Jon Mills, Brad Fritsch, and Matt McQuillan followed in his footsteps. It was a path Gary Bowerman blazed that still remains largely unrecognized among golf enthusiasts in Eastern Ontario. Decades before the more modern trio ascended to PGA TOUR membership, it was Bowerman who first earned the status as a golfer from the region. Unfortunately, his premature death has left his story largely lost in time.
Born in 1941 in Picton, an enclave for many branches of the Bowerman clan, Gary moved to Belleville, Ontario in 1951 with his family where he took up membership at the Bay of Quinte Golf & Country Club.
At the Bay of Quinte the young Bowerman quickly distinguished himself, winning multiple junior championships, as well as the men’s club championship in 1962. Soon after that he decided to turn professional (1963), leading to employment at the Islington Golf Club in Etobicoke.
He continued his fine play in the professional ranks, winning the Ontario Assistants’ Championship in 1965 and 1966. He also returned to his hometown to win the Bay of Quinte Festival Pro Tournament in 1967; a title we could also capture in 1976.
Bowerman made the first of seven RBC Canadian Open appearances in 1968. His best showing in the National Championship came in 1970 where, despite a final round 78, he tied for 22nd. He was the low Canadian, earning the Rivermead Trophy.
PGA TOUR Card
Bowerman aimed high in his professional pursuits, eventually earning his PGA TOUR card in the winter of 1969, as the 12th and final player to be awarded status that year.
While his multiple years on the PGA TOUR proved largely unfruitful, Bowerman did manage to win other pro events away from the big tour, including the 1971 Arizona Open and the 1973 British Columbia Open. That year he was the leading money winner on the Canadian circuit. He is also finished second to Al Balding in the PGA Championship of Canada in 1970.
Bowerman kept his hand in the club professional realm, with summer stints back in the Toronto area, including at Maple Downs G&CC. He eventually landed as the Associate Professional at the Weston Golf & Country Club.
He was in that role when he headed to Sanford, Florida in January of 1977 for a few weeks of preparation for tournament play. He was joined there by friend and fellow Ontario pro Ken Trowbridge.
Complaining of some congestion, according to his father Steve in newspaper reports at the time, unbeknownst to Gary, he had developed a blood clot, possibly in his leg. The situation ultimately resulted in a pulmonary embolism and his unexpected death. He was just 35 years old.
For a time the Canadian Tour honoured their leading money winner from Ontario with the Gary Bowerman Memorial Award.
Ten years after his untimely death Bowerman was named to the Belleville Sports Hall of Fame. One of only three golf-related members.
He continues to be remembered fondly for his smooth golf swing and classy interactions with his fellow competitors.
The only solace in his early death was that in his short life he did not fail to pursue and accomplish his goal of playing on the PGA TOUR, leading the way for others in the years since.