I started playing disc golf on Toronto Island during the heyday of the Toronto Island Open (TiO) which was the heart and soul of the wonderful Paul (Mr. Bee) Belyea.
When he finished his illustrious run with the TiO, there was a void for tournament disc golf on the Island. At that time, I had started travelling to play National Tour events in the US . I was impressed with how well organized and executed those tournaments were and I thought Toronto Island, with its storied history in disc golf, deserved the best tournament experience that we could muster. So, I set out to create a special event to make Ontario players proud of tournament disc golf on the Island.
I took advantage of my travelling itinerary to some of the bigger tournaments in the US, where I was able to invite and encourage some of the best known players from the pro ranks to play the Toronto Island Maple Leaf.
Besides hosting a tournament that was fun to play for competitors of all skill levels, the exceptional layout of the Toronto Island course and the fact that it was the site of the 1987 World Disc Golf Championship drew many top players from near and far to play the TIML.
From its humble beginnings in 2008 when we hosted only 45 players, to 2017, when it was also the Canadian National Championship.
TIML grew into an A tier event played over three days during the Labour Day weekend that boasted upwards of 120 players featuring everyone from intermediate players to World Champions.
The name, Toronto Island Maple Leaf,came about for two reasons. Many disc golf tournaments were named either “Classic” or “Open” and I wanted to break from that tradition and start something new and different. More importantly, the Maple Leaf is a national symbol and is also the name of our most famous sports team. It seemed like a natural choice.
One of my favourite TIML memories was when we paid tribute to the PDGA World Championships held on Toronto Island in 1987. TIML 5 was in 2012 which was the 25th anniversary of the Toronto Worlds and with the help of my graphics wizard Simon Newman,
we were able to recreate the famous disc stamp from 1987 with some updates reflecting the current year.
We had a bounty of touring pros that year with the original 1987 champ, Gregg Hosfeld edging Jay “Yeti” Reading in Pro Masters, Valarie Jenkins bested Des Reading in the FPO division and Nate Doss, while setting a course record, topped Avery Jenkins for the MPO title. World champions all, it was awesome to see our slice of heaven on Toronto Island hosting the world’s best for a weekend.
Another fun memory was two years later during TIML 7. I had adopted a “theme” for each TIML and this year was fashioned after James Bond, 007.
During one of the rounds, I stopped all of the players and took an individual photo and I asked them to strike a “James Bond-like” pose, with their hands and fingers cocked like it was a gun. When one player said he wasn’t sure how to do it, Ken Little, who would later go on to become the TIML TD after I stepped down, blurted out “You’re a Canadian….Of course you don’t know how to look like you’re holding a gun!”
Certainly no mention of TIML highlights would not be complete without mentioning Mr Bee and his storied intros for ALL players teeing off at hole one. I originally had it in mind to have every player choose their walkup music for their first tee off, but when Mr Bee
got involved, he took it to a whole other level.Not only did he create an individually personalized (and outrageously funny) intro for all 120 players at the 2017 TIML, he created a new intro for each player for each of the three rounds! That was 360 introductions. A feat that will never be surpassed, and yet he continues to try every year since.
The list of people who made the TIML was it is today is too long to mention and I will undoubtedly omit some folks who deserve proper recognition but without detailed explanation I would like to thank the following for their valued efforts.
In no particular order, Simon Newman, Michael Sullivan, Ken Little, Chris Lowcock, Paul Belyea and last, but not least, my wife Jo-Anne Racette.
In memoriam, Mick Gold, John Deniston, Dusan Nedelko and Dwayne Bereziuk..
My greatest joy was seeing all of my disc golf friends, playing the Island and having fun, mixed in with some quiet cursing, of course. My greatest wish is to have the Toronto Island Maple Leaf continue on indefinitely, and for that I am grateful to the current TIML team including Poppy, Jess and Adam.