Chris Bernard

Chris Bernard has joined the staff at the Canadian Golf & Country Club
Chris Bernard (Photo: Scott MacLeod)

Chris Bernard – “Teaching Is My Passion”

There are moments in our lives we won’t soon forget. They might change a lot that very second but they eventually have an impact on our entire lives. That was the case for a young Chris Bernard, now of Ottawa but always of Prince Edward Island.

He is tied to that province not only by birth but of how it would shape his world and continue to do so today.

The 46 year-old PGA of Canada Professional and Head Teaching Professional at Glen Mar Golf and Country Club was a hockey nut as a child. He eventually worked his way up to skate in the St. Louis Blues organization but it was off the ice, on the emerald fairways of the Green Gables Golf Club, within earshot of the crashing waves of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where he found his way.

Bernard had the simplest of childhoods.  Raised in Hunter River, a village of just over 300 that is a gateway for tourists headed for the famous beaches of Cavendish, his father ran the local Irving gas station.  It was where Chris could often be found, working and socializing with the regulars and tourists alike.

His golfing fate was sealed one summer when he joined friend Craig Taylor on a hunt for golf balls in a lake on the 16th hole at Green Gables GC. “We found a club and started to play,” Bernard recalls fondly.  “Pretty soon after that we went to see Errol Nicholson (then the pro at Green Gables) and bought an inexpensive set. That was it after that.”

Bernard and his pals haunted the fairways of the Stanley Thompson design.  “We played every day, about 200 rounds a summer,” he shared recently.  Their regular foursome included Craig (who would go on to win on the Canadian Tour), his brother Brett (a future Canadian Tour Rookie of the year), and pal Mike Hall.

The group would nearly wear the fairways down to the bright red soil according to Chris. “We would play two and three times a day.  We’d go at dawn and come home at dusk. We got our money’s worth.”

Even as hockey season arrived each year they would continue to play as much as possible.  If there was open fairway, even in the chill of a P.E.I. winter, they’d bundle up and get in whatever golf they could.  “We just loved to compete with each other, to play for a Maxfli balata, just to see who was going to beat the next guy.”

The lads pushed each other to get better.  They also had the friendly advice of local pro George Andrew.  “He was great.  We never paid for a lesson and they were never more than ten words..”

It was the generosity of people like Andrew and others that resonated with Bernard.  He carries that with him today as a professional.

Having broken par at the age of thirteen Bernard certainly showed aptitude for the sport but hockey still took priority for him. He focused on it through to the conclusion of his on-ice career in his early twenties.

In the Spring of 1990 he turned his full attention to golf and applied for a number of Assistant Professional jobs.  He’s not sure what made him look to the Ottawa area but he ended up at the Mississippi Golf Club under Head Professional Joe Kolar.

It was a brief stopover as Chris was looking to play and he hit the road.  “I played every open I could get in to.”  He toiled on mini-tour events in the United States, Canadian Tour events – anywhere a dollar could possibly be made.

“I made a living like that for a few years. I was basically a golf bum.  I played as many tournament as I could get into to make money,” says Chris who used Toronto as his base for that first half of the 1990’s.  ‘I was making a living,” is how he portrays his success level as a tour pro.  “I wasn’t getting rich but I wasn’t working either, I was playing golf every day.”

Looking to take a break after a number of years of grinding he headed back to Ottawa. There he joined the team at the Patterson family-owned Emerald Links Golf Club, becoming their Director of Golf at another of their properties, Coverdale Links, the next year.

He spent three golf seasons with the Patterson’s but winters found him looking to fill his days.  He started doing some work in the paper distribution business and before he knew it he had a new occupation.  For twelve years he would run his own business, allowing him to have stability for his young family – and time to play a lot of golf in his spare time.  He regained his amateur status and starting to pile up the trophies.

As an amateur he prevailed in club championships at Carleton Golf & Yacht Club and Eagle Creek Golf Club.  It was at Eagle Creek where regular playing partners like Al McGee, Kyle Koski  and Phil Lachapelle would push him to be better, just as his early foursome at Green Gables had.

Picking up a several Ottawa Valley Golf Association wins, Chris also won the Ottawa Citizen Amateur Championship in 2005 and the GolfTown National Mid-Amateur Championship.

Although golf was not his living during this time, the game was never far away from his thoughts.  It was no surprise then, that a couple years ago he decided to make a return to the industry.  “I always said that when the paper business ended for me that I’d come back to the golf business,” Bernard shares.

That time came in 2012.  He took on the Director of Golf position at Emerald Links G&CC and joined the PGA of Canada.  Although it fulfilled his needs at the time he finally got the job opportunity he always wanted this past winter, becoming the Head Teaching Professional at the Glen Mar Golf & Country Club.

At Glen Mar Chris says he’ll have the freedom to do what he enjoys most about golf, pass on his knowledge to others just as George Andrew and other people did for him.  “I love to teach, I’ve done that as a coach in hockey for years and be able to do it in golf is the ultimate for me.  Teaching is my passion. I love to work with juniors to see how quickly they succeed and improve, to be able to help them like so many people helped me when I was young. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

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