Community Clubs Golf

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Vera Charlebois was a driving force in women’s golf for 60 years

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By Martin Cleary

Vera Charlebois’s first golf lesson caught her by total surprise and it had nothing to do with complexities of driving, chipping, putting or the meticulous rules of the ancient game.

No, it was all about “the wait.”

In her late 20s and having no clue about the game of golf, she joined her husband Pete, who wanted to play golf that day, and they headed in their car to a golf course somewhere in the Ottawa Valley.

When they arrived, Pete took his golf bag and shoes and headed for the first tee.

Vera decided to wait in the car until he was finished. She never thought to ask how long he would be on the course because she figured it would only be 45 minutes to an hour. She would enjoy the wait.

No. She waited and waited and waited and waited some more. Five hours went before they would head for home. She would wait no more.

Always upbeat and ready to laugh at a moment’s notice, Charlebois viewed her marathon wait as a positive, which sparked a marathon career as one of Ottawa’s greatest female amateur golfers plus a decade-long stint as a teaching pro later in her life.

Charlebois’s love of golf, her exemplary record and her kindness to everyone around her came into focus earlier this week during her visitation and funeral service. She passed away at her home on Aug. 13 at age 93.

“My father (Pete) took up golf first,” their son Owen Charlebois said in a phone interview. “Mom didn’t know what golf was. They only had one car. Mom decided to go with Pete and wait in the car while he played.

“After that she made the decision that she would take up golf. She was never going to do that (wait) again.”

An energetic young woman, whose early years were spent in Smiths Falls, ON., during the Great Depression, the left-sided-swinging Charlebois took to the game with enthusiasm and played it well for more than 60 years.

One of only a handful of women in the Smiths Falls Recreation Hall of Fame, Charlebois’ achievements are many and meaningful from club championships to a club course record, and provincial championship titles to Canadian championship appearances.

Charlebois was a familiar, friendly and trusted face around the historic Chaudière Golf Club, which is now called Golf Chateau Cartier in Gatineau, PQ. When it was time for the women’s club championship, Charlebois had a tee time for more than 30 years and won the title 22 times between 1967 and 1994.

She also put her name in the club’s record book, setting the women’s course record at two-under-par 72. At one point, Owen had his name alongside his mother’s name as the men’s course record holder at 63 from 1978.

At the Ottawa and district women’s championships, she was a four-time champion – 1970, 1975, 1976 and 1977.

Charlebois participated in numerous Quebec senior women’s golf championships and emerged as the champion in 1982 and 1983. She also was named to the Quebec team in 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1994 for the Canadian senior individual and team championships.

After the second round of the 1984 Canadian senior championships, she was on top of the leaderboard and finished the tournament third overall. She also earned two other top-10 results at the senior nationals – fifth in 1983 and seventh in 1982.

Work ethic and tenacity allowed Charlebois to be one of the premier golfers in the region over four decades. In the winter, she could be found delivering rocks at the Rideau Curling Club.

“She was a very hard worker,” son Dennis Charlebois said in an interview. “She was very focused and had tremendous perseverance. She would set her sights on a goal and worked hard to get it. She had natural talent and was athletic.”

As she learned the ins and outs of golf, she developed her competitive golf skills as well as her confidence. Once she broke 80 in the early 1970s, the quality of her play climbed to a new level.

“She enjoyed the competition, but she wasn’t ruthless,” Owen added. “She cared about the people she played with and against. It was a rare combination. She wanted to win, but not crush them.”

At the Royal Ottawa Golf Club women’s pro-am tournament on June 26, 2012, Charlebois was presented a plaque to recognize her contributions to women’s golf over more than 50 years. When she was 90 years old, she played her final few holes of golf.

At 65 years old, a time that traditionally signalled retirement, she went the opposite way. Pete had just passed away and she went looking for a purpose and found it in teaching golf. In December, 1996, she became a certified teaching professional through the United States Golf Teachers’ Federation.

She gave lessons to golfers of all levels during a 10-year run at the Emerald Links Golf and Country Club in Greely, ON. When golfers took lessons from Charlebois, they didn’t feel intimidated by her resume or presence, and enjoyed her humbleness, teaching style and honesty.

“She really liked people and loved golf,” Owen added. “She had a flair for helping others improve their skills. I don’t know if it was a voice inside her or others saying ‘you should turn pro,’ but she did and was really good at it.”

Charlebois walked hundreds of golf courses in her time with joy and drove tens of thousands of golf balls with accuracy in her hall-of-fame career.

And it all started because of “the wait,” which was an invaluable lesson for her.

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

Martin can be reached by e-mail at and on Twitter @martincleary.

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