Fred Kern 2012 Recipient London Ontario Golf Heart Award
Wilson Golf Reed On The Greens, by Jeffrey Reed
Like life itself, there’s no place to hide in the game of golf. It reveals your flaws, while at the same time rewarding hard work. It’s a game for life, and a common denominator amongst life-long friends.
The local golf community is fortunate to have had a long-time friend, mentor and leader in Fred Kern, a Canadian Professional Golf Association (CPGA) member since 1960 and this year’s winner of the London Ontario Golf Heart Award.
In its 8th year, LondonOntarioGolf.com is owned and operated by long-time London-based journalist Jeffrey Reed. In 2010 and 2011, the Golf Journalists Association of Canada awarded Reed with Best Golf Website Feature Column. Reed said establishing a legacy with the Heart Award has always been his intention, adding that Kern is a much-deserved winner of this year’s award.
“Fred is the consummate golf professional. His knowledge of and passion for the game, coupled with his life-long dedication to junior golf, make him a much-deserved winner of the Heart Award. During my many years as a golf journalist, I have truly respected Fred’s modesty, despite his myriad of accomplishments and accolades. Without a doubt, Fred is one of the most beloved members of the local golf community,” said Reed.
The London Ontario Golf Heart Award recognizes a London and area community member who helps grow the game of golf. LondonOntarioGolf.com publisher and editor Jeffrey Reed created the award in 2011 in order to recognize a community member who gives back to the game through unselfish efforts. Each June, the Heart Award recipient, as selected by the editors of LondonOntarioGolf.com, honours those within the categories of golf professionals/instructors, golf mentors, golf course owners/operators, golf course architects/designers and members of the media. June is Heart Month. The Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario is the Official Charity of London Ontario Golf.
In 2011, Kern’s long-time colleague with the City of London municipal golf system, Mike Olizarevitch, captured the Heart Award in its inaugural season. Olizarevitch, now at Dorchester Golf Club, retired in 2009 after 49 years at Fanshawe Golf Club in London, where he was head professional for 39 years. He was instrumental in creating the Parkside Nine at Fanshawe GC – North America’s first golf course specifically designed for the physically challenged.
“A lot of people probably don’t know but at one time Fred was a great player, and qualified twice for the Canadian Open (in 1964-65), and he won London Mini Tour events. He was an excellent teacher and a guy who was dedicated. Fred has certainly done a lot for kids over the years,” said Olizarevitch.
Kern, 72, was born in Rolandia, in the state of Parana, Brazil. When the family moved to Toronto in 1955, Fred and his brothers Mario, Ben, Benny and Greg started playing golf at Credit Valley Golf & Country Club in Mississauga.
Ben, who died in 2002, was the first Canadian to garner First-Team All-America honours during his collegiate career at New Mexico State University. He spent seven years on the PGA Tour, was head professional for 20 years at the National Golf Club in Toronto, and is a member of both the Ontario and Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.
As a teenager, Fred caddied at Mississauga Golf & Country Club. He cleaned clubs at Credit Valley G&CC, and was later assistant pro from 1959-1965 under head pro George Harrison. Kern was teaching pro at Northwood Golf Course in Toronto in 1966 under head pro Doug Bruton; associate pro at Markland Woods Golf Club in Toronto 1967-68 under head pro Al Balding; then head pro at Oakville’s Glen Abbey Golf Course 1969-70. At Glenn Abbey GC, Kern – and accomplished landscape artist – designed the original logo of a monk swinging a golf club.
Kern was head professional at London’s Thames Valley Golf Club from 1971-2007. “I was awed by the beautiful setting,” said Kern upon his first visit to Thames Valley GC. “I thought, what a perfect setting to introduce new golfers to the game.”
In fact, Kern’s biggest contribution to the game of golf was operating the Junior Tyson Tour from 1978-2009. Founded in 1968 by former London Free Press sports writer, Bev Tyrrell, the Tyson Tour name comes from the Ty in Tyrrel, and Tyrrel’s twin sons, Tim and Tom. Mike Weir, who captured back-to-back Les Thomas tournaments (Tyson Tour annual opening events) in 1986-87, said he has fond memories of “playing Thames Valley … playing junior events and Tyson Tour events. I had a great experience. It’s a great tour. I know it’s still going strong.”
Over the years, thousands of children learned how to play golf under the watchful eye of Kern, who put many of them to work in the Thames Valley back shop. Kern was also a mentor to many local pros, including Bruce Atkins (Echo Valley GC) and Patty Howard (Sunningdale G&CC) – two of his first assistants, as well as Justin Fairchild, Bill Fox Jr., Graham Hegler, Gil Parkinson, Dave Schweyer, Debbie Stevens and Marc Webster.
A two-time competitor at the Canadian Open, Kern captured the London and Area PGA Championship in 1972, was CPGA Junior Teacher of the Year in 1996, and London Sportsperson of the Year in 2004.
“I have been fortunate to be able to work in a game and industry that I love,” said Kern. A big part of that passion has involved Thames Valley GC. In fact, Kern and Thames Valley are inseparable. In 2005 during London’s 150th birthday bash, he assembled a Thames Valley history room at the club. The course (est. 1924) was as one of Eastern Canada’s first public golf courses, and today remains an anchor of the London municipal golf system.
“The course is nestled in a valley in London’s most scenic area,” said Kern. “Stately old oaks and maple trees line its narrow fairways. Carved out of rolling terrain, it takes one up four levels to the high point of the course and a panoramic view of the valley below. As one continues, the Thames River winds alongside the three finishing holes, giving the golfers a glimpse of beautiful Springbank Park.”
A long-time project of Kern’s involves using oil and water colours to paint scenic local landscapes and golf holes at Thames Valley GC. He has painted holes no. 4, 8, 14, 15 and 18, and has plans to paint holes no. 7, 11, 13 and 16.
When he’s not painting or writing (including penning a book on the Kern family), Kern and his wife, Dolores, enjoy travelling and spending time with their three children: Fred Jr., 42; Paul, 40; and Melissa, 38. They spoil their three grandchildren, too: Ethan, 9; Julia, 8; and Abigail, 3. Dolores enjoys making quilts, while Fred can be found gardening and, of course, golfing.
“I golfed about 15 rounds and 40 practice sessions in 2011,” said Kern, who includes Thames Valley, London’s Echo Valley and Forest City National golf clubs, and Toronto’s National Golf Club amongst his courses visited in recent times.
It’s hard to find a flaw in Fred Kern’s golf game, or in the way he has mentored thousands of Londoners. Quite simply, no one has contributed more to golf in London and area during the past 40 years than Fred Kern, the 2012 recipient of the London Ontario Golf Heart Award.
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