The Brian De Biasio Story
“First player from the Kootenays to be inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame of BC”
Brian credits his parents for making certain their three children had every opportunity to play all sports. These were opportunities they never had. “Trail was a great town to grow up in. Trail is recognized for its hockey, Little League baseball, and curling. We had the 1961 Trail Smoke Eaters, Roy and Reg Stone won the Brier in curling, and Andy Bilesky, a top world ranked Little League coach. He took three Trail teams to the Little League world Series, more than any Little League coach. I played all sports. Our Little League Allstars were one game away from going to Williamsport for the World series. A few years later Trail went. In Rossland we had world class skier Nancy Greene.”
Around age 15 or 16 Brian along with his friends tried golf. Roy Stone was the head professional at Trail Birchbank. “He was a man of few words. About three or four times a year he would give us a pointer or two. He would stress, “Brian you don’t hit the ball on the backswing. Low and slow back, then whack it.” Brian has always used this philosophy. Marlin Thompson, Roy’s assistant, ran the junior program. “He was our cheer leader. He encouraged us and arranged events for us to play in. I played in my first BCGA junior event at age 18. I have always told kids when I was in teaching to play all sports not just one. The sports are all interrelated. You gain exposure to competition and learn how to compete.”
Brian did not play on the UBC golf team like Craig and Shelly. But he did play on the UBC Hockey team. He was Captain the last two years and all Canadian in his final year. “Golf at UBC was basically a summer sport. When I finished my classes I headed back to Trail for summer work so I did not get to play on the golf team.” After UBC Brian played hockey in Nelson and Spokane as the playing coach. “Back home I played hockey in the winter and golf in the summer. I played in the Western International Hockey League with the Trail Smoke Eaters and the Spokane Flyers. then the Nelson Maple Leafs. I was rookie of the year in 1975-’76 and the MVP in 1979-’80. I had one really great season scoring 62 goals a single season record. Hockey definitely helped my golf. The eye hand co-ordination is common to most sports. The Kootenays had what we called the four majors each summer. These included the Rossland – Trail Open, Christina Lake Open, the Castlegar Open and the Labour Day Nelson Open.” He won the 1972 Rossland- Trail Open, fifteen Nelson Opens and played in the Esmeralda Open in Spokane. Even though these fields were not deep, they included local pros and the best amateurs in the area. Playing in the BCGA Men’s Amateur proved challenging for players living outside the Lower Mainland or Victoria. “The BC Amateur was always held in Vancouver or on the Island. That meant a lot of travel especially if I hoped to try for a provincial team. I spent the week in Vancouver then travelled home. The following weekend I travelled back to Vancouver for the Invitational. I put on a lot of miles.”
In 1989 the BCGA made a rare excursion to the Castlegar- Trail golf clubs for their men’s championship. Because of their experience playing in the annual Castlegar Open, Dan and brother Brian felt their chances could be good on the tricky mountain course. Doug Roxburgh described the greens as lightening fast probably quicker than any US Open course. Brian finished the 72 holes tied for second with Stephen Watson and 10th time champion Doug Roxburgh won. Now Brian needed to travel to Vancouver to play the Invitational at Capilano and Point Grey. He finished tied for 5th behind Willingdon team members Don Gowan, Ed Beauchemin, Steve Berry, and Lawrence Willis.
In 1995 Brian returned to Castlegar for the amateur. He again finished 2nd, represented BC on the provincial team, and also on the Pacific Coast Amateur team. “I classify myself as a grinder and consistent ball striker. Success is related to how well you are putting. As I got better in the Amateur, I got to play with the best players like Doug Roxburgh, Dave Mick, Steve Berry. I watched them, worked hard at my game, and gradually became better. I was a tenacious never give up type of player. Finishing 2nd was better than 3rd or 9th was better than 10th.”
Brian has been one of the most successful players in the Mid-Amateur (25 – 40) division. He finished 2nd 4 times 1995 – 1998. In 1996 the RCGA held their Canadian Mid-Amateur Championship at the Cowichan G&CC. Brian played 2 qualifying rounds then 6 rounds of match play to reach the final against three-time champion Graham Cooke. Cooke and De Biasio were all square at 18. Cooke landed his approach shot three feet from the pin. Then sank the putt for the championship. Cooke commented at the presentation ceremony “Each year the field gets tougher and tougher, so winning my fourth title means I have been fairly consistent.” In his loss Brian responded; “When it gets that close it definitely hurts.” But Brian stayed the course and characteristically continued to fight for the championship. In 1998 at the Gowan Brae G&CC in Bathurst, New Brunswick he accomplished the task. “In the final match I hit my tee shot on the Par 3 16th hole about three feet for the title.” He had accomplished his goal to win a national championship. After winning the 1998 national title Brian “Finally” won his first BCGA Mid-Amateur Championship by five shots at Duncan Meadows. “I guess you could say the monkey’s off my back. I haven’t won anything in BC. I wanted badly to win this one especially after being so close for all these years.” He accomplished the feat in grand style. He played the last six holes with his longest putt for birdie just over thirty feet. “I didn’t make all the putts I could have, but the 2 under par cemented my victory.”
In 2009 playing on his original home course, Rossland-Trail, Brian used his local knowledge to win his second BCGA title, the Mid-Master 40 and placed second in the Mid-Amateur.
In 2012 Brian retired to Qualicum. Immediately the standard of competition rose. But he had more opportunity to play competitively every weekend. He has shown great success in the Senior Zone championships winning twice – 2012 & 13 and represented BC on both senior provincial teams.
At his induction ceremony Brian paid tribute to his family especially his wife Maureen. “Maureen ran the household while I was away playing golf tournaments. Sometimes I would just stop at home to exchange my suitcase for a clean set of clothes.” Where families are involved, there are always parents and spouses who are the stabilizing factor for the player to have a successful championship career. “The big thing for me was I didn’t win a ton, but I was always right there. I was proud of my consistency and how I competed. For all the hard work that went into it and all the support I’ve had, this is a really nice reward.”
The Craig Doell Story
“Most successful lefthanded amateur golfer in BC and Canada”
Before Craig began his golfing career, only one BC amateur golfer had won a provincial championship – Jimmy Todd. Craig began playing golf around age 5 or 6. He started by joining his Dad with a cut down right handed club on the fairways at the Victoria Golf Club. “I never really took the game that serious because I played all sports basketball, baseball, and rugby. My favourite was tennis. As I played more, we discovered I should play left-handed. My father got me a set of cut down left-handed golf clubs. In 1989 my friends in Victoria told me if I wanted to play on the Junior America’s Cup team, I needed to go to the lower mainland to play the Vancouver Tour. I contacted the legend, Harry White, for details. Harry volunteered to pick me up at the ferry every Sat and take me back at the end of the day; so I could accumulate points to be eligible for the Junior America’s. The first event was at Marine Drive. I won. I think I won two or three more times that summer. I finished second on the points standings and made the team. We played a Pasatiempo golf course. I actually played a round with Casey Martin. From then on I was hooked on golf.”
In 1990 Craig entered UBC in the Arts program. He immediately made the golf team. At this time Shelly was also attending UBC. Both travelled to college tournaments on the coast over the next four years. “We played as an independent school while I was at university. My first year we had Dean Spriddle, a top Scottish University player on our team. Bill Wilms, who ran the Amateur Golf Tour, was our coach. We had good success playing at Stanford, BYU, Eugene, Bellingham, and other Pac 8 and NAIA schools on the coast. The following year Dean became coach and several years later another one of our players, Fraser Mullholland, became the coach.”
After graduation Craig returned to Victoria. On the Island practically every town held a weekend championship. Because the fields included the top amateurs and professionals, the events provided a great training ground for an aspiring champion like Craig. “We had many fine players like Dave Mick, Bob Beauchemin, Don Gowan, and Brian De Biasio. We also had the Willie Park team matches between the Victoria area golf clubs. Playing in these events, the zone events, the PNGA, the provincials, and the nationals, if you made a team, meant a very busy golf summer schedule. Over the years I have managed to win several of these local events. My best successes have come in the Victoria (Zone) City Championship. I have won it 8 times.”
Although Craig followed a somewhat different route than most players, he won three national championships before winning his first provincial title. In fact, he had a grip on the Canadian Club Championship trophy winning three times (1997, 2000, 2001) in five years and 2nd in 2002 and 2003. “I have had a lot of success in that event. In 1997, at the Ottawa Highland GC, the first time I had entered, I won in a play-off. Three of us were tied. On the 2nd hole I sank a thirty- foot putt to win. My first national championship. I could not believe I was a national champion. Three years later, I found myself in another play-off for the title. This time it was against the son of one of Canada’s legendary amateur golfers Gary Cowan. Rob drove off the tee with I think a 1 iron. But he went into the trees. I hit my eighty-foot putt eight feet short. I just stroked the putt straight into the hole for the win. The first time you win a championship is always special, but this one was just as sweet. Starting the final round, I thought I’d need 4 under par to get the job done. I’m glad I had a good 70 to make the play-off. The next year I won in Calgary at the Springbank Links. It was actually an enjoyable walk up 18 this time knowing that I would not be in another playoff. Springbank was a great test of golf offering a variety of shots. I played very well. In fact, it was the first time in my life that I had played four rounds in a row under par.”
Then in 1999 again before winning a provincial title, Craig won the PNGA Mid-Amateur at Marine Drive. “I was playing really well. I shot 70 – 66 in the first two rounds, then just coasted. I think I won by seven strokes.” Craig won the title again five years later at Pacific Dunes and Bandon Dunes. Extreme fog reduced the scheduled 54 holes to 36 holes. Craig and Dvio Nelson of Reno, Nevada tied with 143. The PNGA officials chose to send the players out to the 18th tee. Craig ripped his drive down the middle. Nelson pulled his into the dunes. Basically, the match ended there. Craig pared for the win.
In 2014 Craig finally won his first of 6 BCGA provincial championships at Pemberton winning both the Mid-amateur and the Master 40. He duplicated these two wins in 2017 at Kokanee. In 2021 the tournament moved to familiar surroundings for Craig. At Gorge Vale He started the final round five shots back. “I just went out and just did my own thing, and wasn’t sure what John was going to do. He came back to the field and it made it close coming down the stretch. I played consistently. And didn’t make many mistakes. So it turned out good. It’s nice to get the hat trick in the two championships – the Mid-Amateur and the Master 40. I stayed real patient and just wanted to play consistently. I putted solid the entire round. As I get older it feels great to still win. I didn’t have the high expectations I once had. I am just coming out and doing my thing and not really worrying about the results. If it adds up good at the end it is great.”
Craig has accumulated an incredible career as an individual player. His career representing BC. and Canada around the world is equally as impressive. He has been on more than twenty-four BC teams travelling to Argentina, Peru, Costa Rica, Mexico, New Zealand and many US states. “Looking back on my career I would say the highlite has been travelling the world playing team golf. You get to meet some many great people, make so many lasting friendships. You create a bond with your teammates that lasts a life time. Golfers are all such great people. I probably would never have had the opportunity to visit all these places if it weren’t for golf, play on so many amazing golf courses, and meet golfers who have become life time friends throughout the world.”
From 2002 – 2005 Craig had some of his most successful years. He played on the winning 2004 Willingon Cup team, 2003 Morse Cup winning team at the Pacific Coast Amateur at Capilano, and a very successful 2004 World Amateur Team. He won his second PNGA Mid-Amateur and finished 3rd in the 2004 Canadian Amateur. He completed 2004 as the #3 ranked player in Canada. “When we arrived at the 2004 Canadian Amateur at Beaconsfield in Montreal, I just knew we had the strongest team composed of Lindsay Bernakevitch, James Lepp, and James Allenby. James Lepp and I were playing well. We would win. At Capilano, James was just playing incredible golf. He had won the NCAA individual title and the BC Amateur. In the second round, he shot a course record 62 to win the individua title by ten strokes. James Allenby and I were playing well. We won the Morse Cup team competition – the first time the Morse Cup team competition – had been won by a team from Canada by nine strokes.”
As for senior golf Craig commented it was certainly one of his goals. “At the moment I have two children in high school, a full-time job plus I am President of the Victoria GC. I am pretty busy. But when my children graduate from high school and I turn fifty-five I certainly plan to wind it up again.”
In his acceptance remarks Craig, like all the inductees, thanked his support group such as his children, his parents, and his wife for making it possible for him to spend the necessary time practicing and travelling away from home to play competitive golf around the world. “My parents have always said the $100 they spent for my junior membership at the Victoria GC was a great investment.”
The Shelly Stouffer Story
“The First BC player to win a USGA Championship”
Born in Prince Rupert, Shelly joins Lisa Walters as the second player from the Prince Rupert Centennial Golf Club to be inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame of BC. “While in high school a group of boys asked Sandra my sister if she wanted to join them for a round of golf. Sandra was busy so she suggested they ask me. It was a really cool game. I became a regular around the club. I would keep track of my score by fives. Around 1993 my parents moved the family to the Island. I was attending North Island College in Nanaimo. I had all my classes in the morning so I spent the afternoons at Fairwinds playing and practicing.”
Ward Stouffer, the head professional at Fairwinds, encouraged Benny Colk to spend many hours at the course. In fact, Ben, before his passing, was the Dean of Golf at Fairwinds. “While I was practicing this old fellow began to watch me on a regular basis. I later learned he was Ben Colk, the old professional from Langara and Richmond. He frequented Fairwinds. Basically, he adopted me. Ben was all about angles and grip pressure. If you gripped tightly with the first three fingers on right hand you would not hook the ball. I never had to pay for a lesson.”
Because Shelly now lived on the Island, she had the opportunity to participate in the BC women’s team trials to choose the BC Team members. From 1994 – 1997 she represented BC at the national championships and the western team matches. “Teams from the prairie provinces and BC played matches at many different courses. We played match play. I gained experience play head-to-head competitions, under different weather conditions especially the mosquitoes, and different types of grasses. I also had the opportunity to play with Tracy Lipp at UBC and A.J. Eathorne on the provincial teams. A.J. just stood up and ripped it. Tracy had an incredible short game. I watched and adapted my game using their methods. My most successful Canadian Women’s Amateur was 1996. I finished tied for 5th. The following year I decided the Canadian Am would be my last amateur event. It was a disaster. I didn’t make the cut and wondered if I was doing the right thing.”
Shelly played the Canadian BMO Women’s Tour and the Asian Women’s Tour. “Joceylne Bourassa was fantastic. She made certain the Canadian women professionals had the opportunity to qualify for the Canadian Women’s Open. I think I won three times and qualified each year for the LPGA tour event in Canada. When I was a professional there was a lot of pressure because I was trying to earn a living. This is very difficult if you don’t have backers. I was away from home, not having fun. People think it is a glamourous life being a professional golfer but for many it is not. It is a grind under tremendous pressure trying to earn enough money to survive. I came home.”
“Ward, my late husband and I decided to start a family so I did not play golf for several years. To encourage me to get back into the game Ward bought me a driver. I exchanged it for a blender. I was very dedicated to raising our kids so I had no time for golf. As the two boys got older, I got my amateur status back and began playing again.”
Shelly now had a new perspective on the game. The pressure aspect of professional golf was gone. “Now when I play, I am extremely competitive and love a good challenge. I love to win without placing pressure on myself. I’m just trying to hit shots, stay in the present, and not really worry too much about the outcome. When I swing, I’m just letting it take care of itself. I try to be totally relaxed.”
Unfortunately, COVID hit when Shelly turned fifty. She played in one BCGA event – the BC Senior Womens’ at Campbell River CC. She served notice to the other senior women that she would be a force to be reckoned with. In fact, since joining the senior ranks she has dominated winning four consecutive BC titles. The first BC senior to accomplish this feat. She had a very successful year in 2021 winning two RCGA titles – the Mid-Amateur and the Senior Women’s. In 2022 Shelly won basically everything she competed in. 2022 year will go into the BC record books as the best year any BC golfer has ever achieved in competitive golf.
She made some alterations to her winter schedule that probably contributed to her success. “Professionally I work as a kinesiologist. During the winter I joined the TPI (Titleist Performance Institute golf fitness program) level 1 and 2. I work with golfers, but also with people doing rehab who have been injured at work or in an automobile accident.
“I arrived at Breezy Bend CC in Winnipeg after a whirlwind trip from the USGA Sr. Women’s Open in Dayton. I really had no expectations. Within about 24 hours I travelled from Dayton to Columbus to Toronto to Winnipeg. With only a couple hours, sleep on the first day I just went out to play. Had five birdies and won all titles. Overall I played pretty well. In the last round I birdied twice in the first four holes. I had never played with Terrill Samuel of Etobicoke On before. She had won the British Senior this year. She was really great to play with. It came down to the last hole. She needed a birdie to force a playoff. She made her par so I needed to make my two-footer for par and the win. This was the first time I have won the Mid-Am so I’m pretty excited about that.”
Shelly advised every golfer to take advantage of any USGA event they may have the opportunity to play in. “The events are awesome.” Going to Alaska Shelly set her usual goal to win. “The first round went really bad. So Brett and I decided to change everything. He drew a birdie on the golf ball and I began to play really well. It is a lot of golf in a very short time period. We played ten rounds in eight days. In the matches I just kept playing my own game, kept to our game plan. I’m like what am I doing here, Brett? Same thing, why change it now. We just kept on doing that and it worked out really well.” Shelly closed out Australian Sue Wooster 4 and 3. Shelly joined World Golf Hall of Famer, Marlene Streit as only the second woman ever to win both the Canadian Women’s Senior Championship and the US Senior Women’s Amateur in the same year.
Shelly, a single mom, paid tribute to her sister, her mom, and her two sons Kent and Brett for her success. Playing top flite competitive senior golf requires many hours of practice and devotion plus a group of support people. “My mom is always supportive of me. She is now 82 and hitting the ball further than ever due to TPI which we did together. My sister Sandra is aways there to support me. She caddies for me whenever I ask. Jason Gilbert, one of my late husband’s best friends, is always promoting me and organizing my hotels. He caddied for me when I was on tour especially in the US Women’s Open. At Fairwinds Brian Evans has always encouraged me, Julie Hazelwood has supported me, and Fairwinds’ sponsorship has been an immense help.”
The Ron Willey Story
“The only BC male player to win 2 PNGA men’s amateur titles”
Like his friend and fellow Golf Hall of Fame member Lyle Crawford, Ron started golf under the tutleage of Bill Heyworth, the professional at Hastings Park Golf course – the first public golf course in BC. Today the old course is the PNE grounds. It closed in 1953 to accommodate Empire Stadium and the 1954 British Empire Games. The Windermere GC formed when the Hastings course expanded to 18 holes in 1932. The club executive organized the junior’s, men’s and women’s tournaments. Ron joined the Windermere golf club around 1949 – 1950.
After the closure of Hastings Park in 1953 Ron joined the Fraser View Men’s club. Roy Heisler, the Fraser View head professional became Ron’s tutor. Jack Rea, one of Ron’s adoring friend recalls his first years with Ron at Fraser View.
“Back in the early to mid 50’s I used to hang around the Fraserview Golf Course when Roy Heisler was the resident Pro. I spent a lot of time hunting golf balls and selling them and caddying. Somehow, one Saturday I was given the opportunity to caddy for Ron Willey. What a great break for me. I would caddy for Ron on Saturdays and then in the summer I would be at the course on Wednesday to shag for Ron when he practised. I would bring my baseball glove. No matter what club he would pull from his bag he would hit the ball either right at me or sometimes I would have to move not more than 2 or 3 feet to my right or left, but not any further to catch the balls. Ron was extremely accurate with all his clubs from sand wedge to driver. He was incredible. At this time the going rate for caddying 18 holes was 3 to 4 dollars but Ron would always pay me well over the going rate, On top of this, after I cleaned his clubs he would tell me to meet him in the clubhouse which I did. Ron would buy me a hamburger with fries and even a piece of cherry pie over and above what he paid me that day, He was so generous. Ron would sometimes allow me to sit with him in the clubhouse and for a caddie this was really exciting. Ron was a very considerate man whom I developed a love for this guy. To me these were the greatest years of my teenage life. I left Vancouver in 1955 with my parents and went to live in Fort Nelson. What a shock. Even when I was up there, I would try to follow Ron’s career by buying the Vancouver newspapers that arrived a week later. I lived in Vancouver; Fort Nelson, Invermere; Smithers, Burns Lake, Prince George, and Kelowna.
George Mackay relates this story about Ron’s matches against Deane and Jack. “After winning two PNGA championships 1959 & 1960 and a member of the 1959 Commonwealth Team, the RCGA appointed Ron to the 1960 America’s Cup team. Ron paired with the 1959 Canadian Amateur Champion and a Marine Drive member, John Johnston. The Canadian pair played 2 matches against the US team of Jack Nicklaus and Deane Beman winning both matches. During the 2nd match Ron asked Deane Beman, “Jack talks to himself on each putt. What does Jack say to himself during each putt?
Deane replied: “On putts under 12 feet Jack repeats ‘Knock it in the hole, knock it in the hole.’ and on putts over 20 feet Jack would say “Perfect pace, perfect pace, perfect pace.”
After winning the 1960 PNGA title the previous week, the Victoria Times Colonist reporter Ernie Fedoruk asked Ron about marriage. Ron responded: “I get to play a lot of golf because not too many girls are anxious to become a golf widow.”
After placing low amateur in the 1961 BC Open championship winning a silver plated ice bucket, Ron made a career change. “I am tired of winning ice buckets. I plan to turn professional. At this time Ron met the love of his life and a young woman who agreed to become a golf widow. Marie’s girlfriend encouraged Marie to accompany her to the Press Club for dinner and dancing. Ron and Marie met on the dance floor.
In Vancouver in the 1960’s it was very difficult for a young professional to find a head professional or first assistant professional position in Vancouver. The old guard from the 1940’s and 1950’s had not decided to retire from the private golf clubs. Many of these young professionals left for the prairies or the eastern golf clubs. Ron chose to use his two PNGA Championship wins to elevate his chances for acquiring a good professional job in the US. Winning a PNGA title placed Ron in a special class of golfer. This was not the case in Canada.
In order to obtain a US Work Permit, the Willey’s required $2000 US. Fortunately, Marie had received some mining shares from her father. She cashed these shares to produce the necessary funding. Over the next five years Ron worked at various courses and driving ranges at Crane Creek CC in Boise, ID; Peninsula GC in San Francisco, CA; Rhonert Park Driving Range in Santa Rosa, CA, and Ansel Hoffman Driving Range in Sacramento, Ca. These years gave him valuable working experience with private club members and the public golf course player. Upon his return in the spring of 1968, Ron joined the group of assistants Len Collett assembled at Marine Drive. The group included Ron, Wayne Vollmer, Len and Irv Taylor. Immediately Ron continued his winning ways. At the Everett GC in April, he won the prestigious Pacific Northwest Assistant’s Championship. This definitely enhanced his resume to receive a head professional job. When Fred Wood retired at Shaughnessy in 1969 Len became their head professional. Marine Drive promoted Ron to head professional.
In 1971 Ron moved to the head professional job at the University Golf Course. Under his leadership, he convinced the University Endownment Lands officials to renovate the aging University Golf Course. The UEL hired local golf architect Jack Reimer to prepare a long-term plan for the course. Ron had the vision to upgrade the University Golf Course to be the permanent home for the annual BC Open Championship. At the same time, Ron began considering a career change in the golf industry. He became a partner with Harris-Conley, a Seattle Golf Merchandising Co. The group opened their first golf equipment store on Kingsway in Burnaby. Later Ron opened the first Nevada Bob’s in Canada. Until his retirement in 1985 Ron was the face of Nevada Bob’s in Canada.
Jack Rea relates his reconnection with Ron at the Kamloops Golf Club. “in 1972 my wife, daughter and myself moved to Kamloops. I joined the Kamloops Golf and Country Club. One day after I had finished my round, while walking to the clubhouse from the pro shop around the corner came the greatest guy I had ever met – RON WILLEY. What a shock. From that point on Ron and I would play every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. Man that was a great time. You know when I caddied for Ron in the 50’s, I believe Ron knew that my family didn’t have all that much, but he would make sure that I was fed when I was with him. I would not be lying when I say he was the greatest friend I ever had and I miss him very much. What a great, great man he was.”