Pleasantville Legion tees up sponsorship for veteran golfer
Posted on Apr 23, 2018 by Brad McCabe

Newfoundland and Labrador is known for celebrating home-grown talent. But one man doesn’t get the praise that some think he deserves.

68-year-old Bram Churchill is an accomplished senior long drive golfer, having played with Team Canada at the International Long Drive Challenge (ILDC) for 15 years and winning numerous competitions.

Churchill knows how to hit a golf ball — far. For comparison, his average drive is 360 yards; during the 2013 season, Tiger Woods’ average drive was just over 293 yards.

When Pleasantville Legion branch manager Ted Hall found out about Churchill’s accomplishments and the fact that he didn’t have a sponsor, he felt compelled to help.

“Bram is a somewhat ex-service person as a retired highway patrol officer, and he’s also a Legion member and president of the Port Blandford Legion, so we jumped on board as a branch in town to do what we could for him.”

Hall and Churchill are both actively involved in The Royal Canadian Legion, and the two met last August at a biannual conference in Stephenville. Hall said he was surprised he hadn’t heard about Churchill before meeting him last year.

“You’ve got curling, and everybody’s on board, and people are getting sponsorships, and figure skating, and this and that, and this guy here has probably done more than any Newfoundlander that I know of in the sporting industry,” said Hall. “I mean, to be world champion, and nobody? It just blows my mind, especially being a senior citizen. It’s pretty disheartening. So, I think that’s what drove me to say, you know what? We’ll get this done — we’ll get you where you’ve got to go.”

The Pleasantville Legion is sponsoring Churchill for three tournaments this year. First, he’ll head to the World Long Drive’s Bash for Cash in Ontario in June, then the United States Senior Long Drive Championships in St. Louis in July, finishing the summer with a qualifier for Team Canada with the ILDC in August.

Churchill may have entered the sport late in life, but it doesn’t stop him. He’s placed in 40 different long drive tournaments provincially, nationally, and internationally since he got hooked on the sport in 2002.

Churchill’s received some in-kind sponsorship for apparel and equipment over the years, including from The Telegram, and during one year out of 16 he had a sponsor send him to tournaments. He said this is the first time he’s had a major sponsor step up to help with equipment costs and send him to multiple tournaments around the world.

To get enough money to travel, the retired highway patrol officer usually collects golf balls around Terra Nova, cleans them up, and sells them.

“I get invited to tournaments — five or six a year. I can’t go. The only ones I can go to is the Canadian championships, and then if I qualify for Team Canada, then I’d have to scrounge money to go to the Worlds.”

Churchill recalls the moment when that changed last summer.

He was sitting at the Legion conference, where speakers were congratulating the young Canada Games athletes who the Legion had sponsored, when then Pleasantville Legion treasurer Barry Furlong announced they’d be sponsoring Churchill.

“Barry spoke up and said, ‘You know, we look after the youth of the province, but we don’t look after seniors in the province.’ And he said, ‘How many people in this room today knows that we’ve got a senior world champion sitting with us?’ No one had a clue. And I didn’t know who he was talking about because it kind of took me off guard, and then he said, ‘Comrade Churchill, would you come up?’

“Then I realized it was me they were talking about. So, then he announced that they were going to sponsor me. I fill up very easily, I’m very emotional, and it struck me. After 16 years, these two guys decided to do something for me, and it was an absolutely amazing feeling. I said, ‘B’ys, hit me or something because I’m dreaming.’”

Hall also reached out to some of his contacts and, so far, he’s got NTV on board and is working on getting a golf course sponsor as well. The Legion’s already organized a few dart tournaments to raise funds, and just last weekend held a dance at the Pleasantville Legion with proceeds going to Churchill’s upcoming tournaments.

To think that before Hall approached him, Churchill was considering retiring from the sport altogether.

“I’ve spent a lot of lonely nights wondering if I should give this up,” he said, becoming emotional.

“Now I’ve got no intentions of retiring. I’m really enthused and looking forward to this year.”

Article by Juanita Mercer as posted on The Telegram

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