By Mike Jiggens
Gordon Witteveen, veteran golf course superintendent, mentor, author
and industry activist, passed away Dec. 16 in Toronto from complications arising from chronic leukemia. He was 76.
The life of the one-time regular contributor to Turf & Recreation was memorialized at http://www.turfnet.com:
Born in the Netherlands, Gordon emigrated to Canada 20 years later and attended Ontario Agricultural College (now the University of Guelph). He worked during the summers at Noranda Mines Golf Course in Quebec, where he developed a love of golf and turf.
Upon graduation from college in 1958, he became the superintendent at London Highland Country Club in Ontario. Three years later he moved to Toronto to embark on a 12-year tenure as superintendent at the now defunct Northwood Golf Course. During this period he became active with the Ontario GSA and later helped found the Canadian GSA.
In 1973 Gordon became superintendent at the 36-hole Toronto Board of Trade Country Club, which he expanded to 45 holes a few years later. A frequent contributor to industry publications, Gordon received the Leo Fraser Award from GCSAA for the best superintendent-written article in Golf Course Management magazine.
Gordon initiated The Greenmaster magazine of the CGSA and served as its editor for five years. He also served as a director of GCSAA and on its historical preservation committee.
Upon retiring from the Board of Trade in 1999 after a 36-year tenure, Gordon re-opened a dormant 9-hole course (Pleasant View Golf Course) near Brantford, Ont. and owned/operated it until its sale in 2008.
A world traveler who visited and played golf courses all over the globe, Gordon often spoke to superintendent groups with presentations such as his "25 Years of Mistakes." Together with Michael Bavier, CGCS (now retired) from Chicago, Gordon co-authored a book titled Practical Golf Course Maintenance which is in its second printing and has also been translated into Spanish. A seminar based on the book, The Magic of Greenkeeping, has been presented all over Canada, the U.S.A. and beyond.
Gordon also wrote A Century of Greenkeeping for the Ontario GCSA in 2001, and co-authored (with the late Bob Labbance) Keepers of the Green: A History of Golf Course Management for GCSAA in 2002.
In 1995 Gordon and his then-assistant Cory Janzen became involved in TurfNet, actively participating in the Forum dialog, making friends and dispensing advice, opinions and experiences. Gordon proceeded to write a column, The Last Word, for TurfNet Monthly for six years, and most recently wrote a blog entitled, "The Way I See It… Opinions and Experiences from 50+ Years of Greenkeeping."
As an accomplished career superintendent, author, teacher and lecturer, Gordon felt his most lasting contribution to the industry was the many young men and women he mentored who have followed in his footsteps. At last count, over 30 current superintendents once worked for Gordon.
"Although we met relatively late in life and were in many ways the 'odd couple,' Gordon and I became fast friends," said Peter McCormick, founder and maestro of TurfNet. "Gord lived and breathed greenkeeping, and enjoyed being surrounded by those of the same ilk. If the conversation strayed from greenkeeping, it wasn't long before Gord steered it back. He loved to get down on his hands and knees and smell the turf."