Golf balls rain down at inaugural Wilbert Keon Memorial tournament for Ottawa Heart Institute

Sold-out event brings together 144 golfers, raises $190,000 for research at renowned cardiac care centre

Editor's Note is supported by the generous patronage of Mark Motors and Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties. Read their stories here.


The weather forecast called for a mix of sun and clouds with a chance of golf balls at Monday’s inaugural Wilbert Keon Memorial Golf Tournament held in support of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI) Foundation.

Come late afternoon, a helicopter swooped in and launched all its numbered golf balls onto the fairway as part of the event’s ball drop contest. Everyone watched from the second-storey balcony overlooking the Eagle Creek Golf Club in Dunrobin. 

The sold-out event saw 144 participants raise $190,000 for research at the UOHI.

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As much as it’s so unCanadian to brag, the UOHI remains one of the top heart institutes in the world. It just so happens to be located in Ottawa thanks to a certain heart surgeon with big dreams the late Dr. Wilbert Keon. He founded the cardiovascular institute in 1976. 

His son, Ryan Keon, golfed in the tournament that day with some of his relatives.

“We’re very, very pleased you’re here and that this memorial tournament can carry on his great legacy and his great name,” UOHI Foundation board chair Elizabeth Roscoe, senior vice-president of public affairs at Rubicon Strategy, told Ryan during the dinner reception.

The UOHI performs 2,000 heart surgeries every year, along with 12,000 other types of procedures. It sees 150,000 patients come through its door annually, said Dr. Thierry Mesana, president and CEO of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, during his brief remarks.

Toronto and Montreal may be bigger cities but Ottawa’s got them beat when it comes to one of the most complex and vital organs in the body our heart.

“It’s a world-class institution,” the cardiac surgeon said of the UOHI.

Mesana was joined at the event by the chair of the UOHI board, lawyer Paul LaBarge, a founding partner of LaBarge Weinstein LLP.


The UOHI Foundation was thrilled to be able to hold its golf tournament following two years of fundraisers that were creative and innovative but couldn’t quite bring people together because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

“It’s so nice that we’re now connecting in person,” UOHI Foundation executive director Lianne Laing told

Colin Zappia, a realtor with Sutton Group Ottawa Realty, is now going to be leading the organizing committee, taking over from Jaguar Land Rover Hunt Club general manager Leslie Mise.

“They asked me to be chair next year and I didn’t hesitate; it was an immediate yes,” said Zappia, who sees the role as a way of honouring his father, Tony Zappia, a former patient of the Ottawa Heart Institute. He passed away of a heart attack in 2007 at age 60.

“For me to be on this committee is really special and something I hold near and dear to my heart.”


Spotted at the event were such supporters as Calian CEO Kevin Ford, Emond Harnden founding law partner Jacques Emond, Searidge Technologies CEO Moodie Cheikh, Mandeville Private Client portfolio manager Duane Francis, Gifford Carr Insurance Group president Matthew Carr, Merkley Supply marketing manager Ken Merkley and Jennings Real Estate co-founder Ken Jennings, who’s on the board of the UOHI Foundation. Also golfing in the tournament that day were Ottawa Senators players Thomas Chabot and Drake Batherson.

During the live auction, BMO Nesbitt Burns investment adviser and UOHI Foundation board member James Annis bought the helicopter ride for six, courtesy of Helicopter Transport Services. It comes with a tour of and wine tasting at Kin Vineyards. 

There was a half-dozen unique experiences and getaways sold off by emcee and retired TV news anchor Michael O’Byrne. Criminal defence lawyer (and licensed pilot) Solomon Friedman donated an aerial tour for two in a Cessna 172 Skyhawk. The package included meals at Al’s Steakhouse and Zak’s Diner and a stay at Les Suites Hotel. There was also a dinner for four at Giovanni’s Italian restaurant, accompanied by well-known heart surgeon, innovator and researcher Dr. Marc Ruel.


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