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Ceremony celebrates Powell River Golf Club founders

Sport took off in community 100 years ago; Myrtle Point Golf Club is 30 years old
HISTORIC PRESENTATION: BC Golf Hall of Fame custodian Michael Riste recently came up from the Lower Mainland and dressed in period-correct golf gear to provide some history about golf in BC 100 years ago. Riste’s presentation was part of a celebration of 100 years of golf in the qathet region, and the 30th anniversary for Myrtle Point Golf Club.

Two significant anniversaries were celebrated at a recent ceremony sponsored by Myrtle Point Golf Club, whose president Sandy Sleath said it was a celebration of local golf history.

“We were celebrating 100 years of the establishment of the original group that founded the Powell River Golf Club,” said Sleath. “We were also celebrating the 30-year anniversary of Myrtle Point Golf Club being built.

“It’s unreal what the group of people did to get it organized and push it through. I don’t think there were any other golf clubs developed the same way with volunteers and no major funders.”

Sleath said those in attendance had a banquet which featured a couple of presentations. One was from Michael Riste, who is the custodian of the BC Golf Hall of Fame at University of British Columbia.

Sleath said Riste wanted to come up and provide an overview of what was going on in golf in the year 1922, which was the year golf began in the qathet region.

“I think six other golf clubs in BC were founded in that year, so it was a big year for golf in BC,” added Sleath.

Riste gave a little bit of background on the history of golf in BC around that time.

“It was super interesting,” said Sleath. “At that time, it was just a winter sport, only because the goats and the sheep couldn’t do enough to keep the grass playable in the summer. There were no greens mowers back then, so they relied on the animals to clear the area.

“When grass was dormant in the wintertime, that’s when they could play, because it wasn’t overgrown. Into the later ’20s, the economy was doing better, and some machines were starting to be developed. They started playing in the summer after that.”

Sleath said there are some photos of golf being played here in the winter and people could be teeing off on an icy spot, “which was hilarious.”

Sleath said the main part of the celebration dinner was a presentation from Hector Beauchesne, who is writing a book on golf in the community.

“Because our history is being lost at the golf club, for various reasons, someone suggested to Hector that he write a book on Myrtle Point because he was one of the core people who got involved, having secured financing through the mill,” he added. “It was also suggested he go back to the old course, so he’s doing a two-part book, with the first part on the old golf club and the second part on Myrtle Point. The golf club is going to help him publish it in the new year and all the proceeds will go into our junior golf club.”

Sleath said Beauchesne’s presentation was outstanding. He said he had received a text from Beauchesne about COVID-19, so the presentation had to be done over Zoom.

“Everyone was really into the presentation,” said Sleath. “Hector was fantastic. It has been neat for me over the last few months to go through it with him in preparation for the event and looking at what he has for the book.”

Aging membership

Sleath said the golf club’s membership is aging and members are being lost to attrition. He said the celebration event was an opportunity to bring that group back together. The golf club used to have an annual awards banquet but that isn’t done anymore, so it was a special evening.

The club is trying to attract membership. Junior golf is not as subscribed as it has been in the past and only a handful of young people are dedicated to golf, whereas when Sleath was a kid, a number of young golfers were involved with the club.

“COVID-19 disrupted all of our programs and sort of threw everything off the rails,” said Sleath. “Not as many kids have come back as there were before. It’s happened to other sports in town.

“We do have one junior golfer right now who is winning more things than any other junior in our club. Even though we have fewer, we have our best-ever junior golfer, probably.”

Sleath said the club is so lucky to have the Myrtle Point course and generally, membership has grown, because people are moving to the region and want to play. The challenge will be how to replace the club’s aging membership when they retire from the sport.

“Once people go on the course and check it out, it draws you back,” said Sleath. “It’s awesome out there.”