Harry White had a favourite saying that summed up his philosophy on the game of golf: ‘Tee it high and let it fly, there aren’t any hazards in the sky!’
That’s a pretty good motto for life in general, and if anyone lived it, it was Harry.
Few individuals were as dedicated to the game of golf here in BC than the man many knew simply as ‘Uncle Harry.’ A largely unsung servant to golf’s youngest participants at the grassroots level, Harry’s contributions over 60 years as a player, coach, instructor, administrator, organizer, and volunteer will stand the test of time.
Harry was introduced to golf by his father, who signed him up as a junior member at Marine Drive Golf Club at age 12 in 1957. Young Harry caddied for the legendary Stan Leonard and was transfixed by the fast, smooth swing of Moe Norman.
Known as a master putter and for using unusually high 6-inch-long tees, Harry developed into a top amateur. He played four years for Saint Martin’s University in Washington and won the 1969 Vancouver City Amateur. He was named a member of three BC Willingdon Cup teams and two Pacific Coast Amateur Morse Cup teams. He won the BC Golf Association’s Mid-Amateur in 1987, set three course records in BC and Washington, and won numerous amateur championships around the Pacific Northwest.
Harry began coaching in 1969 and never stopped for five decades. In 1971, he and Fred Wellsby began holding junior events around the Lower Mainland. Two years later, Harry and Fred were the BC founders of the Junior America’s Cup Team matches that allowed young BC juniors to play against the best from the western US including alumni like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
That same year Harry began a 30-year run as chairman of the Inter-Club Golf Committee (known today as BCGA Zone 4). In this role he created a junior tour held at private courses that developed countless top young players. Harry also developed the Junior Masters program, known today as Junior Linksters, which focused on holding events for the game’s youngest golfers from age 6 to 12. For many top BC junior players, this was their first introduction to competitive golf.
Along the way, he co-founded the Junior Golf Foundation of BC, and the Optimist and Junior World Golf programs for BC, while serving as the BC rep for the Canadian Junior Golf Association. In 1995, he took on coaching the struggling UBC golf team and turned the program around.
Add it all up and it’s why some have said Harry has influenced the junior career of every BC junior champion and every Canadian junior champion from BC since 1971.
“Without Harry’s dedicated commitment to junior golf, thousands of kids would never have had the chance to enjoy some early competition, meet new friends, and learn the many lessons that golf teaches one,” said Willingdon Cup teammate and fellow BC Sports Hall of Famer Doug Roxburgh.
One of the most important nurturers of young golf talent in BC history, Harry was still coaching and running his junior events right up until weeks before his passing in January 2018.
Harry’s sister, Pat Byrne, summed up her brother: “He just loved golf and wanted other people to enjoy the game he loved as well.”
Life mission accomplished. Well played, Harry.
Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.
To read more on the career of Harry White, please see the September 2020 Curator’s Corner article here: https://bcsportshall.com/curator-corner/harry-white-tee-it-high-and-let-it-fly-2020-inductee-spotlight/