Making friends through golf: The Canadian Connection

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By Elsa Bonstein, Golf Gab

Canadians love Myrtle Beach, S.C., and the entire Grand Strand from Pawley’s Island to Southport. Many visit annually. Some even own vacation homes here because playing golf in February is not an option in Ontario. When the snows fall and cold winds blow, the Carolina Coast seems like a veritable paradise.
The Grand Strand is often called the Golf Capital of the World. We have a year-round temperate climate, more than 100 great public golf courses. In addition, we have great restaurants, wonderful fishing, outstanding shopping and a fabulous beach.
The camaraderie that has long existed between Canadian and American golfers is well-known. Forty-five years ago, the first CanAm Days Festival was in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and it has grown over the years to include band concerts, golf tournaments, an expo at the Convention Center by the Chamber of Commerce and dozens of other special events. The festival this year took place on March 13-21.
You can always pick out the Canadians. When the rest of us are walking the beach in our heavy-duty sweats, they are swimming in the surf. On the golf course, they are the ones playing in shorts and short-sleeved shirts. We are wearing turtlenecks, sweaters, windbreakers, ear-muffs and winter golf gloves. They are smiling. We are shivering.
When our northern friends migrate south for several months each winter, they often form lasting relationships with their American counterparts.
In 1999, Bud and Jane Boyce played in their first CanAm tournament at the Lakes Country Club and met Cookie and John Regimbald from Ottawa, Ontario. They have been friends ever since.
Jane and Bud are native North Carolinians, growing up in Elizabeth City, becoming high school sweethearts and then getting married (52 years and counting). Bud served in the military and was based in California. After many years of service, he stayed on to work on the west coast, but the Boyces always dreamed of the time they could move to Brunswick County.
When Bud retired, they settled in Boiling Spring Lakes and joined The Lakes Country Club.
Bud was always an avid golfer and even won the men’s club championship at the Lakes in 2004. Several years into the marriage, Bud wanted Jane to learn the sport, so he bought her clubs.
 “When I first started, I could hardly even hit the ball. I spent two years on the practice range slowly getting better and better. Finally, I told Bud, ‘Take me to the course or I quit.’ He did, and we’ve been playing together ever since.”
On the day of the CanAm tournament at The Lakes, Jane came over to the clubhouse while the men were playing and noticed a woman sitting and reading a book. She walked over and introduced herself to Cookie Regimbald.
 “As I talked with Cookie, I realized that we had a lot in common,” Jane said. “When our husbands came off the course, I met her husband, John. The four of us have been friends ever since.”
 “We hit it off right from the start,” Bud said. “Cookie and John rented a place at Cypress Bay for several months each winter. We started seeing each other, playing golf and getting together for dinner and other events. When their sons, Larry and Mark, came down to visit, we played golf with them too.”
Bud teamed up with John and they played matches against the Larry and Mark.
 “The boys had a toy troll about 10 inches tall, and that was the trophy. The troll went back and forth several times as we played matches with our Canadian friends.”
Christmas and birthday cards were exchanged during the year. Phone calls kept everyone current. The friendship that began on the golf course grew and grew.
Because Cookie liked to kid around and play jokes on people, Bud nicknamed her “Lil’ Scamp.”
 “We bought a golf shirt and had ‘Lil’ Scamp’ printed on the sleeve,” Bud said. “Memorabilia came and went, like a UNC cap for their grandson, who loves the Tar Heels.”
Other Canadian friends joined the circle; Dan and Anne Chapman, Enid and Paul Eximus. CanAm days became a year-round reality.
“The highlight of our friendship came when the Regimbalds invited us to come visit them in Ottawa,” Bud explained. “We arrived at their home and had a lovely dinner with them. The next morning, they took us to Mississippi Golf Course in Appleton, just outside of Ontario, their home course. When we arrived, we saw a big sign on the clubhouse saying ‘Boiling Springs Invitational.’ Thirty or forty people were all set to play with the Regimbald’s two American friends. The pro was there. It was a blast.”
 “On our last night, they had a party for us. One of the guests was a man with a wonderful voice who entertained us with song after song. He’d stop and everyone would beg him to keep on. At the end of the evening, everyone sang ‘Gold Bless America’ and then ‘O Canada.’ It was very moving.”
Today, Bud and Jane have souvenirs, photographs, and fond memories of their Canadian experience.
 “The Canadians loved Dr. Pepper, and when we went up to visit them, we took some with us as gifts because they cannot buy it up there,” Jane said. “The troll is now kept safely within a glass trophy case and is displayed in our home.”
“The Regimbalds are our heart friends, we love them like family,” said Bud. “As the people of Ontario say, ‘He’s like a brudder to me.’”  
The game of golf creates wonderful opportunities to make lasting friendships, not just at the club, not just in the neighborhood, but sometimes between countries.
Nancy was in the middle of a golf lessons with the club pro. Things were going from bad to worse. As she shanked one ball after the other, she muttered and swore under her breath.
 “I’m afraid you’re not addressing the ball correctly,” the pro said.
 “Listen,” snapped Nancy. “I was polite with it for as long as possible!”

Elsa Bonstein is a golf columnist for the Beacon. Reach her at elanbon@atmc.net.