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Golf, Indigenous Style

When your Editor and I brainstormed this month's topic an age-old question popped up. Why do so many Indigenous people golf?

My Ojibway/Mohawk wife and I do. My low score is a 73 (yes, on 18 holes). I can also shoot over a hundred on a bad, cold, windy day from the back tees (which I often play when it's just the Mrs. and I). I've had one hole in one. The Mrs. has come close but so far no luck, though she has sunk a few 75 yard approach shots. She's also a machine off the tee and competitive as hell. She cried the first time she broke 100 and celebrated with glee the first time she beat me. That was at the Nk'Mip Canyon Desert Golf Course (owned and operated by the Osoyoos Indian Band). In my defense I played with rented clubs and converse runners.

Years ago, when I used to drag my daughter to the course, we ran into 1967 Pan-Am Games Torch Runner Patrick Bruyere with a gaggle of golfers from Sakgeeng at Grand Pines Golf Course near Traverse Bay. They were playing for money so I joined in. I won some and lost some. These days I run into Indigenous golfers on various courses all the time.

Each year there are a number of Indigenous tournaments, some run by First Nations others by organizations. All fundraise for various causes (there's an Indigenous Golf Manitoba Facebook page where many are posted). AMC (Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs) has their tournament (to raise money for the Eagle Urban Transition Centre) penciled in for September 23rd at The Meadows. TWCC (Tribal Wi-Chi-Way-Win Capital Corporation) had theirs at Bel Acres in August. Two father son combos (Geoff Bushie, Geoff Bushie Sr. and Darryl and Josh Phillips) from Hollow Water won that event with a team score of 60.

So why the attraction? My cousin and avid golfer Rodger Ross figures it's the competitive element. "Indigenous (people) have always been competitive. It helped train our hunters in the early days." The Mrs. thinks it's our connection to the land. The Indigenous people with whom I've golfed most are the Misipawistik Mercredis (Duncan, Joe, Jack and sometimes Ovide). "For me it's just a chance to get out and enjoy good company, have a few laughs," wrote Duncan. "Okay a lot of laughs. I think the ones that go to these tournaments, I think it's networking. I suppose for others it's the cause."

You'll win prizes and get dinner at these tournaments, plus a tax receipt if you need it. And I suppose that brings us to a frank reason more and more Indigenous people are playing golf. The above reasons for sure but there are also more and more Indigenous people making money. It's an expensive sport and how often I play is directly proportionate to my income. Some years I play more than others. 

Luckily I get a season's supply of golf balls every Christmas.

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