Mike Olizarevitch Winner, 2011 London Ontario Golf Heart Award


June 24, 2011 (Dorchester, Ontario) – Today, LondonOntarioGolf.com awarded long-time local golf industry member Mike Olizarevitch with the Heart Award, given to those who go beyond the call of duty in helping grow the game of golf.

Olizarevitch, 65, is the first winner of the annual London Ontario Golf Heart Award, chosen by the editorial team at LondonOntarioGolf.com – proud supporter of the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario. Olizarevitch retired in 2009 after 49 years at Fanshawe Golf Club in London, where he was head professional for 39 years. This year, he joined his daughter, Kim Shaw, and son-in-law, Andy Shaw, to help operate Dorchester Golf Club. Andy and Kim purchased the club this spring, following Andy’s 17-year career with the City of London golf courses.

In its 7th year, LondonOntarioGolf.com is owned and operated by long-time London-based journalist Jeffrey Reed. In 2010, 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.

“Mike was the only choice as this year’s Heart Award recipient,” said Reed. “Mike was my pro when I was a junior member at Fanshawe Golf Club, and he always give unselfishly of himself, making the golf experience an enjoyable one. Without that encouragement, I may not have pursued my passion for golf.

“In addition,” said Reed, “Mike’s vision in creating the Parkside Nine at Fanshawe Golf Club – North America’s first golf course specifically designed for the physically challenged – strengthens the fact he is much deserving as the inaugural Heart Award recipient. The Parkside Nine allows stroke suffers, those affected by heart disease and anyone who is phyicially challenged to still enjoy the game of golf. My father, Ken, suffered a stroke in 2004. During his post-stroke therapy, he was able to return to golf at the Parkside Nine. Without the Parkside Nine, he would not have had the opportunity to golf again.”

In 1998, Fanshawe Golf Club opened the Parkside Nine after Olizarevitch envisioned turning a small parcel of land into a golf course for those who couldn’t golf at a traditional course. He said, “The physically challenged play basketball and ski, so why not golf?” Olizarevitch volunteered at London’s Parkwood Hospital where a 3,000-yard putting green had been developed for rehabilitation and therapy for spinal cord and wheelchair-bound patients.

Olizarevitch had struck up a friendship with Lise Thibault, former Lieutenant Governor of Quebec who had been in a wheelchair for four decades. She visited Olizarevitch for a lesson in 1998 and called the Parkside Nine “a model for other municipalities.” In 2002, the Ontario PGA named Olizarevitch its first Humanitarian Award winner for his efforts in designing the Parkside Nine.

Olizarevitch’s golf passion began in 1958, when he took $10 from his newspaper route savings to purchase a junior membership at Fanshawe Golf Club. He joined the grounds crew in 1963, was named assistant pro in 1965, and in 1970 replaced Bill Fox as head pro – a post he held until 2009.

By age 50, Olizarevitch had amassed 66 tournament titles. In the days of persimmon drivers, Olizarevitch was known as London and area’s most skilled backshop expert, repairing and regripping clubs for countless golfers in southwestern Ontario. At Dorchester Golf Club, he left retirement to cut grass, handle maintenance and teach lessons – including lessons with the Dorchester Junior Golf Academy.

“Without a doubt, I wouldn’t be the professional I am today without my experience at Fanshawe and the teachings from Mike,” said Andy Shaw, convenor of the much-respected Junior Tyson Tour, now headquartered at Dorchester Golf Club. Kim Shaw, the first girl to play on the boys’ golf team at London’s Clarke Road secondary school, helps Andy coach the Fanshawe Falcons varsity golf squad. She founded London’s first all-girls junior beginner golf lessons at River Road Golf Club in London.

In addition to Andy Shaw, Olizarevitch has mentored many more local club pros, including CPGA Master Professional Bruce Atkins of London’s Echo Valley Golf Club. London Sunningdale Golf & Country Club director of golf, Patty Howard, called her long-time friend Olizarevitch “a dedicated professional.”

“The environment gets in our blood, and there’s nothing else you want to do. I feel like I haven’t worked a day in my life,” said Olizarevitch of his half-century career in the golf industry.

Olizarevitch lives in London with his wife, Sheren. Mike Olizarevitch Jr. is assistant greenskeeper at York Downs Golf & Country Club in Unionville, Ontario. Andy and Kim have carried on the family golf tradition by introducing their daughters, Mackenzie, 14, and Jamie, 12, to the game of golf.


About the London Ontario Golf Heart Award

The London Ontario Golf Heart Award recognizes a London & area community member who helps grow the game of golf. LondonOntarioGolf.com 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, will honour 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. This year’s award ceremony is held in conjunction with the London Ontario Golf Fundraiser for Heart & Stroke, June 24-25 in London.

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