Sports Walkerton Herald-Times

Michael Schurman gets the call to the Hall

Michael Schurman, a resident of West Grey, is the latest inductee into the PGA of Canada Hall of Fame. (Photo courtesy of Michael Schurman)

West Grey resident inducted into PGA of Canada Hall of Fame

A West Grey man is the newest member of the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) of Canada Hall of Fame.

Michael Schurman, who lives with his wife Diane on a rural property near Durham, received the call to the Hall of Fame earlier this year and was formally inducted during a ceremony on Jan. 23 in Orlando, Florida.

“I can’t catch my breath,” said Schurman. “It’s been a couple of weeks, but (the feeling) is not going away.”

Schurman, 73, was nominated to be inducted into the Hall of Fame by long-time friend and PGA of Canada Hall of Famer Sam Young, owner of the Shelburne Golf and Country Club.

“There is nobody that has ever done anything like he does. His whole membership is based on juniors, his whole program is juniors,” said Schurman. “It’s mind numbing what he has done, and deservedly got into the Canadian PGA Hall of Fame.”

Young called Schurman one day and told him that he had been going through the list of people in the Hall of Fame, and that Young felt that there was one name missing from that list.

“He phoned me and said, ’Your name isn’t on the list. How is that?’” said Schurman. “I told him I had to be nominated, and he said, ‘I’ll take care of that’.”

As part of the nomination process, letters of recommendation are required to support the nomination.

“We thought we would call some folks and get a dozen or so,” said Schurman.

Once the word got out in the golf community that Schurman and Young were looking for letters, the phone started ringing with people offering to write letters.

“We ended up with 72 letters,” said Schurman.

As time went on, Schurman hadn’t heard back from the Hall of Fame about the nomination. He acknowledged that it is a long process and thought that maybe he didn’t get in.

“It’s not a guarantee,” he said. “But I thought, you know, I’ve always got those 72 letters and what they said. They wrote about their personal experience with me… When I go through the list of career accomplishments that you have to submit to be considered, the letters confirmed and documented all the things that I had said and done.”

How did Schurman first get into the industry?

It wasn’t because he loved the game; it was the money that drew him in.

When Schurman was seven years old, he had two paper routes – the Toronto Star and the Toronto Telegram. The two routes combined for about 50 papers and paid him $2.50 per week. His parents allowed him to keep $1.

One day, his older brother came home and told Schurman he had caddied at Summit Golf Club that day, earning $1.25.

“I thought, ‘I’ve got to check that out,’” said Schurman.

He went down to the club the next day and sat on the caddy bench. He got to work as a caddy once that year, for nine holes, and earned 70 cents for his work.

“Seventy cents for two hours work… it was taking me six days to make twice as much as that,” said Schurman. “I said to myself, this is a good deal. That’s how I got started in golf.”

The following summer, he began caddying full time at Summit. When he was 15, he was promoted to the back shop cleaning clubs, earning a guaranteed wage of $25 per week. One of the perks of working in the back shop was that he was allowed to play, so at 15 he began his playing career.

Knowing that this is what he wanted to do for a career, Schurman doubled down and dedicated his time to improving his game and becoming a professional.

In the golf industry, Schurman said there are a few ways to make a name for yourself.

One is to be a good player and become a professional. Another is to work for a reputable club or professional and become a club professional yourself.

Schurman, however, didn’t have either of those avenues at his disposal.

“I came from Meadowbrook. It’s a nice place now, but in 1964 it was a pasture. And Sleepy Hallow was no better (at the time). And I came home from playing on the Canadian Tour and didn’t have an arm full of trophies, so I wasn’t Al Balding or George Knudson… so those jobs were not available to me,” he said.

George Clifton, a fellow PGA of Canada professional, told Schurman there was another way to make a name for yourself in the golf industry.

“He told me there was another way,” said Schurman. “You could promote yourself and gain a reputation as a person who is a doer, a creator, an innovator.”

So that’s what he did.

He became an assistant professional in 1964 at Meadowbrook Golf Club, where he stayed until 1969. Schurman played on the Canadian Tour – known today as the Mackenzie Tour – PGA Tour Canada – in 1970 and had a pair of top-10 finishes. He was the head professional at Sleepy Hallow Golf Club in Stouffville from 1971-76, and at Credit Valley Golf Club in Mississauga from 1976-88. In 1988, Schurman became the director of golf at the Board of Trade Country Club in Woodbridge and stayed there until 1994.

It was in 1994 that he became the owner/operator of Oshawa Creek Family Golf Centre, a driving range/mini putt/arcade.

“It was a dump when I took it over,” said Schurman.

After spending a few months fixing the place up, he opened the driving range and handed out tens of thousands of coupons for free buckets of balls and two-for-one at the mini putt to bring people in. He also placed an ad in the local newspaper – ‘free golf lessons for kids’.

Schurman capped the class size at 25 and ran four one-hour classes four days a week over the course of six years.

The coupons and classes brought thousands of people to the facility.

“The kids would come with their mom or dad, who would upgrade their bucket of balls or play the mini putt,” he said.

Of the nearly 1,500 kids that came to Oshawa Creek for lessons, two would go on to win provincial championships. And neither of them had ever picked up a club before coming to Oshawa Creek.

Schurman also headed up numerous other teaching programs over the course of his career and estimates that he was able to attract more than 5,000 new golfers into the game, including 3,000 juniors.

He also founded the Ontario Blind Golfers Association and taught it for 20 years, and organized the first Blind Golfers ProAm in Canada; he created a golf-oriented motivational speaking tour, speaking to over 80 men’s service clubs; mentored 26 assistant professionals to become head professionals in the PGA of Canada; served on the founding committee of the first Professional Golf Management program at Humber College and later taught at Durham College; has authored over 500 published articles on the golf industry; created the PGA of Ontario Reunion Match Play League for members over the age of 60 (including the Reunion Fall Field Day); he created and edits the PGA of Ontario Reunion Review e-newsletter; and is currently building the PGA of Ontario Hall of Fame.

After spending his life in the Durham Region, Schurman and his wife Diane moved to a 65-acre property near Durham in 2016.

The property is complete with an indoor putting green, a full-size outdoor driving range and he is currently building a short length, par-27 nine-hole course.

“I still practice every day,” he said. “Now, if I don’t want to pick up the balls that day, I leave them. It’s nice.”

During the summer months, Schurman also practices at Pike Lake Golf Centre near Mount Forest – “They have a lovely practice facility there,” he says – and plays the occasional round at Braestone Club near Orillia.

Looking back at his career, Schurman says other than being inducted into the Hall of Fame, his career highlights are becoming a master professional at the age of 35 and being named an honourary member of the Ontario Blind Golfers Association – the only sighted person to ever receive the honour.

However, the Hall of Fame takes the cake.

“I never thought of me going into the Hall of Fame. It never occurred to me. I fought like hell to get a lot of other guys in, and I’ve been a son of a gun with the committee and run right over them a couple of times to get people in, but it never occurred to me that I would be,” he said. “I just went along and did the stuff that I do.”