His brogue was a familiar one. Each time I crossed paths with James “Jim” Baxter, you knew he was around. You could always look to him for an opinion and an entertaining conversation. And now, he is gone.
Baxter, the Scottish-born former golf course owner, passed away on June 30, 2020 at the age of 77 from complications of Crohn’s disease.
Always ready for a laugh, Baxter made his mark in the golf industry. After coming to Canada in 1969, he originally worked as a draftsman in Montreal and Burlington, Ontario. But golf came calling.
The story goes that in 1972 Jim spotted a small ad in a Toronto newspaper advertising a golf course (Huron Oaks Greenwood) for sale in Sarnia, ON. Soon after, Jim and a colleague, Len Moore, convinced the owner to sell the course to them. Baxter embraced the role, developing his knowledge of running and grooming a course, working alongside Moore until he sold his part of the business to him in 1978.
Three years later Baxter was back in the golf course ownership trade. In 1981 he purchased the Lombard Glen Golf Club near Smiths Falls, Ontario, a role he would take on until 1992. He grew the profile of the facility, being part of expansion of the course to 18 holes, partnering in the development of nearby housing, and making it a staple of the local golf scene.
After selling Lombard Glen, Jim kept a hand in the industry, eventually being asked by the Board at the historic Perth Golf Course to consult on the future of the club. The logical way forward seemed to be a growth to a full 18 holes there, but with limited resources the plan was an ambitious one. As a result, it proved to be in the best interest of the shareholders to sell to Baxter, which they did in 1997. He would remain an owner or co-owner of the facility for 19 years, until retiring in 2016.
In those years he would transform the the club, as noted in his obituary.
“Jim had a vision. Along with his son in-law Greg, he spent many hours and days walking, mapping and re-walking the undeveloped acres. They walked through brush, bugs, mud and snow mapping out the plan, revising it again and again. That work culminated in what we now know as the back nine. It was a project of passion, he was keenly aware of the obligation before him to revive one of Canada’s oldest golf courses. He took this responsibility seriously and envisioned a marriage of the historic, picturesque front nine and the challenging new back nine. He always believed that the course should be available to all golfers and endeavoured to make the Perth Golf course a place where everyone felt welcome, creating a destination golf course available for play to all golfers.
Jim will be missed and remembered by many; he was just too distinct in personality for that not to happen. A round of golf or conversation with him was rarely short on laughter.
Left to grieve their tremendous loss are his long-time partner and soul mate, Elna Pfeiffer, his daughter and son in-law, Linda and Greg Hewson and his daughter Fiona Baxter. Missing their Granda are Keira, Ami, Eryn Hewson and Jamie Baxter. Saddened by their loss is his brother in-law Jim McAlpine, sister in-law Anne Baxter as well as many nieces, nephews and their families. Jim is also survived by Sheena Baxter and her extended family. He is now reunited with his family that predeceased him: his mother Anne (Bowman) Baxter, Brother Jackie Baxter and Sister May McAlpine.
In order to celebrate and remember Jim in accordance to his wishing and what seems fitting, a celebration of his life will be held at the Perth Golf course when it is safe for us all to gather together. Arrangements are in the care of Blair & Son Funeral Directors, Perth.
From all of our team at Flagstick, we pass on our sympathies to all the family and friends of Jim.