Profile: Joe Kolar – “I Should Have Done It Earlier”

Joe Kolar, in his house across from the Mississippi Golf Club (Photo: Joe McLean)

Golf is a familial game. It works its way into a generation and, before long, it permeates a pedigree. It was that way for the Kolar family.

Flagstick recently caught up with 88-year-old Joe Kolar, the Pro/Manager at the Mississippi Golf Club from 1959 – 1991 and updated his story which appeared in the Mississippi Golf Club Anniversary book published in 2015. Joe’s brother Stan was for many years the head professional at the Chaudiere Golf Club and Stan’s son Terry is now the assistant to Joe’s son Dan at the Mississippi Golf Club.

With family in the golf business, Joe was discouraged by his wife Ann early in their marriage from becoming a golf professional. At the time he had a steady job working for CN Express. “But I loved golf,” said Mr. Kolar. “I took a job as an assistant at the Burlington Golf & Country Club for $45 / week and worked there for 4 years. We also had a 2-acre lot and grew vegetables to help with the finances.”

Joe Kolar came to the Mississippi Golf Club as head professional in 1959, replacing Eddie Dunn. Coming from the Burlington Golf & CC, he had to take a cut in his lesson fees. As an assistant at Burlington, he was making $4 per lesson and the going rate at Mississippi was $3. While teaching on the right side of the mound on the 1st hole, lessons were often interrupted when players were teeing off on #1.

The Club helped him rent a house in Almonte and he eventually bought a house where he raised five children (Dan, Joanne, Pamela, Roseanne and Susan) with his wife. His job at Mississippi was a true family operation – all of them eventually helped in the pro-shop. He bought his current property, located right across from the golf club, in 1966 and when he took on the Pro-Manager job in 1974, he built his home. Joe was also reimbursed by the golf club for vehicles parking on his property during tournaments.

Mr. Kolar talked about his time at the Mississippi Golf Club:

“There was a big split between Almonte & Carleton Place Board Members. There was a rivalry and tension for years. It was a little intimidating with 15 directors making up the Board. In 1959, the Club was on a party line with 11 other people including the Collie Woollen Mills. The Club had a special ring, but it was trying at times as people listened in on conversations. Back then, life was not so hectic. It was fun as there was a time to play and a time to party, but people began to demand more.

I learned quickly to be a ‘jack of all trades’ and how to ‘multi-task’. I found out quickly that the greenkeeper had no pesticide program and fertilizer was a dream. Talking about course conditioning, on the morning of one Collie Cup competition the fairways were a sea of white dandelions. The solution was dragging a chair behind a tractor knocking the tops off the dandelions –What a mess!

About 150-175 members played the nine holes at the time paying $35 / year. Then, as now the members helped out whenever required. A trusting operation, the green-keeper used to collect green fees from players on the course. This was before the pro-shop was built.

The fee for club storage was NOT mandatory until Malcolm’s (Trickey) days. This could have been because of the size of the shop. I remember the club president going in to pick up his clubs and toppling 30 sets to the ground. An addition to the pro-shop was approved at the next Board meeting.

Before the new nine opened in 1988, members would collect rocks and take them to the next tee. It was nice having 18 different holes. Grass filled in quickly on the new nine.”

Joe Kolar retired on October 26, 1991 as the Pro/Manager at the Mississippi Golf Club. At his retirement party held at the Almonte Arena, Joe and his second wife Audrey were awarded lifetime honorary memberships at the Club

Joe’s son Dan started as an assistant in 1973 and after Pro-Manager positions at Irish Hills and Manderley golf clubs is now the Pro-Manager at the Mississippi Golf Club. Earlier, he had his diapers changed in the back shop at the Mississippi Golf Club.

Still living across the road from the golf club, Joe phoned the fire department to report the fire that destroyed the clubhouse on Friday, September 26, 1997 and as he says – “It went very fast as the oil tank had been filled the day before the fire. Thanks to forward planning by the club, a new clubhouse was under construction in a short period of time.”

Looking back, how do you like the changes made at the Mississippi Golf Club since your retirement?

Changes here have been very successful. Now that they have a super greenkeeper, we have developed a very nice golf course.

How has the game of golf changed?

It has changed immensely mostly because of the changes in golf equipment. I think it’s a mistake that players are hitting the ball close to 400 yards. I sort of agree with Jack Nicklaus that changing the golf ball would make the game more competitive on many of the smaller courses, many of which were built on 100 acres of property.

Again, looking back, if you had it to do all over again would you make any changes to your life?

I should have done it earlier. I had the opportunity to work with my brother Stan as an assistant at Gatineau but my girlfriend at the time told me it was either her or the golf industry. So, I got to the game late, but it was a wonderful career and it paid the bills and allowed us to raise five wonderful children. We now have numerous grandchildren and many great-grandchildren. My career in the golf industry has been very rewarding.