Day two in Saskatoon is in the books, after a fine meal at Las Palapas (a Mexican spot in Saskatoon, who would have thought?).
Walking back to my hotel – or wandering, as the case may be – it was hard not to notice that the sun had yet to set behind the downtown buildings. This, at about 10:00 p.m. local time.
Today marked my first round of golf on the trip. After about an hour and a half drive North, I arrived at Cooke Municipal Golf Course in Prince Albert.
Waking up this morning the sun was shining, and it was warm. The hot topic of conversation – excuse the pun – is how warm it has been of late. Someone even said to me today that Saskatoon was having “Ontario-like humidity.” I wouldn’t go that far.
Regardless, as I was driving to Prince Albert, the skies were getting darker, and I could see forks of lightening in the not-so-far sky. Upon arriving at Cooke, I was greeted with a loud thunderstorm. I was upset that my round of golf seemed to be inevitably rained out but I was quickly cheered up by my lunch companions for the day.
The people of Prince Albert are a proud kind. They like their town, they like their sports, and yes, they like their golf. With reason, of course. There are many golf courses within a one hour radius of the town, along with copious other outdoor activities.
Once lunch was completed, the sun came out again, and it was time to play.
I was joined on the course by the assistant professional Ryan Wells. Wells is a 29-year-old native of PEI, who worked at a resort course in B.C. for a few seasons before shuffling a few provinces and landing in Prince Albert.
He has a smooth left-handed swing – I mention that because the head professional is also left-handed. How often do you see that? – and his iron game is impeccable. I’m fairly certain he hit every green in regulation on the day. His putting has always been his weak spot, he said, so we managed to have something in common golfing-wise. He finished at 2-under, I believe, so the putting struggle is the limit of our on-course similarities.
Wells was filled with interesting tidbits on the golf course.
Cooke Municipal celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2009, and it has only had four head professionals in its history including the current one, Darcy Myers. Myers joined us for lunch, and aside from his role at Cooke, he also “owns” the pro shop (as a separate entity from the city-owned golf course) and is the “chief ice maker” for the adjacent curling club.
When we arrived at the third hole – a fairly straightaway par 3, with water on the left side – I noticed an interested monument constructed behind the tee box. Turns out they used to have another tee box further back but, as Wells explains, they were doing some digging and discovered some bones. The “old” tee box is now an officially-marked Native Canada burial site.
The golf course itself was far from underwhelming for a municipal layout. It was in immaculate condition; the greens were rolling true and the fairways were lush.
It was quite the contrast from the City of Toronto’s five courses, where conditioning sometimes leaves little to be desired.
The price, too, was something I had to ask twice about. A single green-fee is a mere $49(!) and an unlimited year-long membership will set you back only $1400.
Given the course layout, golfers can also choose to play 11 holes at a reduced rate (instead of the normal nine, because the ninth hole is far away from the parking lot, unlike No. 11).
It reminded me a lot of the venerable H.S. Colt-designed Toronto Golf Club in Mississauga. A wonderful, old-school track that does not punish one with its length.
Wells explains that the two words that he would use to best describe Cooke would be passion and community. The golf course itself was built by a farmer over 100 years ago because it was his dream. He built it with passion. The current members – or, pass-holders as they’re called at Cooke – share that same passion, as demonstrated by their desire to keep the course in great shape. Therein lies the community aspect as well.
Wells mentioned that a common saying around Prince Albert (or, “PA” as the locals call it) is that you “can’t spell ‘party’ without PA.” I laughed, of course, but then realized you couldn’t spell ‘passion’ without PA either.
Tomorrow I’m off to the first round of the Dakota Dunes Open, and then I have a round of golf scheduled at the Saskatoon Golf & Country Club in the afternoon.