“Hi, Jocelyne,” the winners of the 1984 and 1999 du Maurier Classics say as they walk to the 14th tee.
By the way, they’re LPGA Hall of Famers Juli Inkster and Karrie Webb.
Minutes later, a man in his 60s steps out of a group of spectators and hugs Bourassa, who then introduces Jack Kane, Lorie’s dad. Soon after, she chats with Lorie’s mom, Marilyn, and an aunt.
“There’s Sherri Steinhauer,” Bourassa says at another point. “She won in Winnipeg in 1992.”
That happens constantly as Bourassa takes a short tour of the back nine at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club during the CN Canadian Women’s Open.
For two decades, from 1980 through 2000 at the Royal Ottawa Golf Club, this was Bourassa’s tournament, her life. As tournament director for the LPGA Tour event known as the Peter Jackson Classic and du Maurier Classic, Bourassa had responsibility for everything you could possibly imagine.
Gallery ropes? Check. Signage on and off the course? That, too. Leaderboards and walking scorers? Ditto.
Bourassa still looks at those things, but they’re now somebody else’s responsibilities, so she can enjoy her walk in the park, what the event has become and, a little bit, the contentment that comes from being recognized again as the last Canadian to win an LPGA Tour event in her home country.
That was in 1973, when Bourassa outlasted Sandra Haynie and Judy Rankin in a three-hole playoff to win La Canadienne, a tournament at the old municipal course in Montreal.
It was 35 years ago, but Bourassa still has vivid memories.
There’s one about how spectators thought she had so brilliantly played a recovery shot through tree branches on the first playoff hole, when she actually wanted to go under the branches entirely.
There’s another about how Hall of Famer Betsy Rawls, a partner in regulation play, had reminded Bourassa to concentrate on maintaining a smooth takeaway and swing tempo, but the young Quebecer “could hardly draw the putter back” for the short tap-in that clinched the victory.
Bourassa is 61 now, and it has been three years since she last worked on family day activities for the Canadian Women’s Open, then sponsored by BMO, in Halifax. That consultant’s role represented her transition from tournament director to what she is today: coach and clinician, mentor to young female Canadian pros and part-time consultant to Golf Quebec, the governing body for amateur golf in that province, which is trying to develop a golf-in-schools program.
“They say, ‘You look younger,’” Bourassa says, “and I think, ‘Wow! Did that job stress me so much that I looked older?’”
Bourassa arrived in Ottawa on Thursday for the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Lisa Walters, and she stayed to take in the scene yesterday, making sure to watch young Quebec amateur champion Maude-Aimée Leblanc, perhaps the next Jocelyne Bourassa.
She also checked in with some of the volunteers who worked on the last LPGA Tour event at Ottawa Hunt, the 1994 du Maurier.
Back then, Bourassa, hired for the job by Imperial Tobacco after a one-semester stint as the golf coach at Arizona State University, used a tournament manual developed over time, based on a checklist for the Masters obtained from a consulting firm. Later, when BMO took over the sponsorship, they included family-day activities that could never be part of the event when it was backed by a tobacco company. Now, she expresses satisfaction with the addition of the charity-fundraising component of the tournament, which has a goal this year of raising more for CHEO than the $546,000 that was generated for the Stollery children’s hospital in Edmonton last year.
“They’re doing everything superbly,” she says.
Notice she says “they.” It’s somebody else’s job, somebody else’s life. It was, and remains, time for Jocelyne Bourassa to turn the page and do something else with her own life.
“You know what I miss? I miss the rapport between the players and the organizers,” she says. “They were so good. OK, we treated them well, but they gave so much in return.”
Bourassa has also spoken this week with Swedish star Annika Sorenstam, who has announced her intention to step away from the LPGA Tour at season’s end. (Sorenstam plans to get married in January and wants to start a family.)
They talked about 1994, when Bourassa was du Maurier Classic tournament director and Sorenstam was a non-exempt rookie who didn’t have a spot in the field of that LPGA Tour major championship. Bourassa couldn’t give her one because there were limits on the number of sponsor exemptions, and those that she did have were reserved for Canadians from the du Maurier Series of qualifying events.
Fortunately for Sorenstam and Bourassa, and unfortunately for several other LPGA members, there were enough withdrawals for the young Swede to get into the tournament. She tied for 22nd, earning $7,348 U.S. from the total purse of $800,000.
This year, 22nd place is worth $24,075 from a total of $2.25 million, and the winner receives $337,500.
Bourassa wholeheartedly endorses Sorenstam’s plan to withdraw from competition, start a family and sink herself deeper into business and charity activities, and on her own schedule. In Bourassa’s case, knee injuries forced her into retirement.