It’s a sunny July afternoon at Uplands Golf Club. The greens are freshly trimmed and the birds are singing. Like any summer’s day, the course is abuzz with enthusiastic golfers. But there’s something different about today’s round.
Today, small red hearts decorate the flag at each hole. The stakes are high and there’s money on the line, but a low score is not the primary objective. Today is the 40th Annual Uplands Golf Club Heart Tournament and the participants have only one goal: help fund lifesaving cardiac equipment for Royal Jubilee Hospital (RJH).
The Uplands Heart Tournament began in 1978 with a gathering of golfers and hockey players at Uplands Golf Club, one of Victoria’s oldest courses. After their friend spent time in the cardiac unit at Royal Jubilee Hospital, a few golfers wanted to recognize medical staff with a donation towards cardiac care.
“It started coincidentally with a hockey school being held up Island,” said long-time Uplands contributor Bruce Thom. “We were able to get some NHL stars to come down and play and we raised a few dollars.”
With a first successful fundraiser in the books, organizers decided to try again in 1979. Uplands Golf Club Captain Gordon Pellow volunteered as tournament chair, helping with everything from logistical planning to cooking lunch and washing dishes. By 1980, Uplands had established a strong partnership with Royal Jubilee’s cardiac teams and the Uplands Golf Club Annual Heart Tournament was born.
In 1990, Bruce Thom took over as tournament chair ― a role he held for the next 15 years. To increase participation and fundraising potential, the Heart Tournament instituted an entry fee for golfers and added a women’s tournament. Eventually, Uplands started accepting business sponsorships and proceeds began to eclipse $100,000 annually for cardiac equipment.
“It really is about the community coming together for a great cause,” says Thom. “Uplands generously donates the course, businesses sponsor the event and golfers rally to support an area of care that has affected them or their family in one way or another. It’s very special.”
Now in its 40th year, the Uplands Heart Tournament is British Columbian’s longest-running charity golf event, raising more than $2.6 million for Heart Health on Vancouver Island. The tournament draws a range of participants, donors, volunteers and business partners from throughout the community.
“I think like any organization, Uplands’ greatest assets are its people. They have a very strong community spirit,” said John Martin, another past chair for the Heart Tournament. “We get tremendous support from our members and through them we gain support from the community as a whole including many individual donors as well as prominent businesses, professionals and members of the medical community. A number of doctors and surgeons golf in the tournament but many are contributors even if they don’t golf.”
John Martin first got involved with the Heart Tournament 10 years ago. An avid golfer, John had a family history of heart disease and believed it was important to support local cardiac services. That belief grew even stronger in 2013 when John checked into Royal Jubilee Hospital with chest pain.
“When you have a heart attack, you’re suddenly confronted with something that you have no experience with and know relatively little about. You have some serious questions.” said John. “What was amazing to me was the absolute competence and care that was conveyed by all of the medical staff, from the nurses in the cardiac care unit to the surgeons and the operating room nurses. Everybody had their role and everybody was so good at taking charge and communicating that you felt immediately comfortable knowing you could have confidence in them.”
Over the years, this event has funded urgently needed medical tools for almost every area of cardiac care, including telemetry monitoring systems, pacemakers, cell savers and critical care beds. The 2017 men’s and women’s tournaments, held on July 19 and 23, raised $160,000 for a new heart catheterization laboratory C-arm. Funds from the tournament supported the Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s ongoing Campaign for Cardiac Care.
“Royal Jubilee Hospital has one of the top rated cardiac programs in North America and it’s vital that we have the latest equipment for diagnosis, intervention and rehabilitation,” said Dr. Lynn Fedoruk, Division Chief of Cardiac Surgery at Royal Jubilee. “On a daily basis, I find myself conducting lifesaving procedures with equipment that was in my hands thanks to generous community donors like the Uplands Heart Tournament.”
Two of the tournament’s most faithful supporters are Don and Marni Bold, whose involvement stretches back 38 years. The Bolds first donated five cases of hamburger patties towards the tournament luncheon in 1980 and have since supported a number of important cardiac initiatives through Uplands. The couple had a scare in 2012 when Marni suffered a heart attack.
“For us, the Heart Tournament means this right here,” said Don, patting Marni’s hand and blinking away tears. “If it’s good for all of us, it’s good for me. We plan to support the heart fund till we’re pushing up daisies!”
Organisers are already looking forward to next year. Few charitable events in B.C. have achieved the longevity of the Uplands Golf Club Annual Heart Tournament, and for John Martin, this success boils down to one important factor.
“When I got involved it was by our definition a grassroots tournament, meaning that it was community members doing things they thought were important to people in Victoria and on the Island,” said John. “I think that is the driving force behind this tournament. It’s the notion that collectively we can do more together than we could ever hope to accomplish individually. I think that’s really been the spark of whatever success we’ve had. We have this world-class facility right here in Victoria and we see a strong responsibility to try and maintain it and help make it even better. One way or another heart incidences affect everyone in a community and this gives us a way to pay forward the benefits we received.”
Every year, more than 200,000 people on Vancouver Island receive a cardiac assessment at one of our Island hospitals, and over 6,300 cardiac procedures are performed on men and women of all ages. While many attest to the uncertainty and hardship that accompany the news of a cardiac condition, patients take comfort in knowing they have access to a world-class cardiac program. Through our Campaign for Cardiac Care, In a Heartbeat: Everyday Miracles, we aim to raise $3.2 million to fund 34 pieces of leading–edge equipment in seven different areas of cardiac care.