It is customary upon losing a person of stature, as we have with the passing of Canadian Golf Hall of Fame member Jocelyne Bourassa, to reflect on the legacy she leaves behind.
Bourassa died on Wednesday at the age of 74 after a years-long battle with dementia and the term “legacy” doesn’t adequately describe her life in golf. Make it plural, for her contributions were diverse.
For 45 years, she was known as the only Canadian to win an LPGA Tour event on home soil after her win at La Canadienne in Montreal in 1973. That lasted until Brooke Henderson won the CP Women’s Open in 2018 at Wascana Country Club in Regina.
Ailing at the time, Bourassa made sure to send along congratulations.
“Together with golf fans and Canadians from coast to coast, I want to pass along my most sincere congratulations to Brooke Henderson on her historic win at the 2018 CP Women’s Open. It’s been 45 years since Canada celebrated a home grown champion and I couldn’t be more proud today to pass that incredible honour to Brooke Henderson. My win in 1973 in front of so many Canadian golf fans was the most special moment of my golfing career and I can imagine how satisfying this accomplishment must feel for Brooke and her family today. She is an incredible talent and her commitment to be the very best has brought her amazing success on the global golf stage and has inspired so many others in the game. Felicitations, congratulations to Brooke!”
Honoured Member, Canadian Golf Hall of Fame
Bourassa truly was happy for Henderson, just as she would have been for any Canadian who might have won in the interim.
As noteworthy as her playing career was, she was also renowned for her role in making the du Maurier Classic, a major championship from 1979-2000, into one of the premier events on the LPGA Tour.
It was in her role as executive director of the Classic that Bourassa also earned her reputation for the development of players, not only Canadian female touring pros, but club professionals, as well.
“Jocelyne’s legacy was first as a fierce junior competitor from Quebec all the way to the LPGA Tour and, on both levels, she was a champion,” said eight-time LPGA Tour winner Sandra Post, who became familiar with Bourassa in their formative years, despite the distance between Post’s home town of Oakville, Ont., and Bourassa’s home in Shawinigan, Que.
Bourassa learned the game while caddying for her brother Gilles, who coached her. She would go on to win three consecutive Québec Junior titles (1963, 1964, 1965), four Québec Amateur championships (1963, 1969, 1970, 1971) and she was a member of provincial teams on eight occasions.
Bourassa also won the Canadian Women’s Amateur in 1965 and 1971, the same year she won the Ontario Amateur.
After turning professional in 1972, she very nearly won the Southgate Open before Kathy Whitworth took it in a playoff.
Bourassa went on to win tour rookie of the year honours that year before winning in a playoff victory against Sandra Haynie and Judy Rankin at La Canadienne in front of a boisterous and partisan crowd in Montreal the following year.
It was just the second win by a Canadian on the LPGA Tour after Post’s win at the 1968 LPGA Championship, but knee injuries abruptly ended her playing career after eight years.
Bourassa’s career began to evolve and as much as she was known for her flair as a player, her efforts in her new role also became renowned.
“As tournament director of the du Maurier Classic for Imperial Tobacco, her true joy was to make the LPGA players happy,” said Post.
“The hospitality rooms set a new standard that other tournaments had to measure against. The du Maurier Classic became a must-stop for the players and their families and it was Jocelyne who knew what the players wanted. She made sure everyone enjoyed themselves in Canada,” she added.
It wasn’t just tour players who appreciated the efforts of Bourassa, who became a friend and confidante to developing players and those who chose to be a club professional.
No matter the individual goals, the du Maurier Series development circuit, built and administered by Bourassa and others, had a competitive on-course aspect, as well as an education side through seminars designed to help them in various off-course aspects of their careers.
With everything she did for women’s golf in this country, the peak of her passion for the game came in 2000 when federal anti-smoking legislation threatened to snuff the du Maurier Classic and Series. Imperial Tobacco was out as title sponsor and a phone call to Bourassa made it obvious that she had worked into the night in her tireless efforts to find a new one.
Although the Classic lost its major status, the fact that there is today a CP Women’s Open is in a big way due to the efforts of Bourassa, among others.
Bourassa talked about life on the administrative side of golf when she was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. You can listen to that here.
Bourassa was also named to the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 1996, the Quebec Golf Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Quebec Sports Hall of Fame in 1992. Her full Canadian Golf Hall of Fame bio is here.
Her awards were many as were her contributions to golf, which is why she will be missed by so many people with different backgrounds in the game, who appreciated her charm, flair and passion for the game in whatever role she took on.