Gord Percy – Up To The Challenge
In thirty years around golf one theme has been consistent with Carleton Golf & Yacht Club Head Professional Gord Percy – he has constantly pushed himself.
No matter the task he has always been game to tackle it, figure it out, and then continue to reach higher.
The 43 year-old was recognized two years ago as the PGA of Canada Ottawa Valley Zone Golf Professional of the Year. He was honoured with the recognition (his third award within the zone through the years) but it’s not acknowledgement of his abilities that he seeks. It’s the challenges themselves that have always hooked him. “It’s nice because they are voted on by your peers. It means a lot but I think there are lots of guys who deserve those awards that maybe don’t get the recognition because they are behind the scenes more.”
Percy was raised in Verona, Ontario. A small village about 40 kilometres north of Kingston, Ontario, in recent times it has become known as the hometown of NHL goalie and Olympian Mike Smith but for years when you mentioned the place it was not long before people mentioned the Percy brothers and their prodigious golf abilities.
Gord was the oldest of the trio. Although the family lived within walking distance of the Rivendell golf course it was not the site of Gord’s first taste of the game. That would come in his own yard.
A family babysitter was big into the sport and shared his passion with the young Percy boys while their parents were away at work. “He’d just come over and we’d golf around the house all day,” Gord recalls.
Apparently the wedges around the yard paid off. His first golf course round, at age 11, was in a Junior-Senior tournament and despite shooting 63-53, his senior playing partners on the day actually asked him for a chipping lesson!
“I probably couldn’t hit it 100 yards but was able to shoot that score from the men’s tees. It was all short game…I’d never even putted before,” says the pro with a laugh as a recalls his initiation into the game.
It was his first time shooting in the 50’s. It would also be his last.
Like a duck to water Percy was off on the path that would shape his world to this day.
“The next year, when I was 12, was when I really started to play…tons. We walked through the woods and across the road and we were at the golf course. “
Largely self-taught, Gord pushed himself to get better, playing every day he could. At the time Rivendell had a core of good young juniors and the competition also helped. “I read golf books, I had all the golf magazines. I would copy positions.”
Within two years he was the club champion and down to a seven handicap. It only took him one more year to get to scratch, highlighting the season with a 65 during the club championship. He would go on to set the course record at 60 (-11) – tough enough to do once but he managed the feat a second time as well.
“I was good then,” says Percy with a sly knock to himself. “It’s been downhill since.” (It’s hardly the case, he has won more than a few professional titles in both individual and team formats in recent years)
The prodigal junior had much success on the local St. Lawrence Jr. Tour and as his game progressed so did his plans for how golf would fit into his life. He had thoughts of playing for a living when an injury changed his world.
“I was practicing. I was supposed to leave the next day to the Canadian Amateur, which I think was out east, and I dislocated my shoulder. That’s literally the last time I practiced.” The injury has continued to haunt him through years, resulting in surgery and various stints of rehabilitation.
Injury or otherwise, it was not the end of golf for Gord. He would not be separated from the game so easily.
“After that I got my game back but it was different. I played Canadian and Ontario amateurs but I would warm up, maybe just hit ten balls, and then play. It was okay but you can’t be elite player if you can’t practice.”
Not playing for almost a year and having to turn down scholarship offers due to his injury Gord instead turned his attention to getting into Queen’s University in Kingston . There he completed a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Physical and Health Education.
With that behind him he had a big decision to make. Still with obvious ability, he had options. “I was still playing okay and I had backers to play the Canadian Tour. I think I was a little bit too much of a realist, though. I had no doubt that I could play the Canadian Tour and compete but that didn’t interest me. I know that to be better than that you need to practice, and I couldn’t.”
Still with a passion for the game he signed up for the Humber College Professional Golf Management Program in 1995. If not a full time player, he could still be a golf professional.
Gord caught on at Lombard Glen Golf Club near Smiths Falls, Ontario. He still makes his home not far from there.
Under co-owner and Head Professional Bill Kerr the club provided a nice fit for the rookie. It was in a small town similar to where he grew up and it afforded him a chance to take on tasks and roles that would allow him to earn his PGA of Canada Class A status in the minimum time possible, just three years.
After five years he decided to move on. “The ownership was changing there (Lombard Glen) and I was interested in learning more about the teaching side of things,” shares Gord.
He joined the team at the Kevin Haime Golf Centre in Kanata. “It was a good opportunity that worked out for me, ” Percy says of his time with Kevin that lasted from 2002-2006. “It was a chance to do things at a higher level.”
Haime was involved with the PGA’s Ottawa Zone Board of Directors and he encouraged Gord to get involved. Percy would serve in various portfolios with the board, including Captain. It was a way to give back to the game but it had a deeper meaning, more consistent with what he had done his whole life.
“I always used everything as a way to learn more,” he admits. “It was an opportunity to work with a lot of people that I thought I could learn from. “
He was recently nominated as the National Representative for the Zone. Just a few months in to the position he says it has been a positive experience and he looks forward to a chance for a bigger role within the national board.
Now in his 9th year at Carleton Golf & Yacht Club, the highly-respected head professional and single father of two teenagers still finds new challenges for himself each day. “It’s really changed, just like the profession has,” he says of his role at the Manotick, Ontario club. “I’m a little more involved now in the operations side of the club, not just the golf side of things. I’m certainly happy to be here.”
He tries to constantly grow as a professional and is happy to share all he has learned with the staff members he oversees, none more than his own children.
Daughter Paige and son Ethan help out a bit with junior camps at the club and that brings particular pleasure for their father. He’s been motivated to make himself better every day of his life but it’s his offspring that now provide his main inspiration.
“I used to do a lot for myself but now I do everything I do for my kids. It’s really that simple. If I don’t have my two kids then the motivation is probably not there at the same level.”