At 75 years of age Wayne Oates is one of the most senior golfers at the Kettle River Golf Club in Rock Creek. He has a lot of golf experience behind him—he had his first set of clubs when he was only four years old.
His father was one of five golfers in Abbey, Saskatchewan in the early 1940s. So the town had a five-hole course with sand greens. “They each had a hole to take care of,” Oates recalls. “They used to put the sheep on the fairways and rope them off and have them cut the grass and fertilize at the same time.”
From Saskatchewan the family moved to Drumheller where he continued to learn the game on sand greens. Then it was on to Red Deer, “Where we really got into a better golf course. Red Deer Golf and Country Club was really a great spot; good grass greens and a good layout. A good test of golf.”
Oates was playing competitively for money when he was 12 years old. “The first guy who challenged me was a pretty good player in Drumheller and he played me for $5 for the nine holes. And I beat him. I had a paper route and if I did it for a week I might have made that much and all of a sudden I had made $5 for playing a game I loved to play for two hours.”
Wayne turned pro and went to Edmonton and then spent 20 years in Ontario. His first head pro job was the Canadian Forces base in Trenton. He eventually became a general manager of golf clubs, but still kept his hand in teaching the game.
With 25 years in the PGA, another 10 or so in the Canadian Society of Club Managers plus a few years in the Course Superintendents Association in Ontario, Oates has built a network of golfing friends.
He eventually settled in the Okanagan and he and his wife moved to Fort Greenwood from Kelowna last winter.
“Now I am just sort of retired and do a little bit of teaching around here. Teaching is a great thing because you can see immediate results in people.”
He is impressed with the Kettle Valley course. “Nobody tears this golf course apart. It’s a really good test of golf. The first five holes are extremely difficult. The last four are shorter and somewhat easier, but it’s in the trees so you can’t hit it offline. You have got to hit it straight and locate the ball correctly.”
In his many years of golf, Oates has played with and learned from some of the best: Henry Martell in Edmonton and Moe Norman while on the Florida tour.
Oates said learning the basics is important. “If you can get them to do basics, eventually they will improve their game.”
“There are ways and means and methods to get every individual to improve. But you have to be flexible enough in order to work with different people because it’s kind of a six-inch game—you know it’s between the ears. If you can get past yourself in your mind you can beat this game, but the head always gets in the way.”
When asked to comment on how technology is changing the game he said, “Technology in golf almost changes as fast as computers. Everybody wants the latest and greatest and they think they are going to immediately buy a new game. No—you don’t just buy a new game.”
Oates now offers his skills as an instructor at the Kettle Valley Golf Course.
“Quite a number of people have expressed interest in instruction. The driving range over here can use the support and the golf club can use the support. Teaching is a way of accomplishing that. I quite like to assist and give back to the game somehow because it has been good to me.”
Oates’ mother Elsie was also an avid golfer, playing three rounds a week into her 90s. “She played a round at her 100th birthday party and partied at the golf club in Summerland five days before she passed at 101 years old,” Oates said. So his genetics indicate he still has a lot of golf in front of him too.
“Instruction to me is kind of important right now. I think we can get more people playing the game. The club can use it.”
He says it takes a minimum of three lessons and usually five private lessons. “So I might put some packages together where they can get five lessons for a basic amount. But I can’t go much lower than what I am going right now because it is half the price of what I was charging before. I used to get $50 per lesson in Kelowna and now I charge $25 here.”
That sounds reasonable when you consider the years of frustration you might save yourself. If you would like more information call Wayne Oates at 250-212-4779.