It never occurred to Bill Paul that he might have a lasting legacy in Canadian golf — until Golf Canada announced last week that he would be retiring after 43 years with the organization.
“You start to get emails and calls and people telling you about what you did and your impact on golf,” said Paul, whose final title with Golf Canada is chief championship officer. “I never realized it before. I guess I never thought much about it.
“Have I had a legacy? I guess I have. I think a lot of people have. I don’t think I’m bigger than anyone else. I never put myself ahead. I always tried to make volunteers and sponsors No. 1 versus me or any of my staff. It was always a team effort.”
Paul has left an indelible mark on the sport in Canada and abroad. He was the tournament director of the Canadian Open for 23 years, served as tournament director of the Canadian Senior Open Championship as well as the 1992 World Amateur Team Championships.
Paul also played a significant role in securing an LPGA Tour event — now known as the CP Women’s Open — for Golf Canada.
Outside of Canada, Paul spent nine years on the board of the PGA Tour tournaments’ association and was president of the senior tour.
Those decades of service included being involved in the removal of tobacco companies as event sponsors in Canada, the stabilizing of the Canadian Open’s date on the PGA Tour’s calendar, and the emergence of a generational talent in Tiger Woods.
Paul and Woods’s careers are undeniably linked.
The 1996 Canadian Open was one of the first tournaments of Woods’s professional career. Four years later, Woods would again play at Glen Abbey Golf and Country Club, winning the national championship in one of the most memorable moments in Canadian sports history.
In both cases, Paul was instrumental in bringing Woods to Canada after he forged a bond with Tiger and his father Earl.
“It was the introduction of Tiger that changed the PGA in terms of its television model, its financial model,” said Paul. “What he did for golf is like what Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus did but on a different level. Tiger lifted it up.
“That was a fun time and being a part of that evolution of how the PGA Tour was changing, was a lot of fun.”
Paul’s affable manner and ability to speak with anyone about a wide range of topics outside of golf — or play a game of pick-up basketball, as he did with Tiger Woods ahead of the 2000 Canadian Open — was a boon to Golf Canada.
“Bill really has been an iconic figure in Canadian golf and particularly in driving our professional championships. He’s touched so many players, he’s touched so many lives,” said Golf Canada CEO Laurence Applebaum. “I won’t go to too many places on my travels where someone doesn’t say to me ‘oh, please say hi to Bill for me,’ or ‘how’s Bill doing?’ He’s really one of the great guys in golf.”
It’s those personal connections that Paul values the most and will miss as he moves into a consulting role with Golf Canada.
“What’s kept me in the game and not gone to other opportunities has been the people,” said Paul. “Those people, whether it’s been a player, a volunteer, somebody on staff, a media person, a partner, a sponsor, golf is just loaded with people that have a common goal.
“We all try and get to that common goal together and we all knew what that common goal was and it was always fascinating to see it all come together.”
PGA TOUR — Eight Canadians are in the field at the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., with David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., serving as second alternate. If he draws in, it’ll be the first time nine Canadians play in a PGA Tour event outside of Canada.
It’s also a critical tournament for Hearn, Adam Svensson of Surrey, B.C., and Ben Silverman of Thornhill, Ont., who are outside of the top 125 on the FedExCup standings, putting their PGA Tour cards for next season at risk. Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., Roger Sloan of Merritt, B.C., Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., and Nick Taylor, also from Abbotsford, are all currently in the safe zone.
KORN FERRY TOUR — Toronto’s Albin Choi is the highest ranked Canadian in the field at this week’s Ellie Mae Classic at TPC Stonebrae in Hayward, Calif. He’ll be joined by Ottawa’s Brad Fritsch, Vancouver’s Seann Harlingten and Toronto’s Matt Kang.
LPGA TOUR — Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., and Hamilton’s Alena Sharp are the only Canadians in the field at this week’s British Women’s Open on the Marquess’ Course at Woburn Golf and Country Club in Milton Keynes, England. Henderson is No. 2 in the CME Race to the Globe standings. No. 1 Jin Young Ko is ahead of Henderson in the standings by 1,009 points and the 625 at stake in the fifth major of the LPGA season could help the Canadian gain important ground.