|Sunshine Coast Golf and Country Club
The “Divot” – members monthly newsletter May 2012
Article by Michael Tytherleigh
Many have worked hard over the years to make the Sunshine Coast Golf and Country Club what it is today. Among them is an elder statesman of the game, Alvie Thompson. Jim Pringle our Club Pro for the last 10 years, says: It is rare to find a professional with so much experience and wisdom gained as a tour player, teacher and managing the business of golf.
He was my mentor, says Jim, and being asked to come to the Sunshine Coast may be partly due to working with Alvie at McCleery in 1994 before Jim went on to Point Grey. When Alvie Retired from McCleery and came with Donna to the Coast and built their waterfront home, it was lucky for the Club.
Alvie was asked whether he thought it was a good idea to have a full-time professional. He volunteered to run the shop (not much more than a cupboard!) to find out and, sure it was a good idea and Derek Thornley came on board, later going to Richmond Golf & Country Club.
Yet there are likely many members, especially the new ones, who don't know about this invaluable contribution or Alvie's remarkable career of going from club cleaner to winning the Canadian PGA and competing in the Masters, all the time epitomizing the maxim that the game is more important than the people who play it.
It is this respect that comes to mind both for him and his wife Donna who has been Club Champion several times and is as generous with her time and helping others as Alvie. Just ask Bill Cooksley, the former lacrosse player with the Salmonbellies who won the Mann Cup in 1965, and regularly plays with Alvie. "I owe him so much in what he has taught me about the game as he has many others. He's a friend and a gentleman with a great sense of humor."
Alvie, 75, born in Unity, Saskatchewan, came to Vancouver with his family and helped in the Pro Shop at the Old Quilchena course under Bill Mawhinney. Then he became a junior at Marine Drive and had his own mentor, Stan Leonard, "who was like a father to me." Leonard, one of Canada's greats, with his Popeye arms, was Head Professional at Marine Drive and set an example to young Alvie by winning the Canadian PGA six times before taking the plunge on the U.S. Tour at the age of 40. He became the first Canadian ever to win a US Tour event and just missed winning the Masters three times in 1958-60. Alvie remembers Stan saying he had the measure of Ben Hogan and Sam Snead but had to learn how to deal with this kid Arnold Palmer!
The sixties were arguably, the glory days of golf in Canada, with great competition in the professional and amateur ranks. Alvie got the benefit of teachers like Benny Colk as well as Leonard, playing with so many of the greats, both amateur and professional such as Johnny Johnson, who won the Canadian amateur at Marine Drive in 1959, and Johnny Russell of Point Grey, whose brother Charlie is a Sunshine Coaster. Johnson defended his title the following year and played a match in Ontario with Alvie against Mawhinney and Peter Bentley, whose father, Poldi, had Dick Zokol as his "caddy".
Johnson can’t recall who won but does remember the large gallery that turned out to watch. "They were quite a bunch of guys in those days," says Johnson. Alvie asked him why he was such a good putter: "Because I'm the best putter in the world", said Johnson. That sort of confidence was contagious.
Marine Drive itself was a real confidence builder because of its narrow fairways demanding all types of shots - fades to draws - and, says Alvie, with the coaching and competition wit was hard not to become a good player". And shooting low scores stayed in his mind throughout his career. At the age of 18 the competitive bug saw him in the BC Junior (two double bogies got him a second place).
The similar tight conditions existed at Kitchener, Ontario where Alvie's future rivals played; the legendary Moe Norman and amateurs like Gary Cowan and Nick Weslock.
Alvie turned professional and became assistant pro at Marine Drive in 1957 then joined Mawhinney at Northwood G&CC in Ontario to work as a teacher (15 lessons a day at $3.50 an hour!) and to be a player on the Canadian and Caribbean Tours and in some U.S. Tour events.
In 1962 he won the Canadian PGA at Mississauga beating Stan Leonard and George Knudson in a playoff, shooting 64. That led to a recommendation from Pat Fletcher and an invitation to play in the Masters where he Finished 28th with President Elsenhower's personal caddy on the bag. The winner: Jack Nicklaus. Later that year, Alvie, along with George Knudson, represented Canada in the 1962 World Cup, formerly the Canada Cup, held at the Jockey Club in Buenos Aries. It was won by Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer.
On the Caribbean Tour, after shooting a 64, Alvie tied for first at Caracas, and lost in the playoff. In the Mexican Open he was OB three times on the first hole, for a 10, playing with Tony Lema, then made eight birdies to finish third.
When he qualified for his U.S. Tour card there was no doubting his accuracy. In eight rounds of golf he only missed 14 fairways and finished 10th out of 112, including Bob Murphy and a young English player, Tony Jacklin.
After Northwood he was Head Pro at Whitevale, near Toronto and then Hillsdale in Quebec. In 1972 it was home to be Head Pro at Marine Drive.
Four years later he moved next door to McCleery Golf Club and was there for 18 years before calling it quits and retiring with a remarkable record.
Alvie won the Millar Trophy emblematic of CPGA Match Play Championship. He was the single Canadian invited to play in the Alcan Golfer of the year Championship at Royal Birkdale with a field of only 30 players worldwide. Alvie qualified with his average 69.5 per round on the Canadian Tour. He was twice runner-up for the CPGA; won the Manitoba Open three times, the Fredericton Open and was runner-up in many other national events.
His best score ever - 62 at Uplands in Ontario and 29 on the back nine at Shaughnessy along with four holes in one!
Meanwhile artist Alvie is picking up his paint brushes again and working on his creative photography. And as always, he's ready to help those around him and hoping to get back on the tee shooting below his age when his back lets him.....
Editor's Note: Many thanks to Michael Tytherleigh for submitting this article!!