Former pro golfer encourages open dialogue about suicide at Royal Ottawa Foundation golf tournament

Sold-out charity golf tournament raises $268K in support of patient care and mental health research
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Retired Canadian golfer Ian Leggatt could have been at the Raptor’s NBA Finals game in Toronto on Monday night, as a season-ticket holder.

Instead, he chose to fly up to Ottawa to speak to a crowd of mostly men about erasing the stigma surrounding suicide. They were having dinner, after golfing that day at the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health’s 29th annual The Open, held at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club. It was pouring outside as he spoke, but the rain had held off nicely that afternoon, until it was about the time to come in for cocktails, anyway.

Gord Cudney, a partner in the Ottawa office of Gowling WLG, was back to co-chair the tournament's organizing committee with Brian Murray, head of leasing and business development for the Waterford Property Group.  They're also both on the foundation board for The Royal, with Cudney as its chair.

Some 140 business and community leaders helped to raise the bar even higher at this year's tournament by netting $268,000 for patient care and research at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. They successfully beat last year's total of $250,000. 

The fundraiser also enjoyed its best year yet for corporate sponsorship with the backing of 70 businesses, including top sponsor Canadian Tire. 

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From left, golf tournament co-chair Brian Murray, special guest Ian Leggatt, The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health president and CEO Mitchell Bellman, and golf tournament co-chair Gord Cudney, at The Open, held Monday, June 10, 2019, at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Allan Malcomson, whose family owns the Canadian Tire in Kanata, was part of the committee and is on the foundation board. The Malcomsons were among those honoured at the Ottawa chapter of the AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) dinner last year with the 2018 Outstanding Small Business Philanthropist award.

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From left, Dave Malcomson and son Allan Malcomson, owner and senior manager, respectively, of the Canadian Tire in Kanata, with Canadian Tire regional manager Dustin Bursey and Tom Ogilvie, head manager of Canadian Tire Merivale, at The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health's The Open charity golf tournament, held Monday, June 10, 2019, at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Also spotted in the crowd were former tech executive Rob Ashe, Deloitte vice chair Mike Runia; Tamarack Developments president Chris Taggart with Doran Contractors president Wayne Jennings; former Ottawa Senators player Brendan Bell, and Scotia Wealth Management regional director Geoff Moore, who's on the organizing committee for the golf tournament and The Royal Ottawa's foundation board.

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From left, organizing committee members Brendan Bell and Roberto Campagna, president of Roca Homes, at The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health's The Open charity golf tournament, held Monday, June 10, 2019, at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Steve Parkes, general manager at Tamarack Homes, with Jeff Smith, partner with Smith & Bradley Insurance, Wayne Jennings, president of Doran Contractors, and Chris Taggart, president of Tamarack Developments, at The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health's The Open charity golf tournament, held Monday, June 10, 2019, at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, entrepreneur James Maxwell, with Deslaurier Custom Cabinets, alongside Sandra Herrick and her husband, former tech executive Rob Ashe, at The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health's The Open charity golf tournament, held Monday, June 10, 2019, at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Christine Steenbakkers with Melissa Kruyne, co-owner of KOTT, at The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health's The Open charity golf tournament, held Monday, June 10, 2019, at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Geoff Moore, regional director in Eastern Canada for Scotia Wealth Management, with Ryan Kelahear, director of business development for Colliers Project Leaders, and Adam Kane, senior private banker and team lead with Scotiabank, at The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health's The Open charity golf tournament, held Monday, June 10, 2019, at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Gord Cudney with his wife, lawyer Alex Taggart, at The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health's The Open charity golf tournament, held Monday, June 10, 2019, at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club. Photo by Caroline Phillips

“Silence is the killer when it comes to suicide and mental health,” said Leggatt during a Q&A with CTV’s Michael O’Byrne in the golf club’s dining room. “We need to open up the dialogue and not be fearful of having that conversation with anybody.”

Leggatt likened the subject to prostate cancer, 15 or 20 years ago, when men only discussed it with other men suffering from the same disease. “Men have no problem now talking about prostate cancer; they’ve opened that door,” said Leggatt. “We want to do that with mental health.”

The native of Cambridge, Ont. grew up in an abusive family and, at age 10, tried to take his own life, the room heard. “I buried all of that,” said Leggatt. “I put it in a little box and put it away.”

That started to change in 2014, after the former PGA Tour winner bonded with Bob Traves at the Summit Golf and Country Club in the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill. Leggatt is the director there. Traves, a senior partner in the Toronto office of BLG, had just lost his 23-year-old son Kyle by suicide.

Leggatt, who has a history of doing charity work for organizations such as Ronald McDonald House, tapped into his business and personal connections to help the Traves family launch a successful charity golf tournament, Stomp the Stigma.

“I’m not scared to talk about it now,” said Leggatt, who gets professional help through weekly therapy sessions. “It took me a long time. This box got opened five years ago and, literally, I only started talking about it a year ago.

“For me, personally, it’s really helped me become a better person, dealing with what I went through when I was a kid.”

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From left, Ian Leggatt with Mitchell Bellman and Michael O'Byrne from CTV Ottawa News. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Leggatt also spoke about his experience of playing with the legendary Tiger Woods.  “It’s chaos out there, it’s like going to a rock concert with the Rolling Stones,” he said of the experience. “I mean, everyone comes out and the fans are following him around.”

He described him as “a great guy" to play golf with and said “nobody has globally moved the game of golf like Tiger Woods has”.

Guests bid on such live auction items as dinner for 16 people at North & Navy, and a three-course, wine-paired dinner for 20 at Fraser Café’s Table 40, a Château Montebello three-day get-away, and a three-night Mont Tremblant stay.

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From left, Meredithe Rechan with Iwona Albrecht, law partner at Soloway Wright and a board member with The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health, at its charity golf tournament. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Tim Oakes, business development with FCi, with Adam Dow, IT Project Manager at The Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, FCi president and COO John Saull, and Matthew DiCintio of MARANT Construction, at The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health's The Open charity golf tournament, held Monday, June 10, 2019, at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Preston Hardware's Joseph Giannetti with Mike Sacca from Irpinia Kitchens, and Ben Colasanti, president of Euro Tile and Stone, at The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health's The Open charity golf tournament, held Monday, June 10, 2019, at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, OSEG manager of group sales, Brock Gibson, with Matt Hayes and OSEG colleagues Kyle Kirkwood and Eddie Edwards at The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health's The Open charity golf tournament, held Monday, June 10, 2019, at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Sean Lundy, CEO of Lundy Construction, with golf tournament committee member Christian Jennings, with Jennings Real Estate Corp., at The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health's The Open charity golf tournament, held Monday, June 10, 2019, at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Brendan Bell with his dad, Les Bell, presidents at Lincoln Heights Ford, at The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health's The Open charity golf tournament, held Monday, June 10, 2019, at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca