Golf is a game that bonds us in many ways. No matter our place in life. For Mike Erlindson of Mississauga, Ontario, a simple golf lesson grew into much more than that.
Lifetime PGA of Canada-Ontario member Andrew Leith recently passed away and Erlindson shares about how his “golf pro” came to impact his life.
Andrew (Drew) Leith
July 17, 1952 – November 14, 2018
Drew Leith was my golf teacher. I first met him eight years ago at Family Golf in Oakville (Ontario), just off Ford Drive and the QEW.
He was a great teacher. He was positive and patient. He taught me how to hold the club properly. He taught me how to turn. He taught me how to hit from the inside. My ball flight was straighter and the ball went further.
Early on, every year I’d buy a set of lessons with him and he’d fix everything I forgot over the winter. We talked mostly about golf but details about his life would come out. We’d talk about his life as a pro and people he met like Moe Norman, Jim Nelford, Al Balding and George Knudson. He told me about leading an assistants’ tournament by four shots into the final day then losing his edge, and the tournament, during a rain delay.
He had a smooth, effortless swing with a lot of power. “Smooth, like Perry Como,” he’d say as he hit a driver over the back fence of the range. At Bridgewater, a stranger told him his swing looked like Raymond Floyd’s.
After a couple of years Family Golf shut down and Drew moved to White Oaks on Dundas. It really affected Drew. He went from teaching regularly to hardly teaching at all.
I learned a little more about him. I learned about the end of his marriage and the relationships that followed. I learned about where he grew up and his family. Drew didn’t sugar coat anything.
He asked me why I was always at the range. Why did I like golf so much? I said, “What else am I going to do?” What else was he going to do?
He let me take my beagle Samantha to the White Oaks driving range. I tied her up near the end of the range and she howled non-stop at the golfers until everyone was giving us dirty looks.
When White Oaks closed a couple of years later Drew felt cursed. He was being chased from one driving range to another.
I moved my business to a bigger office. I had a hitting net and a mat set up in the warehouse. We went through a couple of simulators until we got a decent one. Over the last two winters we hit balls every Sunday afternoon from November to March. We watched the PGA tournaments on the boardroom TV. It gave us something to do in the winter. I felt my game get better. The formal lessons stopped and we just hung out.
I helped Drew with his computers and his smart phone. He’d tweak something in my swing. We talked about the Maple Leafs. He told me about his life as an assistant pro at Lakeview, Oakdale and Brampton.
We started playing rounds in the summers. We had to keep moving around so he could get the PGA rate. We played a lot in Niagara and along Lake Erie.
He told me once at Wyldewood Golf Club I could carry 16 Mile Creek on the second shot at number 10 and I did. He could make you believe in yourself.
We talked about travel golf. “You can play golf barefoot in your bathing suit in Hawaii,” he said. “No one cares.”
Last season I played seven rounds with Drew. That was the most I played with anyone. We played Bridgewater in Fort Erie last August and I had my best round. The weather was perfect and the ball was travelling far. I told my wife it was my best year in golf because I could always count on Drew as a playing partner.
This October, on my birthday, I had a chance to meet Jack Nicklaus. The first person I texted was Drew. He called me when I was waiting for my flight home at the Charleston Airport. He was as excited as I was.
This past November 11 was like any Sunday. We played closest to the pin and watched the PGA Tour on TV. Drew hit three out of six shots to within three feet of the pin from 150 yards. He always had it. Then he left early. He hadn’t been feeling good for a couple of weeks. He’d seen a doctor. I was worried.
Three days later, he was gone.
I can’t imagine the number of hours I spent on the range or driving around in a golf cart with Drew. Most of the time we talked about anything but golf.
He was more than my golf teacher.
He was my friend and I’m really going to miss him.