The Ontario-Quebec golf community lost one of its star members when Don Cordukes passed away in Hawkesbury, Ontario on Thursday, June 18, 2020. He had just celebrated his 95th birthday on Tuesday, June 16th at the long-term care Prescott-Russell Residence in Hawkesbury.
Don’s daughter Norma, in an email to Flagstick, shared that her father passed away on June 18 at the Residence in Hawkesbury where he had been living since 2017. He had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and severe arthritis. She and her husband Dan had celebrated his birthday with him via a Facetime call.
“Dad had 3 hip replacements and both knees replaced. The last was his knee at the age of 90. He never regained full motion in that knee but at least he was pain free. Up until about a year ago he was able to roam the hallway in his wheelchair using his feet. He always said hello to everyone he passed on his way. Such a gentleman.
Prior to his time in Hawkesbury he lived in a senior’s residence in Ottawa. He knew a few people there, but more importantly he was close to the Ottawa Hunt Club. He had an arrangement where he could have use of the driving range and the dining room. About once a week in the summer he would go to hit a few balls and soak up the atmosphere. He would either take a taxi, Para-Transpo, or I would take him when I was there for a visit. He was not allowed to use his walker to get to the driving range. He would use his club as a cane. He took a tumble one day (I wasn’t there) and after that incident they let him use a cart. I don’t know how he managed to get the ball on the tee when I wasn’t there to do it for him. The ball may not have gone very far but it was always straight! And that swing!
My parent’s life revolved around golf. It was my dad’s first love and I would guess probably his last. All their friends were golfers. My mom (Helen) took up golf in her late 30’s. She said ‘If I want to see my husband I have to learn to play golf’. She turned out to be quite a good golfer. She had the best teacher! If they weren’t playing golf, they were talking about it or watching it on TV. Perhaps that’s the reason neither my sister nor myself took up the game.
I was very lucky to have him as my father. He was such a kind, caring, loving man. Everyone liked him. I will miss him dearly.”
Don Cordukes was profiled in The Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club 100th Anniversary book titled “Our First Century, A History, 1908-2008”, written by Sam Kucey.
“If golf can be defined as a gentleman’s game, no truer man suited for the game ever played at the Hunt Club. I have yet to meet a person in my thirty plus years at the Hunt Club who has had anything but a kind word for Don Cordukes.”
Don started in golf at the McKellar Park Golf Club in Ottawa as both a caddie and a golfer. He eventually moved over to test his skills at the Chaudiere Golf and Country Club (Now the Chateau Cartier) where he won club championships in 1949 and 1954. A member of the Canadian Armed Forces in the RCAF, Don was stationed in Europe from 1960-1964. During his years with the military, Don won many of their golf championships. Upon his return to Ottawa, he joined the Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club and won his first of seven club championships in 1964.
Club and military championships aside, Don Cordukes was also a champion in Ottawa Valley Competitions with three City & District Championships (1955, 1969 & 1973); five District Match Play Championships (1946, 1947, 1965, 1967 & 1969) and two Ottawa Valley Golf Association Senior Championships (1986 & 1989). Don also teamed with fellow Hunt Club Member Barney Quintall in winning the Ottawa District Golf Association’s 4-Ball Championship in 1967, 1969 and 1973.
Looking back on the results of many Valley Invitational events like the Collie Cup at Mississippi Golf Club, you will find Don’s name at or near the top in many of them.
Don was also a winner in the Province of Quebec’s Alexander of Tunis Championships in 1966 and 1969. Don was also a member of Golf Quebec’s Willingdon Cup Team in 1948. While playing in the Canadian Amateur that year held at the Hamilton Golf & Country Club in Hamilton, Ontario, Don played well but was eventually eliminated in the 4th round of match play by the eventual 1948 Canadian Amateur Champion Frank Stranahan.
In Clem Kealey’s 1973 Ottawa Journal account of Don’s third City & District Championship, Clem notes – “Cordukes is as unostentatious a person as Bobby Riggs is flamboyant. He’s a robot-like player whose sheer consistency has made him one of the steadiest amateur players in the city for close to three decades.”
Flagstick reached out to a few local golfers for their recollections of Don Cordukes.
When Loch March General Manager Danielle Nadon learned about the death of Don Cordukes, she commented – “I knew Don at the Chaudiere (golf club). He was a loveable man, very kind and very nice and professional. I don’t know what else to say. He was a super, nice guy.”
“What I remember of him was his consistency and ability to score. Above all I remember him as being humble and a gentleman,” were the words of contemporary amateur player Brian Darling
Another Ottawa pro, Kevin Haime, remembers Don from his junior days at the Hunt Club where he and his brother John would play in OVGA Intersectional Competitions.
“Don was always on our intersectional teams at the Hunt. He was a quiet fellow with not a lot of emotion on the golf course. I would say he was a very efficient golfer. He was kind of like Don January – a Texas gentleman. He was an even-keeled guy, nothing spectacular about his golf. He had a good short game, not a very powerful, dynamic player but he knew how to get the ball into the hole. Anyone that wins that many match play championships has to have a lot of nerve and killer instincts. Nobody disliked Don. He was a very pleasant, low-key gentleman.”
Amateur golfer Tom Larocque remembers that, “Don was a true gentleman, great competitor, and always had time for me. I played many times with Don and his demeanour, at least on the outside never changed. I believed that and his short game were his strongest assets. He gave me the best piece of advice when I was around 25 years old. If you cannot control your temper (which I had) you will not be any good at this game, it will cost you shots. Also learn how to putt, because it will save you shots. Advice I took to heart. He did not have to do that, but he did. Ironic, because 40 years later I still remember it.”
Don eventually moved out to B.C. and had wintered in Florida since the mid-1970’s.
Dave Mills, former Executive Director of Golf Ontario, picks up Don’s story and talks about Cordukes’ inclusion into Golf Ontario’s Wall of Recognition in 2013.
“I first met Don in Lakeland, Florida in 2013 at the Lone Palm Golf Course through a personal friend – Doug Lowe. It was an amazing experience to see an individual who was in his later years but still focused on trying to get better at golf. He practiced every day and played 9 holes now and again. When I met him we played 9 holes, and while Don could no longer hit it very far, he was always down the middle and unbelievable once he got near or on the greens. My recollection is that he beat both me and Doug that day, although some may say that wouldn’t be too difficult.
I had done some research on Don’s career at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club, including competing in OVGA and Golf Quebec Championships and it was clear that Don had been at the top level of amateur golf for many years and had a long list of significant Championships behind his name. This led to an opportunity for Golf Ontario to recognize Don on our Wall of Recognition.
In a surprise ceremony at the Lone Palm GC, many of Don’s friends from the club and back home gathered to honor his achievements. I think the event might have led to Don heading to the practice facility again to try and improve his short game.
As good a golfer as Don was, he was an even better person. He was a true gentleman and a wonderful representative of his club, his province and the game of golf.
Hopefully Don is now teeing it up with his former friends in the great beyond. I am sure he will be the one to beat.”
Don’s nephew, Doug Lowe, reached out to Flagstick.
“I would like to add that Don was such a gentleman and a pleasure to play with. He had such a sweet swing and was deadly with the putter and always respectful of others. I was a member at another club in Lakeland, Florida and when Don’s cronies started to die off I joined his club, Lone Palm, to have a chance to play with him on a regular basis. He was at the club every day, either playing or chipping and putting. He loved the game so much.”
Don Cordukes is survived by his daughter Norma, and four grandchildren, Norma’s two sons Nicolas and Donald and her late sister Donna’s daughter Deena and son Aleandro as well as one great- grandchild Leon who is Nicolas’s son. According to Norma, “Dad loved the visits with Nicolas and Leon. His face would light up like you wouldn’t believe! It was a delight to see.”
Flagstick staff would like to offer our condolences to Don’s family and friends. Rest in Peace Don.