The long winter over, a classic golf column returns


I never thought I would be doing this again, but a chance meeting with the benevolent leader of this little paper in the Fonthill Sobeys parking lot got the ball rolling, so here we go.

I wrote a golf column for 15 years or so for the St. Catharines Standard, which, for the last few years of its run, was also published in the Niagara Falls Review. The column was born of desperation. I had just started a custom golf club-making business and had no money to advertise or market it or my golf instruction side of the enterprise. I had a journalism degree, so I reached out to the paper’s sports editor to see if they were interested in a column centered around the game of golf. They were. This was about the time of Tigermania, and golf was going to be the biggest-growing game in the history of games.

It was an incredible amount of work to write. I always tried to come up with new topics or different takes on what was going on in and around the game. From April to October I was really working 24 hours a day. I would teach golf and build and fix clubs (I also teach part-time at Niagara College), and every free moment I would be thinking about what I should write about that week. Once I had a topic I was fine, as the writing came quite easily. It wasn’t unusual, however, to wake up in the middle of the night and bounce ideas around for an hour or more. I learned to keep a pad and pen next to the bed to make sure no thought went misremembered.

The column became quite popular and to this day, five years after the last one was written, I still have people on a regular basis comment about it and ask when it will be re-appearing. The reason it stopped appearing was twofold. First, my mom had some health problems right around the time the column usually started in April. I had contacted the sports editor of the day to see when I should start and he kept pushing the date back, which was unusual, but dealing with my mom I was happy not to have another deadline hanging over my head.

Second, at some point the editor revealed the real reason he kept pushing back the start date. I had been paid $50 per column since the first year I started (it actually started at $35, but once they saw a few and liked them they moved me up to $50. Never got another raise!). It wasn’t a lot, but it added up over 20-25 columns a year.

It turns out the chain that operated the paper at the time (the Standard went through six owners while I was there) claimed not to have enough money in the budget to continue this relationship. They would love it if I continued to write, but unfortunately this would have to be on a voluntary basis.

By this time I had gone two months into the golf season only having to worry about the business (and my mom) and not lie in bed wondering what the hell I was going to write about that week. It was blissful. I enjoyed the writing (once I had the topic) and the people who came up and started a conversation based on something they read made the experience on the whole very gratifying (minus the guy who recognized me while standing at the next urinal and reached out to shake my hand— yes, the same hand that just did the other shaking).

My lovely and talented wife implored me to think about how stress-free it had been without the column and, of course, as usual she was right, and there the column died.

So why would I want to rekindle that stress? I don’t and hopefully I won’t. I have hundreds of columns already written and hanging around on various methods of storing such things. The ones I can find I will go over and try to choose which may still have some resonance with a reader today. Some were time-sensitive but many were more universal thoughts on lessons of the game and lessons from the game.

Golf is a simple game at heart. It is exceedingly difficult to play at a very high level, but it is equally easy to play recreationally. My main goal has always been to help people decode this game to help them enjoy it as much as possible, at whatever level they hoped to play.

There was another Piccolo who apparently set some fairly high standards for the type of writing expected in this publication. I hope I don’t disappoint.

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