Golf Course WebsitesGolfRevText Golfer

Book Review: 'Stan Leonard - Canada's Forgotten Golf Legend'

By: Dr. John Wagner


This is not a long book - only 115 pages total - but it's a good biography of a long-forgotten but excellent player. I probably have more interest in it since I've played many of the courses where Stan Leonard served as the pro in Vancouver, B.C.

The book by long-time Vancouver-area golf writer Arv Olson provides a lot of insight into Leonard and what it was like to try to make it on the PGA Tour before it became the multi-million-dollar juggernaut it is today. Olson doesn't just start with Stan's youth and how he grew up, etc. He opens by discussing how the game of golf was in the 1930s, '40s and '50s, and who the dominant players were during these decades.

It's neat reading about this era, a time of very low payouts when, typically, the winner earned most of the total purse. With Olson's book I learned it was common for two or three of the leaders to split the winner's share, regardless of who one won the tournament, so they could make some pocket money and pay their way to the next tournament.

One of the book's best pictures shows Sam Snead, Leonard, a player named Fred Wood and Ben Hogan having milk and cookies in the locker room at Old Shaughnessy in Vancouver, as pros were not allowed in private clubhouses until around 1950. Most of the pros today own the clubhouses.

Leonard's first victory was in the Vancouver caddie tournament in 1929 at age 13. His first PGA Tour victory came in the Greater Greensboro Open in 1957 when he was already in his 40s.

Leonard's best years were in the mid-'50s when he won four titles and became an imposing competitor in the Masters, where he had five top-10 finishes. Leonard performed beyond expectations at Augusta National. Twice he tied for fourth, two strokes behind Arnold Palmer in 1958 and three behind 1959 champion Art Wall. This book details Leonard's entire career, including his performances in the year's first major championship.

The club pro at Marine Drive for almost 15 years won three Tour events. In addition to the 1957 Greater Greensboro Open, Leonard won the 1958 Tournament of Champions and 1960 Western Open. He capped off 1959 in Melbourne, Australia, by winning his second World Cup Individual title.

Leonard's career is revealed objectively, as the author discusses Stan's good and not-so-good points. Leonard was a great father to daughter Linda and a good husband. He passed away in 2005 at age 90.

A bronze statue of Leonard near Marine Drive's first tee was proposed to commemorate his contributions to the club, but it was dismissed because many members didn't know who he was. According to Olson, former touring pro Dick Zokol, once a junior member at Marine, fears today's golfers will forget legends like Leonard who "paved the way for so many of us. We must make efforts that aren't allowed to happen. We have to build on that legendary status and pass it along to future players."

A bronze statue of Leonard near Marine Drive's first tee was proposed to commemorate his contributions to the club, but it was dismissed because many members didn't know who he was. According to Olson, former touring pro Dick Zokol, once a junior member at Marine, fears today's golfers will forget legends like Leonard who "paved the way for so many of us. We must make efforts that aren't allowed to happen. We have to build on that legendary status and pass it along to future players."

This is a nice book as it shows a lot of the history of golf and, in addition to chronicling Leonard's career, highlights players we no longer read about. Good Stuff.

"Stan Leonard - Canada's Forgotten Golf Legend," by Arv Olson, 2009, $24.99, Printed by First Choice Books, ISBN 978-1-926626-59-8. To order online, visit http://www.arvolsongolf.com.

Dr. John Wagner has been a Seattle dentist for 37 years. Hes been published in several dental journals as well as had several articles appear in the turf magazine for Pacific Northwest golf course superintendents. John has served as a guest lecturer at the University of Washington Business School for several years and as a guest lecturer for several dental societies. Dr. Wagner is the co-designer (with Steve Shea of the Berger Partnership) of a golf course in Japan that cost over $120 million and was built by Wadsworth Golf Construction. Hes a Past President of the Washington State Golf Association and a Trustee of the Pacific Coast Golf Association. John is currently a Member of the USGA Green Section and a Director of the WSGA.