It’s been a tough summer for those around the Glasgow Hills Golf Course.
But yesterday, a sign of better days ahead seemed to show its face for the golf course located some twenty-minutes west of Charlottetown, in New Glasgow, Prince Edward Island.
Those familiar with the people who live in the province will appreciate that they are a resilient breed. The island grew from a dependence on the land and the sea, two places where hard work sustains you but occasionally ends in tragedy. Less than two weeks ago a pair of fisherman from Tignish, Moe Getson and Glen DesRoches lost their lives in pursuit of their craft.
These people are not forgotten, but those around them learn to push forward, usually with the strong support of the tight-knit community in a province where the entire population is less than 150,000. Most live in small towns and villages where everyone knows each other and leans on one another. It does not ease the pain, but it provides some comfort. Some hope that life can move on. It is those glimmers of light that they rely on.
On July 27th this year, the golf industry in Canada’s smallest province lost one of their own. Nathan MacKay was the Superintendent at Glasgow Hills Golf Course. At 37 years-old he was a husband to Vickie and a father to Nolan, Duncan, and Lydia. His death was tragic, untimely, and mourned by many.
On a visit to the island last week it was clear that those who knew him well were profoundly affected by his death. They spoke of Nathan fondly, with great respect, and clearly saddened by his passing.
The club where he worked was more than that to the MacKay family. His father, Bruce, is an avid golfer, and his mother, Debbie, also works in administration at the course. Nathan’s Celebration of Life was held there, in a place where long views to the Gulf of St. Lawrence also take in the highly manicured grounds surrounding it that he lovingly care for.
The Nathan MacKay Memorial Tournament
It seemed only fitting that a Nathan MacKay Memorial Tournament would be organized. So it was and slated to be played yesterday, September 30th. The funds raised were earmarked for an education fund that has been established for Nathan and Vickie’s children at the RBC in nearby Hunter River.
According to Glasgow Hills Assistant Professional Brian Kroken, a full field of 34 teams, 136 players, were on hand for the tournament, many staff members from other local courses. The scramble format event was meant to keep spirits light and allow players to focus on honouring Nathan and the many great memories they had of him. Little did they know that another would be connected to him by the end of the day, courtesy of his own father.
As part of the tournament, a special event was set up on the 15th hole. Like most standard golf tournaments it was a hole in one contest, with anyone beating the odds picking up a $10,000 prize.
Set up at 155 yards and requiring a carry over water to a heavily sloped green, the 15th hole at Glasgow Hills can be a stern test. It’s a challenge to make par, let alone a birdie, or better.
Despite playing the game religiously Bruce MacKay’s golf resume did not include an ace. In fact, according to Kroken, a couple of weeks prior to the event, the elder MacKay was bemoaning the fact that he was getting too old and that his opportunity to finally get a hole in one was passing him by.
That all changed with one swing on this fateful day.
Word is MacKay’s tee shot on the 15th went on a bee-line to the hole, landed nearby, then appeared to stop. It then started to trickle again, as if nudged, rolling squarely into the hole for an improbable score of one. The spotters on the hole, coincidentally two members of the greens staff who worked with Nathan, celebrated exuberantly, just as the golfers on the tee box did.
It was a Hollywood-like moment that was hard to fathom. Paul McCormack, the Superintendent at Fox Meadow Golf Club, who played in the event, accurately described it as “Disney movie stuff.”
Ben King, the Manager of nearby Green Gables Golf Club shared on his Twitter feed: “I’ve been lucky to be around for lots of great golfing stories and memories for the last 20 years on the north shore. Bruce MacKay’s hole in one yesterday at Glasgow Hills is one people won’t forget about for a long, long time. Hard to describe. Unreal.”
I’ve been lucky to be around for lots of great golfing stories and memories for the last 20 years on the north shore. Bruce MacKay’s hole in one yesterday at @GlasgowHilsGolf is one people won’t forget about for a long, long time. Hard to describe. Unreal.
— Benjamin King (@BenKing_20) October 1, 2018
As remarkable as the ace was for Bruce, with many wondering about some divine intervention from his son, the highlights were not over.
The unlikely feat propelled Bruce and his team of Randall Guthrie, Alan Murphy, and Kevin MacAdam to a score of 58, winning them top honours at the 1st Nathan MacKay Memorial Golf Tournament.
While nothing will soften the loss of Nathan MacKay, the tournament created in his memory was heralded as a success. For many reasons. Some very unexpected.
It provided the most miraculous of golf tales and another fond recollection tied to Nathan MacKay in a life cut far too short. And maybe, just a little, provided a little spark for those left behind.