All ball

CJ sports editor Reuben Villagracia needs this message printed on all his golf balls these days.

When you can’t remember the last time you’ve done something, chances are it’s been a while.

That is the relationship I have with the sport of golf. Today, I will dust off the clubs and hit the links as I line up alongside the media team at the inaugural Thunder Bay North Stars Golf Classic at the Fort William Country Club.

Shotgun start is at 1 p.m. Northwestern Ontario’s worse swing courtesy of yours truly will be on display shortly after that.

As the sports editor of the city’s daily newspaper, I normally don’t get out to public events enough as I should — and this was before a global pandemic hit. Golf is a great social activity and it’s wonderful to see everyone enjoying the weather as Ontario restrictions have eased up.

One of my fondest memories was playing in a charity road hockey tournament during the 2016 Staal Foundation Open at Whitewater. I battled Jordan Staal and Trevor Kidd in the corner for the ball, met and shook hands with Grant Fuhr and Bobby Orr, and had my countless turnovers called by Gino Reda.

My last round of golf may have been on the par 3 course at Northern Lights Complex back in 2014 with my best-man-to-be, Ian Edwards. But I’m not sure.

I married Jessica in September of that year, and I know for a fact that I didn’t touch the clubs after our daughter Katelynn was born and we moved into our new house in 2015. I have shifted my golf bag from one end of our shed to the other countless times.

Yup, the automatic stand “thingy” attached to the bag still works.

But even without awesome life events occurring, I probably would have not pursued golf. While the social aspect was fun, I just found the repetitiveness and checklist-like nature of swinging boring. Bless Ian’s heart for trying his best to help teach me the game, but we both knew it wasn’t happening. Near the end, I was using my driver off the tee on the par 3s.

I even passed up on playing at our own Chronicle-Journal Charity Golf Classic.

In fact, just before Stars tournament organizer Mike Tallari recruited me to play, I had considered selling my clubs and use the money to help pay for a Connor McDavid rookie card. (Spoiler: I kept the clubs and still bought the card. Don’t tell Jessica).

Tallari and the North Stars junior A hockey team have done an A1 job planning this event especially in the shadow of another possible COVID-19 wave. Twenty-five local sponsors are on board and the Thunder Bay Boys and Girls Club will be hosting a raffle on site.

There are two hole-in-one prizes (that I will not be winning) — a Ford truck and $10,000 cash. I look forward to seeing North Stars head coach Rob DeGagne and Lakehead Thunderwolves bench boss Andrew Wilkins again, as well as all the other former players and members of our community.

Luckily, the format is scramble so we’ll be choosing the best shot among my teammates and moving from there, thus nullifying my terrible lands. The media squad — one of 28 teams competing — consists of myself, Leith Dunick, the editor of the Thunder Bay Source and TBNewswatch, and Kevin Jeffrey, the news director at Acadia Broadcasting (99.9 The Bay and Country 105.5 FM).

I don’t know much about Kevin’s game, but I’m confident Leith will be our ringer.

Regardless of what happens out there today, events such as the Stars Classic is hopefully a start of what will be a return to normalcy. Buffalo Sabres goaltender Carter Hutton will be hosting the George Jeffrey’s annual golf tournament next month which I’m sure will be another success.

Have fun out there, ladies and gentlemen.

Reuben Villagracia is the sports editor at The Chronicle-Journal. Contact him at rvillagracia-@chroniclejournal.com.