Golf is life for Bodogh
Golf is everything to the latest inductee into the St. Catharines Golf and Country Club wall of fame.
“Golf, selfishly, is my life and the true joy of my golf is competition. I’ve always said, ‘I golf, I golf every day, I’ll die on the golf course and be buried there,’ ” said 58-year-old Bernie Bodogh.
The retired insurance salesman has had a love/hate relationship with the sport since beginning to play at the St. Catharines Golf and Country Club in 1973.
“It’s horrifying. I quit four times a year every year. ‘That’s it, I am done. I am not playing any more.’ It’s a game of managing your body, your mind and sometimes even you soul. You will give up your soul to have a good round. Every day is a potential great round and it is all up to you as the player.”
There are good days and bad and Bodogh can take solace in the fact that people now comment that he handles the good shots and the bad shots exactly the same.
“It has taken me 46 years to get there because I have broken every club in my bag. Not every club at once but I have broken every club and many putters. It wasn’t my fault. Why would it be my fault? I was a brash young kid.”
That brash young kid would arrive at the St. Catharines course at 6 a.m., play 36 holes five days a week and then still be honing his craft on the putting green at 10 p.m.
“I was just here and that is what I did,” he said.
Bodogh got better watching and playing with club champions like Kerry Short and Les Westlake. He was taught by his mom, Cathy, and Canadian golfing legend George Knudson.
“I played a lot of golf with my mom and dad (Frank) and my mom was more the psychological individual with how to perceive the shot and how to handle it.”
He took three days worth of lessons from Knudson when he was 18.
“He made me a better player by changing a few things with my swing and not changing my swing. To stand with George Knudson and hit balls was great. It was quite amazing and he was a wonderful gentleman.”
The list of what he feels make a good golfer includes: resiliency; the ability to think past the shot in front of you and just hit the shot; not worrying, trusting the shot; and, of course, practice.
“It is all about not making as many mistakes as the next guy. Whoever wins, made the least amount of mistakes,” he said. “We are imperfect and the game is built for that: How you can hit an awful shot and then hit your next shot two feet from the hole for a par. To me, it is the greatest game ever devised.”
The sport has been great to him.
“I am extremely lucky to go places, see people, see and play the golf courses and experience all that through golf.”
Bodogh’s golfing resume includes: St. Catharines’ men’s club championships in 1989, 1991, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007 and 2014; winning a men’s club championship at least once a decade for 40 years; senior men’s club championships in 2018 and 2019; Champion of Champion senior crowns in 2018 and 2019; serving 12 years as co-chair of the Niagara Men’s Golf Tour; winning 10 times on the local tour and overall titles in 2003 and 2012; capturing the Brooke Invitational Amateur Championship at Lookout Point in 1995; playing in the prestigious Porter Cup in Lewiston, N.Y., in 2000 and tying for 61st; and, tying for 27th at last year’s senior Porter Cup.
Of his club championships, 2002 was the most memorable. As he headed to the first tee, he was asked who was going to win the tournament.
“My answer to him was that I was the only one who could lose it.”
He carded 70, 70 and 65 to win the event in a stretch of amazing play that saw him play eight rounds in two weeks at 23 under par.
“I went nuts. Everything was going in the hole and it was magical.”
Playing in the Porter Cup was also magical.
“It was huge because there are so many good golfers trying out for it for those five spots. I tried to qualify for many, many years.”
He shot 69 in qualifier to finally earn a spot in the event at the Niagara Falls Country Club.
“I was quite proud of that and to play in it was quite something.”
The lowest round of his career was a 64 at Willodell in 2003, playing with Sandy and Steven Billyard in the final round of the Niagara Men’s Golf Tour. That day, someone asked Sandy if he was going to show up the young guys and he mentioned that Bodogh was eight under par after 12 holes.
“I had no idea even though I was writing my score down,” Bodogh said. “Then it was hold it together, I was so far under par and I had never been there before. You never tempt the golf gods.”
Bodogh had dreams of winning another club championship in a fifth decade, but that goal was derailed as he continues to battle bone and prostate cancer. He decided not to play in the event this year.
“I didn’t want to do it that way,” he said. “I didn’t want to play in it to be playing in it. I wanted to play in it to win.”
Despite his illness, he has still played 93 rounds of golf as of early October.
“I ride a lot of carts,” he said. “I started the year off walking a lot but I had to ride because the medication failed and my cancer returned.”
The golf course still is and will always be his happy place.
“I am retired and I spend my time here. It is my favourite place and my dad was the same way. He was either at the office, the golf club or at home and it’s the same with me.”
Bodogh was stunned to be named to the wall of fame.
“Absolutely, I cried like a baby. When you walk by the wall your whole life, you see the people who are up there and what they accomplished. You think maybe I can make it up there one day but this is a surprise and I didn’t think it would happen. It is such an honour.”
He was very emotional during his acceptance speech.
“Saying thank you to everyone was the most emotional part: Thanking my parents (Frank and Cathy) and my daughter (Samantha). She is the best thing that has ever happened to me as is my grandson James,” he said. “It means a lot when you get choked up.”
Other members of the hall of fame are Ed Moir, Gloria Campbell, Helen Chyplik, Carole Price, Chris Critelli, Les Westlake, Harry Daniel, Liz Earley, Garry Holmes and Jack Lowrey.