It may not be right to speak for everybody, but it’s a safe bet that all who comprised the #WebbyStrong movement believed that somehow, someway, they could will Ian Webb better collectively with others who wore the tee shirts and caps with the hashtag that became so familiar as 2019 wore on.
The congenial COO of the Credit Valley Golf and Country Club in Mississauga, Ont., died Saturday night, leaving his wife Helen and daughters Gillian and Allison, as well as scores of admirers – be they club members, managers, professionals, people who had worked with and for him, or even the great Jack Nicklaus, who chatted with Webby and wished him well in a recent tweet. Webb was 54.
Had chance to speak to special member of our golf family, Ian Webb, who is fighting tough battle with cancer. Ian is COO at @CVGolfCC and a well-respected & loved Canadian @PGA pro. Incredible support from family & friends but need you to lift up Ian in your prayers! #WebbyStrong pic.twitter.com/hRw1xpJcs4
— Jack Nicklaus (@jacknicklaus) August 22, 2019
The wish to will Webby well again was never going to come true. Webby himself told me that in a conversation I had with him for a story that appeared in Club Manager Quarterly, the magazine of the Canadian Society of Club Managers. You can read the full story here. It begins on Page 20.
Just two years earlier, Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip died at the age of 53 after a public battle with glioblastoma, the aggressive form of brain cancer that Webby was diagnosed with earlier this year.
“Unfortunately, the survival rate of this is zero and we know that,” said Webb in May.
He figured he had six months to a year left and all the chemo, radiation and surgery he had since first being diagnosed at the end of February was done to give him more quality time with family and friends.
“Nobody knows when they get up every morning whether they’re going to go to sleep that night. I’m now given the barometer of when the end is going to be,” he said at the time.
“We decided when this happened that we were going to take this one day at a time, one week at a time. We were going to look at this positively. There are people who don’t get the opportunity to say the things and do the things and look at life differently and try to make a difference,” he said.
Webby spent his remaining days, living with passion. He loved his place in the golf industry and spending time with the friends and admirers who will miss him going forward.
One is Paul Hickey, who writes a column for the Peterborough Examiner and knew Webby more than 20 years ago at the Peterborough Golf and Country Club. He devoted this recent column to Webby.
Kevin Thistle, CEO of the PGA of Canada, recalls Webby’s efforts during last year’s PGA Championship of Canada at Credit Valley.
“We tried to have water out on the golf course each day and there was Webby every single morning being the water guy himself when most others would have had somebody else do it. He took pride in it with a smile, but he does everything with passion and perfection,” wrote Thistle in a GNN blog earlier this year.
Thistle and Hickey weren’t alone in their admiration of Webb, as this video illustrates.
Webby was renowned for getting out of a pickle on the golf course with a magical up and down to save par. He loved the game and the industry, but he was just as quick to remind people about life’s balance – the importance of family and friends
They got the message.
As Webb went though surgery, his radiation treatments and chemo, the hashtag #WebbyStrong was becoming even more prominent on social media, particularly Twitter, as club managers, golf professionals, other colleagues and friends, across the country, as well as Credit Valley Golf and Country Club staff and members, appeared in photos wearing #WebbyStrong T-shirts and hats.
“I’ve seen #WebbyStrong at Augusta. It certainly has taken on a life of its own. For me and my family, it’s been overwhelming and incredibly humbling,” he said.
Not only were the T-shirts and hats showing up across the country and at places such as NHL playoff games and the Masters, but they were also doing some good. Proceeds go to the Webby Foundation, set up by the PGA of Canada and Acushnet Canada to provide scholarships for PGA members and their families.
Adam Cherry, a former golf professional at Credit Valley, is now working at the Stonehooker Brewing Company, which has come out with Up & Down beer, which sends a portion of proceeds to the Webby Foundation.
“I’ve talked to so many people who have said to me, `Hey Ian, you’ve changed the way I’m looking at things,’ which has been great. Putting family and friends first and living one day at a time and being engaged and looking after family, a lot of colleagues have kind of stepped back and said, `You know what? You’re right. We’re all working too hard,’ so that’s been quite rewarding,” he said.
“The colleagues and the relationships that I’ve developed across the country with general managers is incredible. It’s a great group of people and equally as positive has been the PGA,” said Webb, who balances that out with Helen and the family he cherishes.
“My two girls are old enough to understand all of this. Family has been incredible for sure. They were part of the decision-making process right from the hospital. They’re not kids, but it’s been hard on them for sure,” he said.
It will be difficult for all who knew him, but continuing to heed his message is one way to keep Webby with us, if not physically, then in our own hearts.