Chartwell’s Own Senior’s Gold League
Story by Michael Seguin
Photography by Michael Pietrangelo
There’s one golf league in Windsor-Essex that is anything but par for the course. On Monday mornings, a gang of seniors gather in the Chartwell St. Clair Beach Retirement Residence courtyard. While the retirement community has installed a variety of state-of-the-art facilities, the Chartwell residents continue to flock to the newest feature: a three-hole putting green.
The miniature golf course was installed on November 2017. Since the following July, every Monday morning the residents of Chartwell compete in their very own golf league: Putting with Sue!
Putting with Sue! was launched by Sue Demers. A concierge at Chartwell St. Clair Beach Retirement Residence, Sue has spent the better part of her life on golf courses.
“I took my first golf lessons when I was 12 years old,” Sue recalls. “I thought maybe it wasn’t
for me, because I was a swimmer. Then when I was 22, I picked up the game and started entering tournaments. And now that I’m a senior, I still travel out of town to enter events. It’s a great sport. The camaraderie is amazing. I played in a lot of Ontario Amateurs and I can honestly say that I have a bed to stay in all over Ontario. You meet so many people through golf. It’s just so friendly.”
Sue is also a chairman of the Tournament of Champions, a 34-year-old event that brings together all Club Champions from the Essex/Kent County district golf clubs.
Sue was hired on at Chartwell St. Clair Beach Retirement Residence almost seven years ago. The idea for the miniature golf course was originally proposed by a resident named Ed Oleksiuk in 2016. From there, getting the green installed was a collaborative effort between Ed, Sue and General Manager Andrew Crow.
“Andrew Crow was really supportive,” Sue states. “He’s a golfer himself. And it was very, very kind of Chartwell to install this. They were hesitant at first because they didn’t think it would get used. Now, whenever head office comes down, they are so excited. They’re thrilled that we have this great league.”
Thanks to Putting with Sue!, Monday mornings have become energetic affairs. While the miniature golf course that Chartwell installed contains only three holes, the players makes the most of it. Sue routinely organizes a variety of different exhibition matches including games of Best Ball and Alternate Shots. And as with other golf leagues, Putting with Sue! hosts their own tournaments and banquets where the players can periodically take home prizes.
“It’s been absolutely amazing to see them improve,” Sue exclaims. “Their enthusiasm is contagious. Many of them never knew that they were competitive before. But boy does it come out!”
While many of the golfers are experienced former players, a few, such as Claire Munt, are complete newcomers.
“When Claire first started coming here, she was really down on herself,” Sue recalls. “She said, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t be here.’ And I said, ‘Claire, come on. You can do it!’ And she won the whole tournament last week. She was over the moon. It meant so much to her. Seeing everybody coming up to her saying, ‘Way to go Claire! Way to go!’ She was on twinkle toes!”
Other members, such as Gabe Rosati, have never so much as glanced at a golf club until last year.
“Gabe never played,” Sue explains. “He’s improved so much. He comes out and practices all the time.”
“I was a carpenter,” Gabe shrugs. “I just line up the measurements.”
However, not all of the Putting with Sue! members are new to the green. Some, such as Ross Garrod and John Cooper, still play at their own courses weekly. Another member, Marjorie Kennette, actually owned Orchard View Golf Club.
And one of the players was something of a local legend.
Grace McCann was a chairperson for the Essex-Kent Ladies District and a president of both the Ontario Ladies Golf Association and the Canadian Ladies Golf Association. Grace represented Essex County in several tournaments and even won the Ethiopia Open.
“We called her Mrs. Canada,” Sue smiles.
And talent must be in the blood. Grace’s daughter, Nancy McCann, is another lifelong golfer. She served as a golf professional at Pointe West Golf Club in Amherstburg for 13 years before working as the Head Professional at Seven Lakes Golf Course in LaSalle for another 14 years.
“It’s all because of Mom,” Nancy smiles. “She loved her golf. She played competitively when she was young and continued throughout her married life. She even won the club championship at Pointe West three years in a row after 50. She took on those youngins and beat them all!”
For years, Nancy came by Chartwell every Monday to play golf with her mother until Grace’s unfortunate passing earlier this year from Neuro Saroidosis.
“It brings everybody together,” Nancy explains. “This is their Monday morning. It’s just like golfing on a real course. And listen to them! They’re cheering! Sue does an awesome job.”
If this experience has taught her anything, Sue explains, it is that golf is truly ageless.
“Our youngest player is 73,” Sue states. “And our two oldest players are 95. That proves that golf is truly ageless. And, looking around, I’m proud of all of them. Golf has kept them fit. They’ve kept themselves in really, really good shape. That’s one of the things that golf does—it keeps you young.”
However, when asked to describe the most spectacular part of the golf league, Sue returns to the bonds that have been forged between the players.
“It’s the camaraderie!” Sue exclaims. “The gang, they’re all so close now. They hang out now, together. Before they might have been going their separate ways, but now they’re a family. A tight one. For instance, Rita has a sore foot. She hasn’t been feeling well lately. So the next thing you know the gang is checking up on her regularly. ‘Rita, how’s your foot?’ They’re very, very caring with one another. That’s what it’s all about. Being a caring family.”
Other members of the league include Elaine Johnson, Marg Vickers, James Denning, Claire Munt, Barb McMurray, Pat Cunningham and Bob Lavender.
In addition, Chartwell’s three-hole golf course is also used by multiple generations.
“One nice thing about the league is how many people you see using it on Sundays,” Sue states. “A lot of residents have their families here on weekends. You see a lot of kids out here. Husbands, wives. They’re all out there playing. It’s open for everybody. It’s something for the residents to do. It’s a wonderful sport!”
And the best part? Putting with Sue! shows no signs of slowing down. “Golf is in my blood,” Sue states. “I’m absolutely thrilled to come here Monday mornings and play golf with my friends!”
This article is published in honour of Mrs. Canada, the incredible Grace McCann. It was written before the Covid pandemic began.