By Martin Cleary
As much as Ottawa’s Jim Davidson loves the game of golf, he’s trying his best to cut back on his trips to the region’s various courses.
During his 2022 golf season alone, he figured he only had 20 days off all summer.
“I can be as busy as I want. The challenge is to manage my time to get some personal time,” said Davidson, 62, a retired engineer. “I’m not doing well. I’m not playing enough golf and I’m not doing enough around the house.
“I’m trying not to sign up every weekend. I’m planning to schedule some time off, take a step back (this season).”
When Davidson goes to a golf course, the majority of his visits are to serve as a volunteer official for one-, two- or four-day tournaments or serve as the junior tournament director with the Ottawa Valley Golf Association board of directors.
He just can’t say no to volunteering, taking on various rules and competition responsibilities at tournaments or ushering the junior players around the different courses.
But he certainly would like to work on his golf game.
“I’m passionate about golf,” Davidson added in a phone interview on Tuesday. “I play it. I love it. But I’m not competitive.
“I score in the mid to high 90s. Every year, my handicap gets higher.”
But last month, Davidson found himself at the top of the leaderboard for volunteering as Golf Ontario presented him with the Dick Grimm Distinguished Service Award.
The annual award, which is named after Richard H. Grimm (a.k.a. Mr. Canadian Open) for his work at that national championship from 1965-93, recognizes “an individual’s meritorious service as a volunteer.”
Davidson was shocked and humbled to learn he had won the award as volunteers aren’t accustomed to being in the spotlight. He feels he’s just one of many volunteers who snap all the pieces of the puzzle together before and during a tournament for the benefit of the players.
“I call it ‘taking one for the team,’” Davidson explained. “We all contribute. It was humbling for me to get the award. I’m taking it for the team.”
Golf Ontario president Kyle McFarlane presented the award to Davidson during National Volunteer Week (April 16-22), when the provincial sport group was staging a series of Officials Days leading into the 2023 competition season.
“It was quite tough, really humbling,” Davidson continued. “It’s not why we do this. Most of us don’t like being in the spotlight. We’re not looking to be the centre of attention.
“I had to give a speech. I couldn’t get started. It was quite emotional.”
Davidson started playing golf as a teenager at Pine View Golf Course in Gloucester, and continued enjoying the game throughout his career as an engineer.
On a golf trip with friends to the famed Old Course in St. Andrew’s, Scotland, Davidson was in a foursome which included fill-in Jim Halliday, a Royal Canadian Golf Association referee.
“He was telling us stories all the way around the golf course about his experiences,” said Davidson, who was instantly excited about the idea of becoming a volunteer official.
A short time later, he contacted his neighbour Adam Helmer, who spent 13 years with Golf Canada mainly in the rules and competition area, about becoming a referee. Davidson earned his certification, after taking a number of courses and has been a tournament official for the past 13 years.
Davidson has experienced a number of different roles – tournament director, referee, starter, scorer, etc. – and also has been on the OVGA board of directors for the past six years.
The junior golf season opened last weekend and Davidson had 120 young golfers for the OVGA Optimist Junior (U19) Spring Classic at the Meadows Golf Club. Royal Ottawa boys’ juvenile golfer Chase Jerome, who is only 13, was the overall winner with rounds of 74-70 for an even-par 144, which included a hole in one on the seventh hole of Round 1.
“If you have 120 kids, you have 120 parents. That’s hundreds of emails for one event – a lot of work,” Davidson said. “But I’ve got help. It’s not all about me. I have a team. I had 20 helpers for the tournament.”
There are times when Davidson is a 40-hour-a-week volunteer. While golf in Ottawa wraps up in October, his season continues to December as he officiates as rules director at a Canadian Junior Golf Association tournament in Florida.
By February, he’s back and involved with referee rules training and lining up the courses for golf tournaments.
“Most volunteers want to do anything. It’s nice to be on the golf course. It’s nice to see the junior players and watch them hit it 300 yards.
“It’s still a team sport. It’s not fun when the weather is not great, but it’s nice to be outside.”
Golf Ontario was impressed by Davidson’s achievements.
“Jim is a deserving recipient, having spent a huge number of hours over the last half dozen years with Golf Ontario, Golf Canada and Golf Quebec,” the association’s press release read.
“He set up a junior team to compete in OVGA events and both Ontario and Quebec summer games. He is a huge support for those athletes both in preparation and at events. He is also heavily involved in the changeover to Golf Genius (digital tournament management system) and has been the main support.
“(He is a) dedicated referee with Golf Ontario, Golf Quebec and Golf Canada, working both amateur and professional events. He (also) was responsible for getting two interns to support the OVGA over the last three years, writing and reporting the related government grants. (In 2022,) he launched a junior girls’ golf league at the Marshes Golf Club that includes instruction and golf for girls 12-18.”
Davidson is expanding the girls’ golf league this year to three and possibly four courses so they can play a friendly game of golf with no prizes and scoring is optional.
“One of the main reasons girls drop out of golf is they don’t like competition,” Davidson added.
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 email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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