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Kelowna is Dave's favorite place, Barr none

John GordonBy John Gordon,
Contributor

Kelowna Golf and Country ClubKelowna, British Columbia - The route that took PGA Tourveteran Dave Barr to his first Champions Tour victory in Februarystarted in this beautiful, sun-washed region of Canada's westernmost province.

Barr, whose more than two decades of grinding on the regular Tourresulted in but two victories, was born and raised in this city of95,000 people just about smack dab in the middle of the Okanagan Valleyin British Columbia's southern Interior. You might say he was raised onthe short but challenging fairways of the venerable Kelowna Golf andCountry Club.

Although he moved to the (relatively) bright lights of the Vancouversuburb of Richmond during his years of relative glory, Barr's heartnever left Kelowna. He recently returned, bringing his wife Lu Ann andtheir two children back to Westbank, just outside Kelowna.

He had motivation as well to make a recent guest appearance at KelownaG&CC, after he was awarded an honorary lifetime membership inrecognition of his induction into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in2000.

Hall of Famer Dave Barr and wife Lu AnnThe photo of Barr, holding his Hall of Fame memento with his wifestanding at his side, reveals a sliver of what was originally an 18-holesand-green course which opened in 1926.

(Sand greens, for those unfamiliar with the concept, were just that:putting surfaces formed of sand which was oiled and raked. They werecommon decades ago in areas where climatic conditions or financialreasons precluded grass greens. Sand greens still can be found inrelatively remote areas of North America, usually on the mostrudimentary courses.)

About the time Barr was born in 1952, the course had reverted to nineholes, albeit with grass greens. After much discussion and fund-raising,Vancouver-based architect A.V. Macan was hired to design an 18-holelayout which opened in 1962.

Macan receives little fanfare outside of British Columbia, which isunfortunate. A fine player, he moved to Canada from Ireland in 1912 atthe age of 30, and eventually was enshrined in the Pacific NorthwestGolf Association Hall of Fame. Before his death in 1964, he designedsome of the best courses in the region, including Fircrest in Tacoma,Washington; Broadmoor and Inglewood in Seattle; Royal Colwood inVictoria, British Columbia; and Shaughnessy, Marine Drive, andUniversity in Vancouver.

Short but tough Kelowna G&CCSince Macan's original design, the course has evolved via renovations byCanadian architects Les Furber and Graham Cooke. To their credit, thetraditional flavor was retained, with the signature towering Ponderosapines and lakes defining every hole and threatening errant shots.

"It's only 6,300 yards," says an unapologetic Greg Pidlaski, the headprofessional here for 13 years, "but it plays a lot longer because it'sgot five par-5s and five par-3s. It's a unique test with a lot ofrisk-reward situations. There are a lot of small greens, with lots ofundulations, so there's a reward for hitting the green, and especiallythe right part of the green. It's quite hilly, and if you can learnedhow to hit it from all those funny lies, then you will learn goodbalance."

Pidlaski thinks the lessons Barr learned at Kelowna G&CC stood him ingood stead throughout his career. "You have to hit fairways, you have tohit quality shots into greens, hit a lot of greens, and know how to hitthe right shot for the situation. You can see from his stats that he cando that, and people forget that in his early days on the Tour, he wasone of the longest hitters out there. He can still hit it long, but he'salso one of the smartest players. He must have learned that here."

Pidlaski grew up playing on the Canadian Tour with Barr and his Canadiancohort Dan Halldorson. Their paths crossed in later years, most recentlylast year when Barr was awaiting his chance at the senior pro circuit.

"Dave is an honorary lifetime member here and his wife is a member, andso is their son," says Pidlaski. "In many ways, they're just yourordinary members. Last year, Dave would play Wednesdays and Sundays withthe guys. He's a plus-4 handicap here, so he has to give a lot of shotsto the guys he plays with. He shot 63 last year, nine under, and he lostmoney to his group!"

Thanks to that historic win at the Royal Caribbean Classic, the mostfamous member of Kelowna G&CC can probably afford it.

For more information on Kelowna, visitkelownachamber.org/kelowna_tourism

Where to stay

Kelowna offers just about every level ofaccommodations,including all major chains. The ideal scenario, of course, is to stay onthe water. There are several choices, ranging from the luxury GrandOkanagan Lakefront Resort and Conference Center (800-465-4651,grandokanagan.com) to the economy Hotel Eldorado (250-763-7500,eldoradokelowna.com), with the moderately priced Lake Okanagan Resort inthe middle (800-663-3273, lakeokanagan.com).

Where to play

Kelowna G&CC accepts guest play at Cdn$85, taxes included. More than a dozen courses are within easy reach of downtownKelowna, including Gallagher's Canyon and the 36-hole Okanagan GolfClub. For more information, visit golfbc.com.

John Gordon has been involved fulltime with golf since he became managing editor of Score, Canada's Golf Magazine, in 1985. In 1991, he was recruited by the Royal Canadian Golf Association to create their Member Services and Communications departments, and to revive Golf Canada magazine, their national membersmagazine which had been defunct for a decade. After successfully relaunching Golf Canada and serving as its inaugural editor, he was named executive director of the Ontario Golf Association. He returned to fulltime writing in 1995.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

 
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