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Kelowna is Dave's favorite place, Barr none

John GordonBy John Gordon,
Contributor

Kelowna, 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 Vancouver suburb of Richmond during his years of relative glory, Barr's heart never left Kelowna. He recently returned, bringing his wife Lu Ann and their 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 in recognition of his induction into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in2000.

The photo of Barr, holding his Hall of Fame memento with his wife standing 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 were common decades ago in areas where climatic conditions or financial reasons precluded grass greens. Sand greens still can be found inrelatively remote areas of North America, usually on the most rudimentary courses.)

About the time Barr was born in 1952, the course had reverted to nine holes, 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 is unfortunate. A fine player, he moved to Canada from Ireland in 1912 at the age of 30, and eventually was enshrined in the Pacific Northwest Golf 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, and University in Vancouver.

Since Macan's original design, the course has evolved via renovations by Canadian architects Les Furber and Graham Cooke. To their credit, the traditional 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 head professional here for 13 years, "but it plays a lot longer because it's got five par-5s and five par-3s. It's a unique test with a lot of risk-reward situations. There are a lot of small greens, with lots of undulations, so there's a reward for hitting the green, and especially the right part of the green. It's quite hilly, and if you can learned how to hit it from all those funny lies, then you will learn good balance."

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

Pidlaski grew up playing on the Canadian Tour with Barr and his Canadian cohort Dan Halldorson. Their paths crossed in later years, most recently last 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, and so is their son," says Pidlaski. "In many ways, they're just your ordinary members. Last year, Dave would play Wednesdays and Sundays with the guys. He's a plus-4 handicap here, so he has to give a lot of shots to the guys he plays with. He shot 63 last year, nine under, and he lost money 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 of accommodations, including all major chains. The ideal scenario, of course, is to stay onthe water. There are several choices, ranging from the luxury Grand Okanagan 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 in the 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 downtown Kelowna, 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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