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Gordon Stollery, right, with John Hagg in 1997. (The Canadian Press/The Canadian Press)
Gordon Stollery, right, with John Hagg in 1997. (The Canadian Press/The Canadian Press)

Angus Glen Golf Club was his passion Add to ...

Gordon Stollery was a bear of a man, with a jovial mien and a heart the size of his stride.

On Monday, he died while on vacation in the British Virgin Islands. He was 64.

Stollery was a tour de force in the business world: former chairman of Northstar Energy Corp., and chief executive of Morrison Petroleum Ltd. He also founded several companies in Canada’s oil patch, including Highpine Oil & Gas, OGY Petroleum Ltd., Storm Energy Ltd. and Canadian Gas Gathering Systems Inc.

But his crown jewel was the Angus Glen Golf Club, a spot off Kennedy Road and Major Mackenzie Drive in Markham, Ont., where the courses won just about every award in the business. His courses played host to two Canadian Opens in 2002 and 2007.

“Of all the things he owned, Angus Glen was easily his most favourite,” said son-in-law Allan McDonald, who is married to Stollery’s daughter, Cailey, who now operates Angus Glen.

“He loved to play. He was a member of golf courses all around the world. He travelled with golf clubs whenever he could. It was his passion. Angus Glen was more of an item that he loved to be involved with rather than something that was purely profit driven.”

Stollery built a family atmosphere at Angus Glen, so much so that employees never wanted to leave. Many have been there from 10 to 20 years, remarkable for a seasonal business. When the golfing season started up, employees returned en masse.

Scott Simmons, executive director of Golf Canada, was shocked when he heard of Stollery’s death late Monday afternoon. “I can’t even put into words how shocking it was,” he said.

He last saw Stollery in late September during a fundraising event for the Golf Canada Foundation and had a long chat with him. “I’ve never seen him happier,” Simmons said.

“He had just recently decided to work a little less and enjoy life a little bit more. I’ve never seen him looking healthier. He had a lot of colour. He was always jovial.”

He said he and Stollery were just in the process of organizing a lunch together, through e-mail, to discuss some business issues. “I guess we’re not going to get that chance,” he said.

Stollery was a “very generous man,” who liked to give back to the sport, and he gave to a lot of causes, Simmons said. And he was a great family man, with his seven daughters. “He was kind to everyone he met. He was a great man to do business with. He had a great heart.”

Kevin Thistle, who worked as course manager and head professional for 16 years at Angus Glen was also taken aback by Stollery’s death. “He was a great man,” Thistle said. “He was larger than life. He filled the room when he walked in. He filled up a room with his laughter and his smile. He was a great businessman, but he always had time for everybody. It didn’t matter who you were.”

Thistle would see Stollery chat with powerbrokers from Bay Street, and just as easily talk with someone who had just come to Angus Glen to golf.

He also created Goodwood Golf Course near Uxbridge, Ont., – which has never officially opened – and he was also a developer, constructing hundreds of homes surrounding his golf courses.

He knew how to live large. He was a good hockey player when he was young. And a pretty good golfer, even late in life. He developed some shoulder problems, but had just recovered to the point where he was able to play again. “He was excited about that,” McDonald said.

And, as large a man as he was, he snorkelled with glee. He’d sneak up on his grandsons from under the water in the backyard pool. It was not his most important hobby, but something he enjoyed.

Angus Glen was a piece of farmland when Stollery’s father, Arthur, bought it in 1957 to raise Aberdeen Angus cattle, and racehorses – and he created some good ones, including champions Kennedy Road and Laurie’s Dancer. Arthur had started to build the golf course when he died, so Gordon took over. He also took over his father’s mining exploration company.

Gordon Stollery carried on the racing business in a more low-key way as a breeder. He owned a farm in Kentucky until five or six years ago.

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