As August turned to September, and the FedEx Cup, this week's Tour Championship, and next week's Ryder Cup come into focus, something else came into focus for me. It occurred to me that this was the 50th anniversary of my friend Norm Mogil's win in the 1962 Canadian Junior Championship at the Moncton Golf and Country Club; a win in a national championship, and a significant anniversary. Something to celebrate, for sure.
Norm was then a member at the Maple Downs Golf and Country Club just north of Toronto. Norm is still a member at Maple, as I am. I've known him for many years. For a while we were members at the National Golf Club of Canada, the country's most demanding course. If you want to find out whether your swing stands up, the National is the place.
Norm threaded the ball down the narrow fairways and into the small, well-defended greens with skill. He's 68 now, and it's a testament to what he learned about the game as a youngster that he has retained his ability to control the flight of the ball. I just checked his handicap factor: 3.8.
It wasn't easy for Norm to get to the Canadian Junior, at least not by the route he chose. He wanted to make the Ontario Junior team, and, as he recalled, he had to go through qualifying rounds at the Thornhill Golf and Country Club and then two rounds at the St. Catharines Golf and Country Club. Four spots were available. Norm tied for fourth with two other juniors, and then they went through another 18-hole round at Rosedale in Toronto.
"I won that," Norm said, "so I squeezed into the team."
Mogil went out to Moncton on his own, flying there via Montreal. Along the way to the 36-hole final he beat Wayne Vollmer, who learned his golf at the Marine Drive club in Vancouver. Vollmer won the 1963 Canadian Junior. He won the B.C. Amateur and the Arizona State Amateur, and went on to become one of Canada's top pros. He played the PGA Tour from 1969-1972.
Vollmer came to the last hole of the 1971 B.C. Open needing a birdie to get into a playoff with four other golfers, and holed a wedge from 105 yards to win outright: a walk-off home run for the win, as Eugene Wong would do 41 years later when he holed a 9-iron on the final hole to win the 2012 Canadian Tour Championship at the Scarboro Golf and Country Club by a shot. Vollmer, by the way, is the head pro and director of golf at the Morgan Creek club in South Surrey, B.C. His son Roan is the head pro at the Oakdale Golf and Country Club in Toronto.
As for Mogil, he won the final 36-hole match one-up. He's evidence that being taught early and well can lead to solid golf year after year after year, decade after decade after decade. Mogil read Ben Hogan's Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf when he was a youngster. It's about the only instruction book he's ever read and accepted. Hogan spoke truth to Norm.
The book was at Norm's bedside for years. He still refers to it and discusses it. His swing is compact and he hits the ball in the middle of the clubface. It also didn't hurt Norm that he took lessons when he was a kid from George Clifton, Maple's head pro. The Golf Association of Ontario Hall of Fame member was an early adoptee of swing sequence photography. Clifton, who died in 2000, took to the Graph-Check Sequence Camera when it came out in the mid-1960s. The camera took eight images on a 4x5 inch print.
I'm sure Norm's swing would look about the same today on the print as it would have back in the 1960s. His backswing is shorter, but I don't believe any other change would be evident. He's the only Maple Downs member to win a national championship. Here's to you, my friend.
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association's first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada's Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round's on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf's Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein