Canada’s Gary Melanson is taking hickory golf to new heights
Aug. 22, 2017
By Jim Davis
Hickory golf clubs are making their way into more tournaments as SoHG members continue to introduce the old clubs into a variety of competitions.
We just learned of Mitch Laurance’s entry in the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Golf Championship, the first hickory player in that event’s long history.
Now we are pleased to hear of another stalwart player, a top Canadian amateur, and SoHG member in the vanguard of modern tournament play with hickories.
Gary Melanson, of Woodstock, New Brunswick, Can., just competed with hickories in the Atlantic Golf Championships, held Aug. 17-19 at the very challenging Covered Bridge Golf & Country Club in Hartland, New Brunswick.
This Canadian tournament includes the top 12 (three per province) golfers in each division for men and women – amateur, mid-amateur (40+), and senior. They were all from the four Atlantic provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland & Labrador.
Each province had the opportunity to field 20 golfers in the event. The event is stroke play over three days with both individual and team competition. The senior division in which Melanson completed was played from 6,000 yards .
Melanson is a member of Covered Bridge and knows the course pretty well. Over the past few years, the club has hosted the Atlantic Golf Championship, the New Brunswick Amateur and Mid-Amateur.
Strong winds on the opening round created hard and very fast greens (12-13 Stimp, Melanson estimates). Scores were very high. Things settled down on day two and the scores improved. Day three brought in light rains, but “did little to slow down the greens,” Melanson says. “My scores reflected the challenges; 82, 77, 73. In the end I placed second in the men’s senior division against all the players using modern equipment.”
A strong endorsement for hickories in the face of modern technology whose mantra seems to be “Our clubs will play the game for you.”
Though Melanson, a retired manager of a private economic development group, has been golfing for 50 years, he began his hickory apprenticeship this past spring. “I bought a used set last winter and re-finished them myself,” he says.
With an overall handicap of 4.6 and a tournament index of 2.6, Melanson has the tournament experience to match with his new/old clubs. Over those five decades of golf, he has competed in 16 Canadian National Championships and has won eight New Brunswick provincial championships – three Mid-Amateurs, two Mid-Masters, and three Seniors. Not a bad record at all.
But then he discovered that there were guys out there playing golf with hickories. He tried them and, well, they resonated.
“Hickory golf has brought me back to the creativity and fun in golf,” he says. “Hitting a wide variety of shots with a limited number of clubs that have minimum technology is very rewarding even when the shots don’t come off as planned. It’s not having to hit a certain club a certain distance, it’s pulling a club and hitting the trajectory and distance to pull off the shot that is so rewarding.”
He plays his hickories in many of his province’s senior field days and other events. He hasn’t made his way to Ron Lyon’s Canadian Hickory Championship but says that one is on his radar. He does hope to visit the Mid Pines Hickory Open this November.
Melanson has Tad Moore equipment in his bag, including a brassie, bulldog, full iron, mashie, spade mashie, mashie niblick, two sand irons and a blade putter. He prefers Callaway Chrome Soft or the Wilson Duo Urethane golf balls.
“My playing partners were amazed at how far the balls travelled with the brassie, of course with roll, often past their well struck drives,” he says. “In the end, I had a lot of people very interested in hickory golf clubs and hopefully I’ll be able to convince them to try them in the future.”
The next stop on Melanson’s tour of Canadian events is the Canadian Senior Golf Championship in Montreal, Quebec, Sept. 11-14. The course is the Kanawaki Golf Club (1914), lately famous as the location where the movie The Greatest Game Ever Played was filmed. That, of course, was the screen adaptation of Mark Frost’s book of the same title about the famous 1913 U.S. Open victory by Francis Ouimet over Harry Vardon and Ted Ray.
“Golf Canada has given me permission to play my hickory clubs in the event, and I assume my knickers,” Melanson says. “It will be exciting to play this historical course with the type of equipment that was used when the course was built.”
Melanson promises to let us know how he fares. “Making the cut [with hickories!] would be an accomplishment against 141 of the best senior golfers in Canada and several U.S. and foreign players.”
We wish you the best, Gary. We’ll be watching and cheering you on.