TORONTO - With his induction into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame on the horizon, Richard Zokol suggests his (Disco Dick) nickname was totally a misnomer. Little Richard or Rockin’ Richard might have been more appropriate for his unique habit of listening to music or even the news on the golf course early in his career.
Zokol was announced last week as one of two inductees into the Hall this year, the other being longtime Royal Canadian Golf Association executive director Stephen Ross, who spent 18 years at the helm and 30 years within that association.
“I think when people still bring up Disco Dick, I like it. It’s pretty nice,” said Zokol, the 1981 Canadian Amateur champ who would move on to the PGA Tour where he won the 1992 Greater Milwaukee Open.
“I think the first thing it does is it tells me how old they are because that happened in 1982. It happened for about a year and it was a very important part of my life because it helped me kind of bridge the gap of difficulty, to be able to calm my overactive mind in competition,” he said.
“I guess it was an innovative mechanism to help me and I’m very proud of that. Thinking outside the box, anybody who knows me, they know that’s what I typically do and I’m pretty proud of that,” said Zokol, who also won the 1992 Deposit Guarantee Classic, an unofficial event.
“It was a pretty radical move. They had to call the (United States Golf Association) to find out if it was even against the rules. There are still a lot of people who still call me Disco to this day,” he said.
“I listened to rock and roll. It certainly wasn’t disco. I’d listen to ball games. I’d listen to the news. I remember hearing the first report of the Russians shooting down the JAL airline,” he added.
“I remember walking down, I think it was the 12th fairway, in Endicott, N.Y., playing with Mark Brooks and I just said: `Hey, the Russians just shot down a passenger plane.’ Those moments in time just tend to stick, but the idea was just listening to distract my mind, basically,” Zokol said.
THE DEAL IS OFF
Stephen Ross, the other 2011 inductee, will be remembered for amalgamating the RCGA with the Canadian Ladies Golf Association, the introduction of a slope rating system and his solid reputation as a rules official, among other things.
However, the RCGA’s sale of Glen Abbey to ClubLink under his watch stands out.
It’s a $40-million deal that might never have happened according to Ross, who wanted to open three stadium courses across the country, not only to host the Canadian Open, as the Abbey did for years, but to house other RCGA programs, as well.
That plan ran into a political obstacle, most notably resistance from owners who felt the RCGA was going into competition with its own member clubs with this plan. At one point, the owners threatened to withhold their RCGA dues.
“Everything that we did was a means to an end. The end was we were trying to grow the game. (The sale of the Abbey) was a means to get there,” said Ross.
“Glen Abbey was suffering a little bit in my mind. It had become landlocked. Parking was now very difficult to come by, so you had to shuttle people in to the property. We didn’t set out to sell Glen Abbey. We really only sold it because the price got to $40-million,” he added.
“If I’d known, in hindsight, that the RCGA was never going to be back in the golf business, not owning or operating, I would have spoken aggressively against selling Glen Abbey,” said Ross.