Don Ferne

Done Ferne (Photo: Joe McLean)

Lucky in Life 

Done Ferne (Photo: Joe McLean)
Done Ferne (Photo: Joe McLean)

Throughout his life it seems that Don Ferne has been in the right place at the right time.

Or is it that he has seen the available opportunities and made the correct decisions?

Let’s take a closer look at this now Life-Member of the PGA of Canada and co-owner of Manderley on the Green in the south end of the city and how his life decisions have defined his life and career.

Although born in Vancouver, Ottawa has been home to Don through most of his life. His dad was a judge with the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) office and he was moving his family around every three or four years administering justice in the Canadian Forces, but always seemed to return to Ottawa.

Don’s introduction to the game of golf came when he worked on the course at Pineview Municipal Golf Club in the summer of 1968 under the late John Green. “I used to run across the old, two-lane highway (now the Queensway) to get to the course,” says Don.

After graduating from Rideau High School, Don spent one year at Carleton. After his time at Carleton, Don and a friend jumped in his car and took off for Florida, continued on to the west coast eventually ending up back in British Columbia where Don had family. Short on money, Don worked in the pro shop in 1970 at the Victoria Golf Club under the tutelage of CPGA Professional Paul Trapp for $250 a month. According to Don, “He was a great guy and I learned a lot about golf and merchandising from him. It was a great and lasting experience.”

With the money he saved, Don returned home and gave Carleton another shot.

But it wasn’t for him.

In 1971, Don turned professional and worked for Don Renaud at Cedarhill Golf & Country Club. “Don Renaud taught me how to hustle and work hard. As an assistant, I put in long hours and it paid off.” Don also worked the winter golf school for two years.

In the fall of 1973 Don realized that as a professional he had to make improvements to his own golf game, so he went to Daytona Beach where his family had a winter home. While there, a friend visiting from Ottawa advised him that the head professional position was available at Prescott Golf Club. Don interviewed for and won the position making him what he believes was the youngest head professional at that time (1974) in Canada.

In 1975, Don was back at Cedarhill as the associate professional and then took the head professional position at Manderley on the retirement of Frank Jenkins in 1976.

When Don Renaud retired as the head professional at Cedarhill, Don was hired. On his time at Cedarhill, Don says, “When I was at Cedarhill, I thought I had the best job in the city. It wasn’t the most money but Dick and Ross Chiarelli were fantastic guys to work for. They let me do my job and as long as I kept the members serviced and happy, they were happy. There were a number of young businessmen members. We had a lot of fun and many of them were very competitive. It was a great experience.”

Flagstick reached out to Don Renaud for a few comments. “Don worked for me as you mentioned in the early 70’s, at that time he was a young gentle kid who was eager to learn the business. He was always asking questions and I believe that’s what made him learn so quickly. Don was always a very easy going type and was loved not only by myself but all the members loved him also! He was a bit shy at the early stage but grew out of that stage very quickly. Don always maintained his gentle ways about him and that’s what we all loved about him. Don worked hard on his game and as time went on he began to improve immensely and became a good player. He was a team player with all the staff as well.”

After six years at Cedarhill, opportunity again came knocking. The Hope family had placed the Manderley Golf Course on the market and as Don says, “What golf professional wouldn’t want to own and run his own golf course? You are your own boss.”

Don, along with his brother Ernie and sister-in-law Jill, made the commitment and became owners of Manderley on the Green. That was twenty-nine years ago and they haven’t looked back. When asked about working with his brother, Don replied, “He’s a great sounding board and we’ve never had an argument. Family is more important than money.”

Don was able to draw on his thirty years of experience as a professional and a player to design nine new holes in 2003, keeping the original Howard Watson design features in mind and transforming Manderley into the twenty-seven hole operation that is present today.

Don is quite proud of his involvement with Mark Seabrook and a few other golf course owners in the formation of the National Golf Club Owners Association (NGCOA). At the time, golfers bringing alcohol to the golf course and the dress code were issues for golf clubs. One of their original initiatives was signage outlining their concerns to golfers.

Along the way, Don has also been lucky to have love in his life. He met Karen Taylor in 1980 and they married in 1988. In 1991, Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer.  After surgery and a period of remission and even talk about retirement, Karen passed away in 1998. A lasting tribute to Karen is the Karen Taylor Memorial Golf Tournament benefitting nursing education and Cure Diabetes. Run at Manderley, the charity tournament is celebrating its 15 year of operation in 2012 and according to Don “donates the largest bursaries in Canada.”

Don is proud of the support he received from family and friends during Karen’s illness. As he says, “I was lucky to have Ernie and Jill around. I was basically gone for about four years.” In addition he appreciates the support he received from his fellow golf professionals. In fact the PGA of Canada – Ottawa Zone honoured him by renaming their annual Pro-Lady Tournament in Karen Taylor’s name.

“Most people are lucky to find one love, but to find two, I am lucky and blessed in life,” were Don’s words when talking about his wife Judi.

“Judi’s last name was Paterson, when I met her. At the time she was the Program Manager for Palliative Care at the Civic Hospital. Though we had many mutual friends, as Karen was at one time a nurse there, we had not met before. Judi was the person that took care of Karen and me through the final stages of her cancer. Some months after Karen died we got together with some of those mutual friends and lucky for me things went great from there.”

“When I met Judi, I won the lottery,” joked Don. “I never had to put up with teenagers. Our daughter’s names are Kim Hanson (Andrew) and they have two sons – Owen (9) and Hugo (10 months) and Katie Kerrigan (Dave) and they also have two sons – Noah (5) and Jack (8 months).”

Don has relinquished the majority of the day to day golf operations at Manderley on the Green to his General Manager Greg Chambers, leaving him more time to travel, play a little golf and spend more time with his grandchildren and family.

Don is proud of the many highlights in his life including; his family, the friends that he has made, his years as a golf professional and the clubs he has worked at, his association with the PGA of Canada – Ottawa Zone, him being a founding member of the NGCOA, the bursaries disbursed from the proceeds of the Karen Taylor Charity Tournament, the golf professionals and food & beverage staff that he has helped train.

Don regrets that he didn’t follow through with further education. Although it wasn’t for him at the time, he is a believer in the educational system and has certainly taken part in the various seminars run by the PGA and has also encouraged young golf professionals to get as much education as possible.

Looking to the future, Don can see selling the golf course, travelling more with Judi, spending more time with the grandchildren and basically just slowing down and enjoying life a little more.

Through his life, Don appears to have made the correct decisions when the opportunities have been placed in front of him. He says that, “I’ve been lucky to be in the right place at the right time.”

Greg White, who is the current head professional at Cedarhill Golf & Country Club and worked with Don in his early days at Cedarhill summed it up best – “Don is a role model for any golf professional to follow. He is well-liked by everyone.”