By Joe McLean
Brian Darling grew up in a golf environment. He started playing the game at the age of four at the Darling family summer cottage near what was then 16th hole at the Whitlock Golf Club in Hudson, Quebec along with his sisters Judy and Mary.
“I’m certainly not the best golfer in the Darling Family”, Brian was quick to comment when asked about the golf tradition among his lineage. Brian, who now makes his home in Ottawa, was referring to the fact that the Darling family is well known in the Quebec golf community and also by Canadians who know their golf history.
Mr. Arthur J. Darling, Brian’s grandfather, was the first President of the Whitlock Golf Club and he hosted the first meeting on record for the purpose of organizing their golf club in 1912.
Brian’s parents were A.B. (Bill) and Dora (nee Virtue) Darling. Bill was the winner of the Whitlock Golf Club Men’s Championship 11 times as well as the Western Canada Amateur Championship once. Dora won 10 Ladies Club Championships as well as the Quebec Amateur 4 times with two runners-up; the Canadian Ladies Amateur in 1936 and she was runner-up in the Canadian Ladies Close Championship in 1937. She was also the Champion of the Canadian Women’s Senior Golf Association three times and runner-up twice.
Brian’s sister Judy Darling Evans was named to the Quebec Golf Hall of Fame in 1998. Her list of wins is extensive and includes three Quebec Juniors; one Canadian Junior; six Quebec Amateurs; two Canadian Ladies Amateur; one Quebec Senior Ladies and four Whitlock Ladies Club Championships. Brian’s sister Mary Darling Chalmers was the winner of the Quebec Junior Girl’s Championship three times and is a seven-time Whitlock Ladies Club Champion. She also won three Montreal City and District Championships and seven London Hunt Club Championships.
How’s that for a tough act to follow?
To his credit, Brian was named twice to the Quebec Junior Inter-Provincial Team in National Championships and he was a five-time member of the Quebec Team in matches against Ontario. Brian was the winner of the Ottawa Valley Golf Association Match Play Championship in 1975 and also the Ottawa Valley Golf Association (OVGA) Senior Championship in 2003. He has also won numerous Camelot Golf and Country Club Senior Championships and in 2001 he finished in 2nd place to Graham Cooke in the Canadian Senior Men’s Championship on his home Camelot Golf and Country Club.
Brian is very proud of his family background as he should be as the Darlings are one of the most decorated golf families in Canada.
As a youngster, he played daily during the summer on the Whitlock course and learned the finer points of the game while caddying for his dad. He spent some time in the Whitlock Pro Shop under Jim McLean but he quickly learned that he wasn’t cut out to be golf professional.
Brian earned his Bachelor of Commerce degree at Mount Allison University, became a certified public accountant, working with a couple of small firms in Calgary and then spent the bulk of his working career at the Canadian Revenue Agency. He was eventually promoted to Director status. Asked if he gets a free pass in his retirement, the answer was a quick “No”.
For the first two years of his 30 year career at Revenue Canada, Brian worked in Alberta and then came back to Ottawa in 1974. Brian played with some great golfers while playing out of the Willow Park Golf & Country Club in Calgary. In Ottawa, Brian played out of the Rivermead Golf Club and the Camelot Golf and Country Club.
Club championships were hard to come by at Rivermead for Brian with players like Andy and Greg Nezan, Peter Mayo, Glen Seely and Don Rioux winning championships. In OVGA events, Brian was a solid competitor but again he was up against some pretty tough competition. In 1975 he beat Rivermead club-mate Murray Atkinson to win the Ottawa City & District Match Play Glenlea Championship Trophy. Brian made the finals of the Match Play Championship three more times but was defeated by Rivermead club-mates Andy Nezan twice and Don Rioux once. Between 1975 and 1988, Brian was a member of strong Rivermead Intersectional Teams that were winners of the “A” Division of the Ottawa District and Ottawa Valley Golf Association Intersectional competitions 11 times.
Brian also has a history of giving back to the game both with the Ottawa District Golf Association and also at his golf club. Brian was on the ODGA committee that founded the Ottawa Valley Golf Association.
In the Rivermead Golf Club 75th Anniversary Book, Reg Schroeter wrote, “Brian Darling, who had been Director of Pro and Play for the past two years, was then Club President. Almost single-handedly, he set out with unrelenting determination to find out how the Club had managed to get itself into such a critical situation, what needed to be done immediately to keep the Club going, and what steps must be taken afterwards to prevent it happening again.” Brian along with Hugh Macdonald and Fern Turpin were credited with turning around a bad financial situation at the Rivermead Golf Club.
Looking back on the situation, Brian is unapologetic. “We did what we had to do. The Club was bleeding money and the bank was ready to foreclose. We instituted tight financial controls and assessed the members and brought the situation under control.”
Throughout his time playing golf, Brian says, “I’ve enjoyed the people I’ve met and I’ve gotten back more than I think I’ve given. I’ve met people who have assisted my family and me outside of golf.” Brian talks about the people he has met and the friendships made over the years. He credits his family for the support they have given him over the years and talks about Tom Hunter who was a mentor to him in his teens, club-mates Andy Nezan and Don Rioux as well as the support given him by golf professionals Andre Harvey, Barry Laphen, Greg White, Marc Peterson and Scott Mikkelsen.
When asked about any regrets, Brian replied that he had none but admitted that he was disappointed with being a runner-up in competitions on many occasions. Looking at the positive side, he realized what he had done to get into the position to win. His only other disappointment in golf is not making any Willingdon Cup or Senior Teams after having success as a junior competitor.
As to the future, Brian wants to enjoy life and stay active. He enjoys his annual month in White Lake, North Carolina and also spending time with family. Brian and his wife Judy have two children and two grandchildren.
Judging by the achievements he has made both on and off the golf course, this writer is of the opinion that Brian Darling has earned his place in the very successful Darling Family golf history. He’s given back to the game and been rewarded by getting a lot more back.