INSTANT REPLAY: Jim Rutledge comes full circle
When Jim Rutledge is inducted into the B.C. Golf Hall of Fame, he will have come full circle.
You see, it’s just so fitting that the gala induction banquet next Thursday night, October 27, will take place at Capilano Golf and Country Club.
That’s because the Victoria-raised Rutledge – a pro on tour since way back in 1978 – began his career on the links by capturing two big tournaments at Capilano when he was a teenager: the 1976 B.C. high school championship at age 16 and the 1977 B.C. junior tourney at 17.
And he won them in memorable fashion, winning in sudden-death playoffs in both cases.
It was 35 years ago – June 7, 1976 – that Rutledge, playing for Oak Bay Secondary, spoiled a clean sweep for the host teams and individuals from North Shore schools in the sixth annual high school tourney.
Windsor, behind twins Blair and Brian Christie, won the team championship with a four-player, 36-hole score of 644, two better than runner-up Handsworth led by Brian Eccleston. It’s the only time the B.C.s have been held on the North Shore in the tournament’s 39-year history (there was no tournament in 1987 due to a teacher strike) and the only time a North Shore school has won.
But the individual championship came down to a playoff between Rutledge and Eccleston.
Despite a double-bogey seven on the final hole of the first round played at Seymour Golf and Country Club, Rutledge forged a first-round 73 – thanks to three birdies and an eagle – to lead the individual scoring. Eccleston, playing his home course, carded a 77, well off the pace.
But when the competition moved to Capilano the next day, the scores were reversed – Rutledge recording 77 and Eccleston 73 – producing a two-way tie for first at 150.
The playoff, the first time one was required at the B.C.s, began – and ended – on the 15th hole. Rutledge got a par 4 and Eccleston a bogey when his six-foot putt for par came to rest on the right lip.
It was 13 months later on July 9, 1977, that Rutledge returned to Capilano and won the provincial junior tournament, this time in a 72-hole competition. He caught Castlegar’s Rob Sherstobitoff – the 1977 B.C. high school champ and B.C. Junior leader during each of the first three rounds – by making up eight strokes on the final round. They tied at 296.
This time it took three extra holes to decide the title. After both birdied Capilano’s first hole and made par on the second, Rutledge won with a third-hole par.
Rutledge also won the Victoria City Junior and Canadian Junior in 1977. He and Bill Wakeham, who is already in the B.C. Golf Hall of Fame, are the only ones to accomplish that feat.
Rutledge joined the pro circuit the following year when he was only 18 and has played at various times in the Australasian, Canadian, European, Nationwide, PGA and Champions tours.
His pro wins have come from near and far. He has six Canadian Tour titles: the B.C. Open in 1979, ’81 and ’89; the 1994 Alberta Open, 1995 P.E.I. Classic and 1984 Canadian PGA.
In 1995 he won the Indian Open in New Delhi and in 2006 the New Zealand PGA in Christchurch.
He became the second-oldest rookie on the PGA Tour at the age of 47 in 2007.
"I laughed when Barrie McWha [Executive Director of the B.C. Golf Museum and Hall of Fame] told me the induction would be at Capilano," Rutledge tells me over the phone from San Antonio, Texas (where he was playing the A.T. and T. Championship last weekend). "I told him the last time I played there was when I won the B.C. Junior. [Actually] I played at Capilano with a couple of buddies maybe 20 years ago but haven't played there since."
And he hasn’t played at Seymour since the high school tournament.
“Coming from Victoria where the golf courses were a little bit easier, going to Seymour was a tough golf course. I think Capilano reminded me a lot of Royal Colwood [in Victoria].
“It’s remarkable that we played at those two golf courses as high profile as they are. It was the first time I’d played them.”
Despite the few times he’s been to Capilano, he recalls it pretty well.
“Some courses just jog your memory better than others,” he explains. “The reason Capilano comes to mind is just because it reminds me so much of hilly Colwood. I remember virtually all of it, maybe with the exception of a couple of holes in the middle of the front nine.
“I guess the prettiest hole would probably be the first because you can see the whole city from the first tee.
“I do remember the finish there which is a very good finish: 13 is a dogleg right, par 4 up the hill for the second shot; 14 is across the driveway that comes into the club, then we go over to 15.
“I think 16, 17 and 18 are very good holes. I remember 16 being a long par 3, I think 17 was a reasonably long par 4 and 18 was a great par 5 straight up the hill… 18 is a beautiful hole.”
Nice golf course. Nice career. Nice memories.
This is episode 437 from Len Corben’s treasure chest of stories – the great events and the quirky – that bring to life the North Shore’s rich sports history.