By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The inaugural Timmins Rock Golf Tournament at Spruce Needles Golf Club on Thursday answered the age-old question: “How many coaches does it take to hit a golf ball?”
Four turned out to be the answer, with Rock coach and general manager teaming up with assistant coaches James Daschuk, Eric Paquette and Marc Bisson to shoot a “respectable” round of golf.
“Respectable,” but not good enough to best the foursome of hockey players made up of Rock captain Jordan Rendle, linemate Bain Cunningham, goalie Matthew Nixon and forward Tyler Romain.
“We will have to check their scorecard, but if that’s true … there are a lot of rumours … yes, they will definitely have to do a little bit of extra skating for conditioning when training camp opens up,” said Gagne, proving he doesn’t like to lose on the golf course any more than he does on the ice.
“Actually, it was all in fun. It was nice to see everybody involved. Some players came from out of town on Wednesday just so they could play in this tournament and get ready for the start of camp on Monday.”
Gagne was also pleased with the show of support from the community and from the club’s sponsors during the inaugural event.
“All in all, everything was positive and it’s a great feeling,” he said. “It really is.”
Regardless of whether Gagne’s group of coaches lost to the players, or came out on top, he was pleased with the skills they were able to display out on the course.
“We got on a roll there, birdie after birdie after birdie,” he said.
“I think we had one bogey all day and that might have made the difference in the outcome of our bet with the players.
“Marc Bisson probably carried all of us on his shoulders today.”
Fun tournament, or not, it wasn’t just the players the coaches were eager to beat.
“We have to go an extra hole because we were tied with the foursome we were playing against,” Gagne said, while catching his breath before heading out to play a 19th hole.
With Rock president Scott Marshall off attending the NOJHL annual meeting, vice president Kevin Peever headlined a well-organized crew that put the tournament together.
“Compliments to Kevin and the group that organized this tournament,” Gagne said.
“They worked long hours to put it together and it turned out awesome.”
Even before he found out that his group had bested the coaching staff, Nixon was pleased with how well he and the rest of his foursome played on Thursday.
“We got off to a little bit of a slow start, but we picked things up after about the fifth hole,” he said.
“Jordan is probably the best golfer in our group. It has been a rough round for him today, but he is usually pretty good. I don’t want to reveal any secrets, but he does work on a golf course back home in B.C.
“He definitely practises more than the rest of us.”
So, out of the four hockey players, whose golf game needs the most work?
“Honestly, I have some good friends here, so I will have to throw myself under the bus,” Nixon said.
“From today’s play, I would say my game needs the most work.”
No. 3, the hole the hockey players started on with the shotgun start, turned out to be their worst of the day, resulting in their only bogey of the round.
Nixon, who enjoyed his first season in a Rock uniform, was impressed with the turnout for the club’s inaugural tournament.
“It’s really good to be back in Timmins in general and to be out at an event like this where the community is supporting the Rock really feels good,” he said.
“I am really happy to be here and we are really looking forward to the start of the season. We are all excited to get things going.”
Peever was also pleased to see the level of support the community showed for the Rock’s inaugural tournament.
“We are very happy with the turnout,” he said.
“Hopefully, in the years to come we can build on this success. This event is all about having fun and helping the team.”
Like Gagne, Peever felt it was important to get some of the players, as well as the coaching staff, out to interact with fans and sponsors in a relaxed format.
“In addition to having four of the players taking part in the tournament, we also had (defenceman) Nick Hautanen helping out with one of the par threes,” he said.
“There are no winners and losers with this tournament. It is all about having fun and giving everyone a chance to meet and greet the players, coaching staff and directors.”
Weather conditions were near ideal for Thursday’s tournament, with sunning skies and the occasional clouds floating past the golfers.
“It was hot out there, but we couldn’t ask for a better day for this event,” Peever said.
“The course workers here at Spruce Needles have done an excellent job maintaining this course.”
While there were no winners or losers at Thursday’s event, there were plenty of prizes up for grabs thanks to the Rock’s sponsors.
“We have had excellent support from our corporate sponsors out in the community,” Peever said.
“We have a door prize valued at $1,100, as well as some silent auction items as well as live auction items. We have Blue Jays tickets for the Sept. 24 game against the New York Yankees. We also have a (Montreal Canadiens goalie) Carey Price signed jersey.”
Peever and his teammates — Sylvain deLaplante, Damian Cantin and Mark Kingsman — turned in a better than “respectable” round.
“We had a great foursome to play with and we really had a lot of fun,” he said.
“We can’t wait to do it again next year.”
Peever is hoping that next year more of the Rock players will be able to participate in the event.
“Hopefully, we can arrange things so more of the hockey players will be able take part in the event next year, so more fans can come out and enjoy the day with them,” Peever said.
“It is a great way for the players to bond, as well. It’s a great, loose atmosphere and a good chance for the players to get to know each other.”