A Week on and off the Green

By: Cam Tait

The professional golfers have descended on Calgary for their next tour stop, the leaderboard and signage have been taken down, tables and corresponding folding chairs have been put back in storage at the Windermere Golf and Country Club, volunteers have returned to their summer rituals and things are getting back to normal.

The Syncrude Oil Country Championship presented by AECON wrapped up on Sunday. It was a wonderful partnership between Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) and Mackenzie Tour – PGA Tour Canada, in support of the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation (EOCF) and its tournament beneficiary: the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation. For the 156 golfers, volunteers, spectators and OEG staff, countless memories will be played over and over, and there were some moments the week manufactured which will be unforgettable.

Because, they were simply priceless.

  • There was once a time, five decades ago or so, when notable sports personalities visited children in hospitals or at schools specifically for students with disabilities. I have first-hand experience as a young boy growing up with cerebral palsy in Edmonton and attending the Glenrose School Hospital. I remember meeting the great Jean Beliveau in 1970. He was classy, gracious and polite as he signed individual autographs for all of us. To have a man of his larger-than-life character, both on-and -off the ice, encouraging us was something that’s still with me today.

But here’s how things have changed: two pros from the Mackenzie Tour, Eric Onesi and Chris Williams shared a few hours with children on the second floor of the Glenrose in the Pediatric Unit. Interestingly, not one autograph was scribbled. Instead, both Eric and Chris gave their time by talking to the kids, playing ladder golf, creating bingo-dabber art and even trying out a few dance moves.

The interaction was incredible. Such visits go a long way toward fostering respectful relationships between everyone: professional golfers and children with disabilities. Watching the visit, it was difficult to see who was enjoying it more.

  • Eric Onesi stood in a Glenrose playroom and spoke of his hospital stay when he was 11 back home in Delaware. Eric loved playing basketball and baseball, but he contracted a rare blood infection and had to abandon both. Yet, another door swung open to golf, and he has been on the professional tour for several years now — an inspiration to the young people he meets.
  • Eric’s caddy, Kurt, visited the Glenrose with him. And they have a special relationship: Kurt is his uncle by marriage.
  • Walking down the 18th fairway towards the green on a Sunday, typically the final round of a golf tournament, late in the afternoon has a degree of success. But the job isn’t over: we all know the havoc, the heartache and, alas, the happiness the 18th green brings. Perhaps then, that magnifies the mystic and enthusiasm of strolling down the 18th. That happened Sunday when the gallery followed Patrick Newcomb, the tournament’s eventual winner. In conjunction with the final round of play, the EOCF Walk FORE Kids was held, parallel to the 18th fairway with net proceeds benefitting the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation, in support of its Pediatric Procedure Room. Walkers had a front row seat to all the excitement as they walked the back 9 holes of the course to eventually meet up with the tournament leaders as they finished up their final rounds. Walkers and fans alike were treated to some extra excitement as Patrick Newcomb and Matt Rotluff competed in a sudden death playoff round after both registering -16 after 18 holes in Round 4. Newcomb eventually took the marathon in the fourth playoff on none other than the 18th. At the closing ceremonies, OEG and the EOCF presented a $75,000 cheque to the Glenrose, which will be specifically used to provide care and resources for kids to continue to become the best they can after an illness or injury.

Memories. They will continue to be made at the Glenrose, and on the green.