Last weekend, Wayne Gretzky hosted his third annual PGA-Nationwide Tour Pro-Am in Thornbury, ON. Now, I am a hockey writer, but I do enjoy golf and this event brings the best of both worlds together. Plus, it's an event right in my back yard.
Nestled on the shores of Georgian Bay, it gives Canadian golf fans the chance to see the up and coming domestic and international golfers, looking for a chance to make the PGA Tour, and meet some celebrities along the way during the Pro-Am portion.
The likes of Gretzky and his family, hockey stars Brett Hull, Corey Perry, Claude Lemieux and Grant Fuhr, NFL legend Andre Tippett and NBA great Charles Barkley are some of the most noted of the celebrity contingent.
The tournament was a great success, with Peter Tomasulo earning the victory with a 24-under 261 score, taking the $144,017 prize purse. Perry, already having a decent 2010 with his Winter Olympics hockey gold, laid claim to the celebrity title, while Canadian Sandy Edmonston took the amateur title.
The event was enjoyed by everyone, or so it seemd. I was rather dismayed to read this Toronto Sun article from Steve Buffery . In the article Buffery essentially slams the event's volunteers by saying, "the volunteers, who think being around professional golfers is like being next to God, are a pain in the ass."
I have attended this event twice for the media. On both occasions I have found nothing close to Mr. Buffery's findings. I was at the Lora Bay Club on the same day and found no problem navigating in and out of the clubhouse, including the media area. In fact I engaged in pleasant conversation, with several volunteers throughout.
Yes, they do have a job to get done and have to go by the guidelines governed by the PGA on most occasions. Maybe it's Buffery's own demeanor that reflects on their attitude towards him.
The army of 700 volunteers put in long hours, some starting at 3 a.m. and/or travelling up to an hour one-way every day, providing security, medical services, caddies, scorers, marshals etc. For the record, not all of them are retired bank managers and insurance company executives as Buffery put it.
“Our friends and family never cease to amaze us with their continued participation in this event, and their support of the foundation,” said Gretzky at the tournament's closing ceremonies.
“But even with that support, this tournament would not be possible without the people of these communities volunteering their time to make it run smoothly. Their efforts are greatly appreciated by everyone. ”
What makes Buffery's remarks more disheartening is the timing.
The tournament has reached the end of it's three-year deal and, as Gretzky noted after round one, will be looking to renegotiate with the host courses for the following years to come.
It is a great concern, for the local media and community, that the tournament could relocate next year, as it is a major tourist and economical boost to the Thornbury/Collingwood area.
Public remarks, such as those of Buffery, cannot leave a good feeling on tournament organizers when looking towards the future of the event in the area.
Considering the author even admits he doesn't enjoy golf tournaments, maybe he shoulud just say no to his editor the next time he's asked.
- Kevin van Steendelaar is a freelance hockey writer. His work can be found on his own site, YaTheHabsRule.com as well as a contributor for Habs Eyes on the Prize and Examiner.com You can also follow him on Twitter .