In Ottawa, you don’t often find folks looking forward to the end of their precious summer weekends, except for when their plans on the Monday include golfing at one of the oldest and most prestigious putting playgrounds around.
The Royal Ottawa Golf Club served as this year’s venue for the University of Ottawa Heart Institute’s second annual Wilbert Keon Memorial Golf Tournament, which raised more than $215,000.
Being able to golf at one of the finest private facilities in the region appealed to Duane Francis. Neither he nor his guests had golfed at the Royal before.
The 24th edition of the World Partnership Golf returned to Camelot Golf & Country Club on Sept. 11 with a sold-out event and a record-setting fundraising total.
“There’s an aura around it,” Francis, who’s a portfolio manager and senior financial adviser with Capital Wealth Partners/Mandeville Private Client, told OBJ.social. He described the course as “fantastic”.
Francis also participated in the golf tournament because he wanted to support the Ottawa Heart Institute, a world-class facility that performs 2,000 open heart procedures annually and handles more than 221,000 patient visits each year. As well, it employs more than 1,800 people.
Any threats of rain held off nicely while nearly 200 golfers completed either 18 or nine holes that day. There were food and drink stations set up along the way in the form of margaritas from Blue Cactus Bar & Grill, hot pizza from Biagio’s Italian Kitchen, Bloody Caesar cocktails, sinfully yummy poutine, and Jack Daniel’s whiskey tasting.
Afterward, many of the golfers headed to the clubhouse for an après golf reception that included a few speeches, a short live auction and the handing out of such prizes as a dinner for 10 to Al’s Steakhouse.
The coveted trophy for the 18-hole winning score went to the foursome from Jennings Real Estate. It included Wayne Jennings and his son Ken Jennings, who sits on the board of the Ottawa Heart Institute Foundation. Also present from the foundation were board chair Elizabeth Roscoe, senior vice-president of public affairs at Rubicon Strategy, and fellow board member Ian Sterling of Doherty & Associates Investment Counsel.
Several staff from the Ottawa Heart Institute played golf that day, including Dr. Calum Redpath, a cardiologist, and nursing leader Erika MacPhee, vice-president of clinical operations.
The tournament is named after the late Dr. Wilbert Keon, founder of the Heart Institute and a heart-surgery pioneer. He passed away in 2019 at the age of 83. It was really nice to see his son, Ryan Keon, out golfing with his two kids, Will, 23, and Emily, 21.
Golfers also included Ottawa businessman Jeff York, who’s part of the group buying the Ottawa Senators. On the subject of the hockey team, one of its former players, Jim Kyte, was out supporting the cause. He’s a repeat patient of the Heart Institute.
At the reception, event chair Colin Zappia, a real estate agent with Sutton Group Ottawa Realty, politely asked those with a connection to the Heart Institute, either first-hand or through a loved one, to rise to their feet. The majority of attendees did.
To have so many people standing in the room was his way of reminding everyone of their purpose for being there. It went beyond a glorious day of golfing and fun. “Just have a look around and that’s your ‘why’ and that’s why we’re all here today,” Zappia told the crowd while also expressing his appreciation for having a place like the Heart Institute located in Ottawa.
Zappia lost his 60-year-old father, Antonio “Tony” Zappia, to a heart attack in Florida back in April 2007. Zappia had just finished spending time with his dad. He’d travelled down to the Sunshine State to golf with him. He was initially resistant to going (he felt his dad’s golfing tips could sometimes be a bit much) but Zappia made the effort — a decision he would never regret.
When it finally came time for Zappia to leave, their father-son goodbye at the airport included a hug, which was unusual for them. “We were never big huggy types.”
Zappia recalled how he later got emotional while riding the airport shuttle train to the terminal. “I didn’t know why. I think in my head I was just, like, ‘I think that’s the last time I’m ever going to see him’.
“And then I got home.”
Four days later, there was an early-morning knock at his door. His father had passed away in Florida, he was informed. “I was just there … There were no signs of any health problems.”
Zappia, who’s on the board of the Heart Institute Foundation, also spoke about the evolution of his volunteer support of the cardiac care facility. It had been former chair Leslie Mise, general manager of Mark Motors Group’s Jaguar Land Rover Hunt Club, and Lindsay Firestone, director of community engagement and development, who had asked Zappia if he was interested in becoming the chair of the golf tournament.
“They said, ‘Listen, take a few days and think about it’. I said, ‘I don’t need to think about it. I’m in. One hundred per cent, I’m in’.”
The golf tournament was organized by a 14-person committee that started its planning process almost a year ago. “There’s a ton of work that goes into this,” said Zappia, who tried to make their meetings as short and efficient as possible.
The hard worked paid off, according to participant Tony Rhodes of Coldwell Banker Rhodes & Company. He knows about organizing events — he and Steve Gallant of CIBC Wood Gundy used to co-chair an Oktoberfest-themed benefit for the Heart Institute.
“The organizing of this event was incredible,” Rhodes told OBJ.social. “It was as good as anything I’ve ever seen. They knocked it out of the park.”
The funds raised are helping to provide the best in patient care at the Heart Institute, which has been able to make surgeries simpler and recovery times shorter due to new advancements in technology and research. Also key to the work of the Heart Institute is education and awareness, said Lianne Laing, vice-president of philanthropy for the Ottawa Heart Institute and president of its foundation.
“At the end of the day, prevention is a huge component to what we’re doing, and 80 per cent of heart disease is preventable with 30 minutes of physical activity and diet,” Laing told the room.
Like Zappia, she lost her father to a heart attack. Jeffrey Laing, 57, had been playing golf. She discovered only later there’d been plenty of warning signs her father mistook for heartburn.
Laing spent a good chunk of her day at the Wilbert Keon Memorial Golf Tournament listening to golfers share their personal stories with her, involving the Ottawa Heart Institute. There’s been considerable gratitude built up over the years, she said.
“Most people are grateful to have been given the gift of time, to have been given additional years,” said Laing. “My father didn’t make it to the Heart Institute but I truly believe, had he made it there, he would have survived.”
The Wilbert Keon Memorial Golf Tournament will return next year to the Royal Ottawa Golf Club, which is located just on the other side of the Ottawa River in Gatineau.