Rod Spittle, whose career spanned both amateur and professional ranks, and legendary U.S. college coach Herb Page have been named to the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.
The announcement was made on Tuesday and the two will be formally inducted in June during ceremonies at the RBC Canadian Open.
While both earned their calls to the hall travelling different roads, they share some common bonds. They are two of the nicest, most passionate people you’ll ever meet. And while they both lived the majority of their lives in the United States, they remained ardent Canadians, always staying connected to their native country and waving the flag proudly.
Spittle, 63, grew up in St. Catharines, Ont., and enjoyed a stellar amateur career that was highlighted by back-to-back wins at the Canadian Amateur in 1977 and ’78. He earned a golf scholarship to Ohio State University where he played alongside future PGA Tour players John Cook and Joey Sindelar.
Bur rather than follow them into a professional career, Spittle settled into life as a family man, raising three kids and earning a living in the insurance business.
However when he approached the age of 50, Spittle decided to try his hand at the career he passed up the first time around. With his wife Ann accompanying him, he quit his job, sold his house and ventured out onto the Champions Tour, giving himself five years to make it.
He started slowly but eventually found his stride, winning the AT&T Champions event four years and 10 months into his plan.
He later admitted that he had dusted off his resume and was expecting to head back into the business world at the end of that season. The win changed everything and Spittle earned more than $4 million.
This past year was the last for Spittle, who fittingly ended his career at Canada’s only Champions Tour stop, the Shaw Charity Classic.
Page left Markham, Ont., in 1970 to attend Kent State University in Ohio and never left, taking over duties as the golf coach in 1978. However it’s a career that almost never happened.
He attended the school as a three-sport athlete – hockey, football and golf – and was drafted by the Edmonton Eskimos for his stellar placekicking skills (his football teammates at Kent State included Nick Saban and Jack Lambert). However Page, 67, turned down the offer from Eskimos general manager Jackie Parker because there was no signing bonus.
Instead, he took over coaching duties for the golf team in 1978 and over the next 40 years helped the Golden Flashes to numerous conference titles and 17 NCAA national final appearances.
His teams almost always featured Canadian players as the coach found a rich vein of talent in his home country and recruited there heavily. David Morland, Bryan DeCorso, Danny Sahl, Peter Laws, Ryan Yip, Taylor Pendrith, Mackenzie Hughes, Corey Conners, Jan Dowling, Jennifer Ha and Jaclyn Lee are among the notable golfers to play for Page.
“Herb Page has not just meant a lot to me, but he’s meant so much to Canadian golf,” said Hughes. “I’m so thrilled for him to receive this honor after so many years of hard work and dedication. I’d also like to congratulate his wife, Paula, who supports Herb fully in everything he does. They are such great people and make an awesome team.
“There are many people that have contributed to my career, but he has been one of the major influences in my life. I wouldn’t be where I am without him.”
“He has been extremely influential in my development both on and off the course,” stated Conners. “He is so passionate about the game of golf and the players he works with. His success year-in and year-out speaks for itself. I am honoured to have been a player at Kent State and to have had such and amazing coach and mentor.”
Another prominent Canadian Kent State alum is former PGA Tour player Jon Mills, who now serves as an assistant coach with Page.
“I know from talking to him, he is beyond thrilled to receive this honor,” said Mills. “I don’t know another person who is more passionate and dedicated to the game of golf then Herb. It’s awesome to see all the sacrifices he has made over the years pay off.”