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A chat with Ontario golf icon Gus Maue is never really over – his supply of fascinating stories about golf and golfers is unending. We talked about a slew of golfing greats who have crossed paths with Gus – Arnold Palmer, David Feherty, Raymond Floyd, Al Balding, Moe Norman, and many more.
So, when Gus called me the day after our interview, to tell me about some important characters he had forgotten to mention, I wasn’t surprised – until he told me who these “characters” were. Their names were Willie and Bowdy. Willie was a black Labrador Retriever. And Bowdy was a yellow lab who gained national attention for his ability to find and retrieve golf balls.
Gus Maue has been involved with several golf courses, both as the pro and as owner – over the span of his storied career. One such – Foxwood – is located west of Waterloo. Foxwood is now part of the Golf North chain, which acquired it from Gus 19 years ago – but during the years Gus owned and operated the course, his pet dogs lived on the property.
Willie – named for Willie Nelson – took no interest in golf. But one day, Bowdy, named for a friend, noticed that Gus was picking up lost balls. The dog promptly copied his master, and Gus rewarded the lab with a doggie treat.
That was all the inspiration Bowdy needed. He began fetching lost balls – in the rough, in the trees, and eventually, from the bottom of the Foxwood ponds. One year, the dog found and delivered more than 2,000 balls.
Gus’s friend, golf writer Skip Johns (who passed away in August 2021), wrote a feature about Bowdy that sparked media interest across the country, with print and television outlets up to and including Macleans magazine covering the story.
Gus laughs as he recalls that it did not end there – he received phone calls from across Canada, asking he would be willing to train their dog to retrieve balls. He had to admit that Bowdy was simply a unique natural. And only one of the many unique characters Gus Maue has befriended throughout his life in golf.
Toronto Maple Leaf fans will certainly recognize the name of one of those characters – Eddie Shack, who played for the Leafs for eight and a half seasons. Shack was an enthusiastic golfer, often playing at Bolton, where he met a young golf pro named Gus Maue. Shack, along with the now-notorious players’ agent Alan Eagleson and others, owned the golf course called Foxwood, west of Waterloo. The course was in financial difficulties, and eventually was put up for sale. Maue knew Foxwood well – he’s a Waterloo Region native. But he couldn’t afford to invest.
So, his acquisition of the club didn’t happen immediately – other investors got involved and then, uninvolved, in the interim – but by the early 1980’s, Gus Maue was the owner of Foxwood Golf Club. “I was able to buy the golf course,” recalls Gus. “It was a risk, but the bank was very good to me.” Day-to-day management of the club was in the hands of his son, Danny, and Gus’s wife, Audrey, because Gus was busy as the head pro at the prestigious Westmount Golf and Country Club, in Waterloo. Gus is an honorary life member at Westmount, and still a fan of the course… but he notes that in 1967, “it was a championship golf course. Now, they’ve taken down so many trees that it’s impossible to lose a golf ball.”
Being a full-time pro at one of the country’s top ten courses didn’t prevent Gus from making his vision for Foxwood a reality. He embarked on the first of his course design and construction endeavors. Foxwood was an 18-hole course, occupying 300 acres of land. Gus saw the potential, and immediately set out to add a third, nine-hole course. Today, Foxwood is 27 holes – the Red, Blue and White nines. And although Gus is no longer involved in the course, he and Audrey live in a home at Foxboro Green, the adult community next door (not affiliated with Foxwood). From their patio, the Maues’ home has a terrific view of the par-five seventh hole on White.
Not only did Gus add nine holes; he also redesigned most of the rest of the course, relocating and rebuilding half of the existing greens – “there were hidden greens, and a lot of walking to the next tee,” he says. Gus and his family members did much of the grunt work themselves. “We bought an earth mover,” he says, and dug the ponds that are highlights of many of the holes at Foxwood. Gus also bought hundreds of trees from the Grand River Conservation Authority and today the course boasts many stands of mature trees.
As he enjoys the view from his back window, Gus remains proud of what he accomplished at Foxwood. “It’s a great golf course,” he says. But he adds that from the back tees, “It’s really too tough for the average golfer, right now.” But that’s not really the fault of the course. Gus joins the growing chorus of pros who urge golfers to play from their proper tees.
Says Gus, “I think 60% of the golfers are playing golf courses that are too difficult for them,” because they are playing from the wrong tees. And Gus believes that when golfers move up, Foxwood – and any well-designed course – changes from being a frustrating punishment to a pleasurable challenge.
In 1990, after 24 years as pro at Westmount, Gus left to help launch Deer Ridge Golf Course, in Kitchener, which opened in 1991. “Four of us owned Deer Ridge,” he says. “I was the small guy in the deal.” It was designed and built on the basis of a $15 million line of credit … and then, the bank withdrew the line of credit. Gus mentions another iconic Waterloo region character – “If it hadn’t been for Eugene George, we would have gone bankrupt.” George, who passed away in 2015, brought big bucks and even bigger encouragement to the project. Gus remembers the challenges of building Deer Ridge. The original course design, by Tom McBroom, was “fantastic,” but had to be altered because of conservation authority objections. “It’s still a good golf course,” insists Maue.
Gus Maue can talk golf course design for days. But he also holds a rich storehouse of anecdotes about notable golfers through the years. Many of them involve quirky, talented, unique Moe Norman – so many, in fact, that the Gus and Moe story will be a story still to come. Stay tuned.
But he was also a close friend of many Canadian golfers and hung out with all the greats of the game. A highlight of his time at Westmount came in 1981, when the PGA Canada tour came to the club, and Gus found the cash to attract some of the best-known players of the day. He recalls not only the players, but also, what it cost to get them. Raymond Floyd, who won the tournament (and the prize of $20,000), cost an additional, up-front twenty grand. Ireland’s David Feherty, today a highly entertaining golf commentator, was lured to Canada for a mere $1,000, in addition to the enormous sum of $540 he earned for finishing in a tie for 30th.
Australian David Graham, who had just won the US Open, was enticed to Westmount with an offer of $20,000 appearance money and finished third to win $6,000.
But Gus’s prize catch was the king himself – Arnold Palmer accepted the offer of $20,000 to come to Canada, and was the star of the tournament, even though after shooting opening rounds of 76 and 77, he was the last to make the cut. He finished tied for 49th and won $190. But mostly, Gus remembers Palmer’s consistent generosity. “Palmer was unbelievable that week,” he says. “He shot 76 in the first round, and then signed autographs for an hour.” After the tournament was over, Palmer told Gus that Westmount had “the toughest greens I ever putted on.”
He also told Gus to come and see him some time – specifically, he invited Gus to spend a week with him at Bay Hill, another highlight in Maue’s highlight-strewn career.
Today, Gus Maue is still involved in golf. In the summer of 2021, playing with what was certainly the oldest foursome in the tournament (one of his team was a woman nearing 90), Gus captured the “closest to the target” prize, as his team won the Foxboro Green annual charity tournament. More significantly, he and son Danny lease and operate an executive course in Woodstock, Ontario. Creekside is an 18-hole course – 14 of the holes are par 3’s, the rest, par 4’s. It was an existing course when the Maues took it over, but Gus admits, “It took me five years to get it in shape.”
He is proud of it – and a lot of that pride comes from the charitable work that is done through Creekside. Gus Maue has always pursued the charitable possibilities of golf.
He runs a charity tournament at Creekside that now raises about $10,000 annually – although his goal is to build on that. Gus personally delivers food to a charity in Woodstock, and clothing to shelters in Waterloo. He says that over the course of his career in golf, “I’ve been involved in a lot of charities… Now, I’m going to be hands-on.”
Which is no different from his approach to teaching as a pro or designing and building golf courses. Whatever the enterprise, Gus Maue has always been, quite simply, a hands-on, committed kind of guy.
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