When word spread last week that the Duramed FUTURES Tour was honoring French Canadian Jocelyne Bourassa with its annual Trainor Award, her many protégés now living in Florida and Georgia made the trip to Winter Haven, Fla., to honor the longtime Canadian ambassador of golf.
There were young professionals playing on the Duramed FUTURES Tour at its season-opening event last week and former players who are now working as teaching and club professionals, as well as some of the LPGA Tour's top players from north of the border. All came to honor Bourassa for boosting the ranks of women professionals in their homeland.
"Jocelyne has been a tremendous support and inspiration for not only myself, but for all Canadian women," said Duramed FUTURES Tour player LISA MELDRUM of Montreal, Quebec. "She deeply cares for each and every one of us, both on and off the golf course. Being from Quebec, I have known Jocelyne since my early junior days. I have always appreciated her enthusiasm, dedication and encouragement. Being around her always brings out great energy and good vibes."
Canadian SUZANNE WALKER-NICOLLETTA, who is now the head pro at Schalamar Creek Golf Club in Lakeland, Fla., as well as coach of a high school girls' golf team, drove over to Winter Haven when she learned that Bourassa was coming to town.
"I'm a teacher and coach today because of the clinics Jocelyne set up back when I was just getting started in golf," said Walker-Nicolletta. "I even remember that her picture was up in our ladies locker room at Brightwood Golf & Country Club in Nova Scotia."
Like many Canadian women pros, Walker-Nicolletta played on the Canadian Women's Tour that Bourassa formed and recalls that Bourassa always "made everybody feel welcome in this little family of professional golfers." She credits her mentor for instilling in her a desire to "always give back" in the game.
"I wouldn't be here in Florida working in golf or have had a Division I college scholarship in golf if she had not opened up the door for the rest of us," added the pro. "I played at Illinois State University and [Duramed FUTURES Tour player] SAMANTHA RICHDALE came along a few years later."
Bourassa was out walking the course at Lake Region Yacht and Country Club during Sunday's final round of the Florida's Natural Growers Charity Classic, following the pairing that included both Meldrum and Richdale, when she turned around and saw three former Canadian LPGA veterans. Gail Graham had driven down from Atlanta, and Lisa Walters and DAWN COE-JONES had driven over from Tampa to salute Bourassa.
"Jocelyne Bourassa has been an inspiration to every Canadian player and she has been a mentor to me," said Graham.
"She's done everything in the world for every Canadian girl and all young women."
And almost 36 years later, Canadian women pros are still trying to win the LPGA's tournament north of the border – a feat that Bourassa accomplished when she won the 1973 La Canadienne, which was the predecessor of the LPGA's former major, the du Maurier Classic, and now, the current CN Canadian Women's Open Championship. She is still the only Canadian to have won the LPGA's event on home soil.
"Every one of us strived to be that second Canadian to win at home," said Coe-Jones. "She gave her heart and soul to not only the Canadians, but to every single member of the LPGA Tour when we came to the du Maurier Classic each year."
Bourassa, of Quebec, was presented with the Duramed FUTURES Tour's 2008 Trainor Award, which annually salutes an individual or group that has made a significant contribution to women's golf. The Tour established the Trainor Award in 1999, in honor of FUTURES Golf Tour founder and former president, Eloise Trainor, who retired in 1999, after operating the Tour for 20 years. Trainor presented the award to Bourassa last Sunday in Winter Haven.
Bourassa won amateur and junior titles in Canada, New Zealand and Scotland before qualifying for the LPGA Tour. She was the LPGA's 1972 Rookie of the Year. After injuries forced her retirement from the LPGA Tour in 1979, she served as the women's golf coach at Arizona State University in 1980, and then returned to Montreal that same year to become the executive director of the du Maurier Classic – a role she served for 20 years. In that capacity, Bourassa worked with Canadian golf associations and the Canadian PGA to launch developmental programs for young women golf professionals, enabling them to qualify for the LPGA's tournament in Canada through various series of tournament competitions.
What she envisioned for Canadian women golf professionals, worked. When the du Maurier Series started in 1990, there were less than 20 Canadian women professionals, and 10 years later, there were more than 150 Canadian women pros.
Bourassa now serves as senior consultant for Golf Quebec, a new pilot program that brings golf into primary schools. She was honored as a Member of the Order of Canada in 1972, elected into the Quebec Sports Hall of Fame in 1992, and inducted into the Quebec and Canadian Golf Halls of Fame in 1997.