1979 and 1980 Ottawa City and District titles. He also played in six PGA Canadian Opens, three as an amateur.
Olson has plenty of golf memories, including three second-place finishes in the Alexander of Tunis. But one that stands out happened the day after he returned from winning his Canadian amateur for the Intersectional class A club championship.
“I remember walking up the (Rivermead) pathway toward the pro shop with my caddy and everyone in the courtyard or standing around stopped what they were doing, faced me and applauded,” he added.
“I was taken aback. And so appreciative. I hope I acknowledged them all appropriately at the time. And if I didn’t, I’m doing it now, 41 years later.”
Kaufmanis, the 1977 Canadian boys’ juvenile champion and a six-time OVGA City and District champion, remembers finding and selling lost golf balls at the old Glenlea Golf Course in 1968 as well as playing with Arnold Palmer in a charity fund raiser in 1978.
“It is nice to be remembered,” Kaufmanis wrote in an email. “I have enjoyed going back in time to recall the wonderful personalities that made up the Ottawa golf scene. I learned a lot of valuable lessons and definitely had a lot of laughs.
“While the rounds and tournaments were memorable, it is ultimately the people that I met and befriended that made it so gratifying.”
Kaufman also played out of the Royal Ottawa and Rideau View golf clubs.
Dolan (Hylands) won the 2017 Canadian super senior women’s amateur plus four OVGA city and district and four OVGA senior titles. Stirling Fraser (Royal Ottawa) was the 1920 and 1934 Canadian and a three-time U.S. women’s amateur champion.
Fugere (Rivermead) was the Canadian amateur champion in senior match play (1999), senior medal (2005) and super senior medal (2013). Keffer (Royal Ottawa) was a two-time Canadian open champion in 1909 and 1914.
The Australian-born Masters (Ottawa Hunt) won the 1964 Canadian women’s amateur and was LPGA rookie of the year in 1965. Paget Holmes (Royal Ottawa) claimed the 1925 Canadian women’s closed amateur championship.
Murdoch (Larrimac, Royal Ottawa, Victoria) captured four Canadian senior women’s and three national super senior women’s amateur titles from 2002-13. Brian Vance (Chaudiere, Rivermead) was the 1981 national juvenile champion.
The Ottawa Hunt, Rivermead and Royal Ottawa clubs opened their courses to allow for fund raising efforts during the wars. They also brought in professional golfers and celebrities to assist charitable organizations.
Stuart Frederick MacPherson (Swatty) Wotherspoon was a co-founder of the Ottawa District Golf Association in 1948 and the driving force behind the name change to the OVGA in 1981. He became the OVGA’s honourary president that year.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 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 High Achievers “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.
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