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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.