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Once a caddy, now a golfer

Golfer Wayne Talbot remembers a time when black people were banned from becoming golf club members – but were caddies for players who let them play at the crack of dawn. On Aug. 3, the golfer, now 70, lines up a practice shot on the green at the Truro Amateur Athletic Club grounds.
Golfer Wayne Talbot remembers a time when black people were banned from becoming golf club members – but were caddies for players who let them play at the crack of dawn. On Aug. 3, the golfer, now 70, lines up a practice shot on the green at the Truro Amateur Athletic Club grounds. - Fram Dinshaw

As a child, Wayne Talbot could not become a golf club member because of the colour of his skin. But caddying offered a way into his beloved sport –and today he is a proud golfer at this year’s Apex tournament.

As a child, Wayne Talbot and his friends hit the golf course at 4:30 a.m. to play some holes.

They lived just around the corner from today’s Truro Amateur Athletic Club, but the colour of their skin barred them from becoming golf club members, forcing them to rely on the generosity of white players for whom they caddied.

Six decades later, Talbot joined dozens of other golfers at the TAAC for this year’s Apex tournament, started in 1974 by local black people, but open to people of all backgrounds.

“We were not allowed to be members, so obviously that hurt and that probably impaired the progress of some of the guys,” said Talbot. “When we were young we did not see it for what it was, we were not allowed, we just accepted that. As we got older and educated we realized that it was wrong and we strived to change these types of things.”

As young caddies, Talbot and his friends practiced their golf in caddies’ tournaments organized with the help of white players for whom they worked. While legal segregation held back black golfers, many were also too poor to afford membership fees.

Nonetheless, Talbot became a full member at 22 – just in time to see a profound transformation take place, helped in part by the fact that Truro’s golf course was located right next to a black-majority neighbourhood. By that time, late player Lloyd Jackson punched through the colour ceiling in the 1960s.

In 1974, 10 black golfers teed off in the first black golf tournament and the Apex series was born. According to Talbot, up to 175 players signed up in later years – more than the course could handle – so today entry is restricted to the first 110 people who sign up.

Darrell Maxwell, one of the founders of Apex back in 1974 and Talbot’s older brother, recalled the reaction of an African American friend who visited Truro for Apex one year.

His friend from South Carolina called it “the Black Masters.”

“Throughout Canada and maybe even the United States it was very unusual to see a whole mass of black people playing golf, because it was not really that open or affordable for blacks,” said Maxwell. “It became a very unique event throughout Canada, not just here.”

Forty-four years after the first 10 golfers hit the course, Maxwell said that the tournament was a chance for young and old golf players to bond, adding that it was a homecoming that gave the local community an identity.

Today’s tournament is also a fundraiser for scholarships, awarded to local youth pursuing further education. The scholarship fund has been in existence for more than a decade.

Today, the older generation is stepping back a little, as players like Talbot no longer golf competitively, but still plays for fun. Maxwell was one of Nova Scotia’s top golfers in his prime.

One younger player is Taran Jordan, whose father and grandfather both played professional-level golf, but he only plays for fun.

“I was bred to,” he said, when asked why he played golf.

Like many other players, he grew up just around the corner from the TAAC grounds.

“It’s gorgeous, especially with Truro’s golf course, we’re blessed to have that scenery, it’s wonderful, it’s always good vibes out there even in [those] times we’re a little bit frustrated,” said Jordan.

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