Bob Vokey was in Toronto for a golf seminar three years ago, and while driving along Highway 403 that slices through suburban Oakville, he spotted the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.
“I said to myself ‘Wow that would really be something,'” Vokey said. “It was like a dream then. I call it a dream come true.”
Vokey, a club maker famous for his Titleist Vokey Wedges used by players around the world, and Quebec golfer Judy Darling Evans, are headed into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Darling Evans be inducted under the player category while Vokey will be inducted as a builder.
“Sandra (Post, the chair of the Hall of Fame’s selection committee) called me Sunday morning, I was having my coffee, I almost fell on the floor. I’m tickled,” Vokey said on a conference call Tuesday. “I’m an old guy but I woke up today. . . and I’m giddy like a little five or six year old, it’s unbelievable. Thinking back to my days when I was caddying for my dad, I never ever believed this was possible.”
With their inductions, the Montreal duo will become the 78th and 79th members of the Hall.
During her amateur career, Darling Evans was a dominant force in Quebec and Canadian women’s amateur golf with several provincial and national titles. She also played for Canada at the 1959 and 1963 Commonwealth Games.
The 79-year-old Darling Evans was at the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., last weekend, walking along following Canadian Graham DeLaet, when Post called to give her the good news.
“I shed a few tears, I can tell you that,” Darling Evans said. “I feel very very privileged to be amongst all these other distinguished members.”
The late Pat Fletcher, the only Canadian to have won the Canadian Open, mentored coached Darling Evans. His son Ted, a member of the Hall’s selection committee, reminisced about the old days.
“Judy was undoubtedly my father’s favourite and most respected pupil/student of the game,” Fletcher said. “I remember my father remarking on her courage, her determination, her work ethic, and everything she brought to the game from a competitive point of view. I just have all these vivid memories of Judy coming to the practice tee at Royal Montreal, my father standing there for hours and hours with her. And she would stay there for hours and hours after the lessons.”
Vokey’s name has become synonymous with excellence in golf craftsmanship. Born in Montreal in raised in Verdun, Que., he has become one of the world’s foremost wedge designers and trusted short-game adviser to many of the game’s top golfers.
Vokey has designed wedges for many top players including Seve Ballesteros, Lee Trevino, Bernhard Langer, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Davis Love III, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, as well as Canadians Mike Weir, Ian Leggatt, Graham DeLaet and Brad Fritsch.
Fritsch recounted meeting Vokey during Monday qualifying for the Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic in 2001.
“It was the first Monday qualifier I’ve ever tried, I was fresh out of college and on the range I was looking up and down at all the players that six months ago I just dreamed of watching on TV, I never figured I’d be there,” Fritsch said.
Vokey introduced himself, asked how he could help.
“We worked a little bit with him, I played the tournament and was very appreciative of his help,” Fritsch said.
Five years later, Fritsch was playing his next PGA Tour event, the Canadian Open, and bumped into Vokey in the McDonald’s just outside Glen Abbey.
“He hopped right up, ran over to me, said ‘Brad, congratulations for qualifying for this event, anything you need? I’ll be happy to help, I always support the Canadian golfers,'” Fritsch said. “I hadn’t talked to Bob in five years, he knew my face, he knew my name, and I think that told me right then that. . . Bob works in California, he has for a long time, but he paid attention to Canadians, he loves Canada, he pays attention to Canadian golfers.”
Vokey, 77, was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2008, and spoke about never considering quitting his job.
“I believe right now (the cancer) is in my rear-view mirror,” Vokey said. “My biggest motivation was I had the desire, I loved working with the best players in the world, I continued to want to learn, and I continually wanted to train other people.”
Darling Evans and Vokey will be inducted during ceremonies to be held later this year.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press