Laura Bilotta and friends at the sponsor tent

First Annual Singles Golf Lessons and Mixer at Lionhead

Thursday the 25th of August 2016 was a hot & stormy day that turned into a beautiful warm night at Lionhead Golf Course in Mississauga, just in time for the first ever Singles Golf Lessons and Mixer event hosted by Toronto Matchmaker Laura Bilotta from Single in the City, and the golf instructors at the Bradlee Ryall Golf Academy, a division of Kaneff Golf.

Ian Hogg adjusting his pop-up canopySingles Golf Lessons is a relatively new concept in Canada, but one that’s already very popular in the southern United States where its warm and sunny most of the year. Unlike other singles events, daters meet up on a golf courses in the evenings after work ostensibly to sharpen their golf skills but also to meet other single people. Participants are placed into small groups where organizers hope they’ll mingle with other like-minded individuals who share their passion for the sport. Here in Canada, it’s a new concept and one that’s almost totally untested in this market.

Last Thursday 25th August 2016 the Single Golf Lessons and Mixer event concept was finally tested in Canada.

Laura Bilotta and sponsors under a canopy

Laura Bilotta ran the attraction and stayed the course in the face of five o’clock thunderstorms, doubling down and tweeting her commitment to attendees, many of whom were already en route to the venue. When I asked Laura if she was worried about the golf course being soaked she replied that all would be ‘as found, and there’s no remedies for Mother Nature’ and how ‘its our challenge to react as best as possible’. Her words were uplifting and confidence building, which I suppose reflects her vast experience in this event space.

By 7pm it was clear the event was going to be a big success.

Robert Campbell at a singles golf lessionAt 6:30 pm the rain cleared and people began to arrive at the scene in droves. The thrilling debut of the Singles Golf Lessons and Mixer event series started with a WHACK! just as the setting sun emerged from the clouds. Some of the attending singles appeared with their own golf clubs and in colourful sporty garments. Everyone chose to mix and mingle in front of a sponsors tent where two unique and original food and beverage purveyors were on hand to dispense decadent chunks of gourmet chocolate and delicious cups of cold pressed juice.

Sam Dhutia from Sweets Canada was breaking apart gourmet chocolate bars and bags of Q-bits which are sugared nibbles of every description. This decadent offering contrasted nicely with the second exhibitor, Happy Juice Co’s cold pressed juice products occupying a niche at the extreme other end of the health spectrum.

bags of Sweets Canada treats

Happy juice was manifest in two flavours; David Vene was pouring Sunshiny Kale, a starter juice if you’re just getting into raw, fresh juices “which let people drink their greens without knowing it“, and Twilight Lemonade made with honey and fresh lemons with a dash of cayenne pepper – the juice is black because it also contains activated charcoal and clay whose purpose is to bond with and help extract toxins from human bodies.

After some introductions and announcements the golf lessons began in earnest.

A golf driving lesson for Laura Bilotta from Single in the City

The group golf lesson was taught by the brilliant Ian Hogg who is actually the head golf instructor at the Bradlee Ryall Golf Academy at Royal Ontario Golf Course in Oakville. Bradlee Ryall himself made an appearance at the very beginning of the evening, but couldn’t stay for the fun. (He was booked teaching Junior Girls Golf Camp on the Legends course) Ian did just fine. This tall skinny blond golf pro has a great command of the subject, and has no fear of speaking or performing in public. He set up the opening driving range golf lessons sequence rather brilliantly as he gave us all his perspective on how a golf pro would tee up a shot.

Ian actually started by introducing two different style golf clubs and when he picked up a driver he told us all exactly what it was, and how and why it was used for hitting golf balls great distances on the fairway and at the driving range. I think even the more knowledgeable golfers learned something about the game as the practiced their stance or checked their grip and posture against Ian’s while listening to the lesson.

Placing the ball on the tee in his hand and putting both in the ground at the same time, Ian next showed us how high to set up the golf ball in relation to the driver’s face. The ball should be half its height above the driver’s face when the club is resting on the ground. And when Ian finally hit the ball it went all the way to the very back of the driving range and the crowd was audibly impressed and gasped in admiration at the accomplishment.

Ian did it again, and again, in slower and slower motions and many of the assembled audience could be seen mimicking the mechanics of his swing. Everyone was getting ready to try it themselves a few minutes later.

Singles Golf Lessons – the idea was that men and women could be grouped together and share a single paddock as they take turns practicing their swing by hitting balls together, but that didn’t really work out as nobody can get very close to anyone else swinging a golf club and thank goodness we had no accidents or injuries of any kind while operating under these instructions (which were soon modified for Safety’s sake).

The overcast sky meant that we lost an hour of daylight and by the time the assembly moved off of the driving range and down onto the practice green at Lionhead it was already twilight. Below is Ryan Meghdies from Tastic Marketing in Mississauga meeting Izabella from Oakville, a particular friend of Laura’s and a passionate golfer.

Ryan shakes hands with Izabela

The Putting Derby – because the golf course itself was soaked, and we were losing the light, Laura elected to follow Ian’s advice and replace the one-hole golf game (which was scheduled to begin at 8:45 on the ninth hole of the Master’s Course at Lionhead) with a much simpler and more efficient Putting Derby competition. This attraction was centered on a wooden prop which the instructors called The Putting Board. This thick wooden plank had five different sized holes cut in the bottom, the smallest openings at the sides were worth 50 points each, while the largest opening in the center was only worth 10 points. Two openings for 20 points each filled in the middle sides.

Putting competition action

One by one each attendee took their turn putting their ball toward the wooden plank without really aiming for any particular hole. So it was not surprising when almost all contenders, myself included, simply hit the board, but our ball didn’t score. We collectively adopted the name ‘board members’ and were anticipating another opportunity to putt again when, in rapid successions, two of the remaining untested participants did mange to get their ball through a hole. One skilled lady put her ball through the center opening for 10 points and Daniel, our winner, aced the competition by putting his ball through the 50 point hole on the right side of the board.

As reward for winning the Putting Derby our new friend Daniel was issued two free tickets to an upcoming Single in the City – Speed Dating event anywhere in the GTA, plus sponsor prizing. He was certainly very thrilled and posed for many pictures with his prizes in the fading light.

The event concluded in the best way possible – free drinks on the patio of Iggy’s pub at Lionhead Golf Course!

Iggy’s at Lionhead is located at the back of the conference facility beside the pro shop on the bottom level of the recently renovated Lionhead Club House. Iggy’s pub and grill is named after Ignat Kaneff who founded Kaneff Golf and perhaps because it bears the founder’s name, the restaurant is renown for being an excellent eatery with diverse cuisine and a terrific outdoor patio.

Afterwards at Iggy's Pub

Because of the earlier rainstorm and despite of it still being a hot muggy night, the patio was empty. So our crew pulled together five different tables under the awning and spread out in a long line. People came and went as they explored the facility inside and when they returned they sat with the crew they liked the most. Groups swelled and broke apart as drinks and meals were served and Laura made some announcements about upcoming events and plugged her new book.

Ian Hogg joined the party on the patio at the end of the evening after he’d finished putting away all the rental golf clubs and packing up the sponsor tent etc. He answered some very interesting questions about his life of a golf professional and the market in Canada for ‘scratch golfers’. He explored with us all the idea of being a nomadic golf mercenary and working all over the world – on cruise ships or in Caribbean golf courses in the winter months, and in Canada during the busy summer months. A man with such skills could always make a living by playing golf, and indeed it would be quite a life. Ian also shared insights on how to spot a golf pro ‘ringer’ at your corporate event, and tell take signs that give away such people, which was fascinating but unfortunately not the focus of this article.

Stay tuned for more community announcements here on Enrich Magazine for the next Single in the City Singles Golf and Mixer event.