Thiha Gyi – A Remarkable Path
The first thing you see when you meet Thiha Gyi is his infectious smile. If you get to know Thiha, you will find behind that smile a warm and welcoming, friendly gentleman. He also happens to have quite a back story.
A Candidate for Membership with the PGA of Canada, Thiha works at the GreyHawk Golf Club in the south end of the City of Ottawa.
A latecomer to the golf industry, his story is interesting just for the journey and the decisions he has made to get to where he is in life. Unlike most golf obsessed kids who go on to work in the golf industry as soon as they can, Thiha’s route was a bit more indirect.
He, along with sister Nilar, was born in Burma, a Southeast Asian nation now known as Myanmar, in 1967 to Emma and Aung Gyi. A very close family, Friday evening dinners when everyone is available are very special for all of the family. This is especially true for Thiha’s wife, Khine Thinn, and their daughters Maya and Kayla.
In fact, food has had a significant role in the life of Thiha Gyi. After graduating from Bell High School in Bells Corners, Thiha picked up a biology degree from Carleton University but as he says, “I wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted to do”. A business degree from Algonquin College came next but once again “I wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted to do”.
Thiha realized that he loved to cook; he traces that back to his mother and grandmother. They both love to cook and his grandmother ran the restaurant in Burma where his parents met. Algonquin College’s School of Hospitality and Tourism had a reputation for placing graduates of their Culinary Skills – Chef Training course into the local food industry so Thiha enrolled and graduated (again).
What followed for Thiha was a steady progression of jobs in the Ottawa food industry.
He was first recruited at an open house at Algonquin by Chef Margaret McCormick from Camelot Golf & Country Club and he spent two and a half years there under her guidance. A head chef position was next in the cards at Cedarhill Golf & Country Club. This was a homecoming of sorts as he had been a member at Cedarhill since his junior days. Next came a catering chef position at Carleton University and then work at the Ottawa Courthouse cafeteria where he enjoyed the set hours and weekends off.
Then along came his first daughter and Thiha, after consultation with his wife, took up a new position as a stay-at-home dad. This period of time raising Maya and Kayla was rewarding to Thiha.
But golf, a sport he had played since his youth, was calling to Thiha and his next career foray would once again be in the industry.
At the age of 12 in New Delhi, India where his family had moved, Thiha had his introduction to the game of golf at the Army Golf Club. His father had invited him hit a few shots and he became fascinated with the game. A golf lesson ensued where he was given a grip and a golf swing. He was soon outdistancing his father on the course with a half set of Ladies MacGregor Jack Nicklaus clubs. Thiha had a regular caddy and was eventually the winner of the junior championship at the club.
Thiha’s family moved to Ottawa when he was 14 and settled in the Crystal Beach area. His parents set him up with a junior membership at Cedarhill Golf & Country Club and parts of his summer were taken up with his friends playing golf. He continued to play at Cedarhill until 2000 when he joined the GreyHawk Golf Club (Boundary Golf Club at that time) operated by ClubLink. With the Predator course being built, members were given the option of joining the Kanata Golf Club, also operated by ClubLink, for a year. It wasn’t a bad choice for Thiha as he went on to win the club championship and was asked to stay at Kanata. Loyal to his friends, Thiha returned to GreyHawk.
Thiha has won club championships wherever he has been a member and for a time placed well in Ottawa Valley Golf Association and Golf Quebec events. He gave up competitive golf for a period as he found his fellow-competitors too serious. Thiha was and still is more interested in playing with his friends, enjoying the game and the camaraderie as friendships mean everything to him.
After his two girls got older and were in school, Thiha talked to Director of Golf Operations Dany Lacombe about working in the pro shop and starting a career as a golf professional. Mr. Lacombe had other ideas as he happened to be looking for a chef at GreyHawk, but Thiha stuck to his guns about working in the golf shop.
When asked what Thiha brings to his job at GreyHawk, Mr. Lacombe answered, “He’s a great guy, very friendly and easy to connect with as well as one of the best players at the Club. It was easy for me to hire him to work in the golf shop as Thiha loves to please people and that is a great quality I look for in my staff. Apart from his other jobs in the shop, Thiha looks after GreyHawk’s senior member’s day each week and is doing a great job”.
I joked with Mr. Lacombe that in a pinch he could put Thiha into the kitchen to help out. Mr. Lacombe smiled but didn’t disagree.
Thiha has a tremendous respect for his family and as part of his wedding speech he thanked his parents for never pushing him and for allowing him to find his way in life.
He also thanks a number of people who were there for him along the way. Chief among them were the Cedarhill members, owners and golf professionals who were there for him in his formative years including the Chiarelli Family, Don Noseworthy, Don Ferne, Barry Laphen, Steve Hall and Dale Trafford.
A highlight in his amateur career was winning a trip to the Nike Oven in Fort Worth, Texas along his member-guest partner John Goold Jr. and golf professionals Dan Lacombe and Mark Trepanier. As part of the memorable trip, Thiha and John were both fitted with a full set of Nike clubs.
Though it has not been your typical golf career path, Thiha Gyi’s story shows that there is more than way more to find your place in life – be it in the kitchen, as a stay at home father, a top amateur golfer, or an emerging golf professional.
It appears Thiha has found a place he can call home at the GreyHawk Golf Club. He loves the members and his fellow staff members and he’s working hard learning the golf business and looks forward to giving golf lessons in the future.
As you can tell, Thiha has basically gone with the flow throughout his life and as he says, “I haven’t really planned and it’s worked out well for me.”
He’s enjoying life and his family and who could ask for anything more.
Sometimes the road to happiness is not a straight path.