Every week since the first official day of spring has seen more and more sunshine, and the golf courses and driving ranges of the Cowichan Valley have opened for another season. However, one golfer won’t be making an appearance on the greens this year, as player or spectator.
Earlier this year Norman Boden, an avid golfer and co-founder of March Meadows Golf Club in Honeymoon Bay, died at age 79 due to a pre-existing heart condition. Boden was perhaps best-known as the first coach of professional golfer Dawn Coe-Jones, a Lake Cowichan native who made her presence felt in the women’s professional golf world in the early 1990s with three LPGA Tour wins.
“His biggest thrill was teaching Dawn Coe,” recalled his widow, Genevieve Boden.
Long before his time as coach, Boden was a golf star in his own right, on Vancouver Island.
Born in Victoria in 1936, Boden started when he was 13 and turned pro by the time he was 19 while at Gorge Vale Golf Course in Victoria. Golf was his world, so it’s only natural he met Genevieve there, who was working as a waitress at the clubhouse.
“I sort of had to take on the sport,” she said with a laugh, referring to husband’s passion for golf.
Throughout the 1960s, Boden competed with success, winning the Island Open Golf Tournament in 1961 and 1969. Following his first win, a group of doctors approached him with a sponsorship offer to compete in the big leagues but he ultimately turned it down.
Genevieve thinks it wasn’t in her husband’s nature to seek the spotlight.
“I think his biggest obstacle was really because he was an introvert,” she said. “If he was talking golf, he could get up and make a speech but in any other situation he was quite shy, it was very difficult for him to put himself forward and stick up for himself.”
Which is not to say Boden shied away from his goal on the green — and off the green. Whether playing golf, pool, checkers or computer games, Boden always played to win.
“He was very competitive,” said his daughter, Sandra Vermier. “We used to joke if we wanted to win a game, we’d play mom… If you won when you played checkers with him, you knew you won. He could not throw a game.”
After Gorge Vale, Boden and his young family moved up island to the Chemainus Golf Club where Boden worked as the golf pro and greenskeeper. In 1970, he was approached by Jim Peterson from Lake Cowichan with the idea of building a golf course in Honeymoon Bay.
“I knew him in Duncan because I played golf in Duncan before we had this golf course built. So then I contacted him to see if he wanted to be the golf pro for us,” said Peterson.
Peterson also trusted Boden’s experience as greenskeeper — something their new course was going to need. Along with two other local entrepreneurs they purchased Charlie March’s farm.
“We moved the cattle off where the golf course is now and put them over where the driving range is and six days later we were golfing,” said Peterson. “It was stubble and everything else because the cattle had been grazing there. And then we just went from there.”
March Meadows Golf Course was born.
Boden and his family moved to Honeymoon Bay where he worked as golf pro and greenskeeper for 23 years.
Vermier said she has fond memories of the family’s time in Honeymoon Bay. She said her father did his best to get involved with his children’s non-golf athletic pursuits, which wasn’t easy, especially when it came to helping Vermier with baseball.
“Unfortunately the timing conflicted with golf season,” she said. “I always liked to say being a golf pro’s daughter ruined my baseball swing. I tended to pop fly. I blame that on him.”
After March Meadows, Boden worked at a golf course in Fort St. John before returning to the island and semi-retiring. He gave lessons and did some greenskeeping at the driving range at Fun Pacific Recreation Centre.
Genevieve said he loved giving lessons to kids.
“He taught to have confidence in yourself and that you could do anything,” she said. “He didn’t always live that himself. He taught it though and he believed it.”