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Proving ground for a great Canadian golfer
In 50 years, the best golfer to come out of the Pitt Meadows Golf club is undoubtedly Jim Nelford, who had a successful career on the PGA Tour.
Nelford was an outstanding amateur golfer, who won the B.C. high school golf championship in 1973, and the B.C. Junior championship. He parlayed his early success into a scholarship.
He was the top Canadian kid in his day, as the young Nelford won the 1975 and 1976 Canadian Amateur Championships.
As a college player with Brigham Young University, he was selected as a second-team All-American in both 1976 and 1977, and immediately after college he turned professional.
He enjoyed immediate success, and enjoyed a long career, playing on the PGA Tour from 1978 to 1988.
Sports Illustrated once described him as “a little guy who plays right-handed, putts left-handed and looks like a New Wave guitarist.”
His most remarkable achievements were a second-place finish at the Sea Pines Heritage Classic in 1983, and a gut-wrenching playoff loss to Hale Irwin the following year in the Bing Crosby Pro-Am.
Pitt Meadows club pro Neil Roberts will tell you that if not for Irwin making two incredibly lucky shots, Nelford would have won the tournament, and his career been on a huge upswing.
Irwin’s shot on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach was into seaside rocks, but bounced onto the fairway. Then a shot caromed off the flagstick to within five feet of the cup, and Irwin birdied the hole to force a playoff, where he beat the devastated Nelford.
Irwin was one of the best golfers of the day, but newspapers described that win as “bumper pool.”
Nelford’s golf career was literally cut short by a 1985 waterskiing accident, when a boat propeller injured one of his arms. He never returned to form, but doctors told him he would never be able to play golf again. He was determined to get back into the game. He missed the cut at the 1986 Canadian open, but was able to finish in a tie for 18th the following year.
Now 58, the well-spoken Nelford has become a golf commentator, working for ESPN and TSN.
He was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in July.
The next one?
Who is the next great golfer at Pitt Meadows?
The smart money is on David Lee. The 16-year-old is winning tournaments, and is well known in Pitt Meadows because he is the two-time club champion. Two years ago he won the event by 12 strokes, and then earlier this month defended his title by shooting rounds of 68-68-74.
“He works very hard at it, and he’s already played golf a long time,” said Roberts. “He’s a smart kid, and he manages his game very well. He’s the complete package. We’re going to be hearing about him.”