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Canada's Long, Cold Winter

By: Andrew Penner


Golf and snow are about as compatible as Rob Ford and logic. Golf is a warm-weather game. And Rob Ford is a moron. But let's talk about why - especially considering that we're just coming out of a winter that was about as much fun as a double-molar extraction - we even bother playing golf in Canada.

I mean, do people in Libya play ice hockey? No, of course not. They spend their days hydrating themselves and putting aloe vera on their sunburns. We spend our days shoveling sidewalks and removing ice from our beards. When you really think about it, it's amazing recreation exists in either place.

Indeed, we live in one of the coldest places on earth. About the only inhabited place that is colder, I think, is Siberia. And I'm not really sure it's actually inhabited. There are probably just polar bears, wooly mammoths and yetis living there. Maybe there is a smattering of hunter/gatherer types wearing wooly mammoth hats and complaining about how f$@ing cold it is, but regardless, whatever lives in Siberia has no clue what golf is, which only makes sense.

So why do we? And how the hell did Rob Ford get elected as mayor of Toronto?

At any rate, considering our golf season lasts just 36 seconds, it is somewhat surprising that the game is as popular as it is in Canada. For whatever reason, when we emerge from our igloos after the long hibernation, we are chomping at the bit to start swinging sticks and bludgeoning golf balls. Shockingly, Canada has one of the highest golf participation rates in the world. Over 5 million Canuckleheads play the game. At last count, there were over 2,500 golf courses spread out across the country where we can go frustrate ourselves until we go insane and have to be shipped off to a camp in Siberia.

Not only is golf popular in Canada, but there are a few guys and gals who are quite good at it. Graham DeLaet, for example, who not only got all the ice out of his beard and moved to the United States to play full-time (apparently he couldn't quite squeeze enough practice time into the 36-second window he had to work with in Weyburn, Saskatchewan), is one of the best golfers in the world. As long as he keeps his beard ice-free and his blood keeps circulating, he should win on the PGA Tour this year.

Yes, come hell or high water (ask Alberta about that), blizzards or nor'easters, we will - when the permafrost finally abates and the bugs come out - have golf on our minds. And, all of a sudden, thanks to the thermometer showing a double-digit, we suddenly think we're invincible. Like the 5'4" guy who thinks he can play in the NBA. Like Napoleon Dynamite's stud-muffin brother who scores the hot babe.

Like the wheezing crack smoker who thinks he can be mayor.

Of course, in Canada there are a few pockets, I believe they call them micro-climates, where they are fortunate enough to have a golf season that actually runs into the minutes. On Vancouver Island, for example, they can sometimes play golf in winter without getting frostbite. They often sink up to their gonads in mud while playing a shot but, hey, at least they can get out there and flail.

But back to this winter: In case you missed it or were drunk for the past six months (there are worse ways to deal with it), it was somewhat cold up here. In Saskatchewan, for example, they recorded wind-chills of -62 degrees Celsius. In Winnipeg, most people either froze solid or had their pipes freeze solid. In Ontario, Niagara Falls became a freaky-looking ice sculpture that resembled a white version of Bob Marley's hair.

And, for whatever reason, Toronto's mayor's frontal brain lobe also froze.

When you add it all up, it was a tough winter that took a serious toll.

How, exactly, this plays out in the golf industry remains to be seen. Will golfers in Canada thaw out in time to enjoy the wink-and-you'll-miss-it golf season? Will the courses even thaw out at all? It's still unclear at this time.

What is clear is that all of us, just when we think our 36 seconds of freedom are upon us, will have to dig out of a massive spring snow storm . . . or five. Then come the bugs and, if you live in Alberta or Manitoba, the floods.

All of which begs the question, why even bother? The answer, I'm guessing, is because it's golf. And golf, in its sick and twisted little way, is fun.

Kinda like a Rob Ford press conference.

Andrew Penner is a golf professional, writer, and photographer based in Calgary, Alberta. His work has appeared in many leading golf and lifestyle publications in North America and Europe. Andrew is also a 20-year member of the Canadian PGA and still teaches the game on a part-time basis. When not on writing or photography assignments, he enjoys chilling out in the backyard with his three boys and his wife, Dawn. Feel free to visit Andrew at www.andrewpenner.com. You can also reach him at andpenner@shaw.ca.