Marilyn Bruschetta perches on a chair in the new restaurant at Fernie Golf Club, immaculately dressed in a black and white checkered golfing ensemble, her trademark curls pinned behind her visor and a small gold “M” hanging from her neck.
The 79-year-old’s petite figure and mass of curls have been a regular sight on the Fernie course for decades.
Her hair may have turned from brown to grey but Marilyn’s commitment to the game has not wavered, nor has her dedication to the club, where she has served in a number of roles including captain and social convener.
Next month, Marilyn will help to ring in Fernie Golf Club’s 100th anniversary as well as her 80th birthday.
It was called the Fernie Golf and Country Club when Marilyn joined in the early ’70s and she fondly remembers basking in the morning sun on the veranda of the old clubhouse along with the other “girls” before they teed off for the day.
“There was a big old fashioned white house there,” she said, pointing towards what is now the cart shed, “and that was the clubhouse.
“It was lovely, it had a rail veranda all around the outside and the girls used to sit out there before they played their game in the morning.
“When I joined that clubhouse was still here and I believe it was the following year that what they called the new clubhouse was built down at the other end of the course, and that is now the learning centre.”
Marilyn was born in Vancouver and first came to the Elk Valley in 1961 with her husband Michael.
The couple spent five years in Sparwood before returning to the West Coast for a year then moving permanently to Fernie in 1967.
Marilyn’s uncle golfed and she dabbled in the sport while studying at the University of British Columbia, where she took it as a subject.
But it was her curling teammates who encouraged her to join Fernie Golf Club.
“Barb Andrews was the girl who said to me, ‘Marilyn, you come out this year, I expect to see you down at the golf course’, so she was the one who got me down here,” recalled Marilyn.
“There was Martha Chester, there was Raffie Sowchuk, just to name a couple of the curling women who golfed… I’ve played with lots and lots of women over the years, so many of them are deceased now.”
There have been many changes at Fernie Golf Club since Marilyn joined, including three different clubhouses and an expansion from nine to 18 holes.
“One of the things that I remember about starting to golf here was between the clubhouse and the end of 2nd Avenue, I’m pretty sure there was a dirt road that people used to access the golf course and there were poplar trees on both sides of the road, just dozens of poplar trees,” she said.
“It was very pretty walking through there but after a golf game, it was so tiring… just to walk the whole length of the course again and, of course, at that time it was a nine-hole course.”
Marilyn plays in three local leagues – ladies, seniors and the breakfast club on Saturdays – and tries to golf most other days.
She aims to golf 4-5 times a week and play 60 18-hole rounds a year. “Sometimes I golf 10 days in a row,” she said.
But the game has never come easily to Marilyn, who still books the occasional lesson and regularly practices her technique on the driving range.
“I have a high handicap, which means I’m not a very good golfer but sometimes, if I’m playing to my best and I can play to my handicap, maybe I get lucky,” she said.
Marilyn is modest about her golfing achievements but has won a number of trophies and pins over the years, including the ladies low net in the 1987 club championship (pictured).
She has also represented Fernie at regional and provincial tournaments.
“But that’s just a small part of it, it’s just getting down here, it’s playing the game,” she said.
“To me, there’s just a nice feeling to swing the club and actually have a nice shot.”
In 1994, Marilyn purchased a lifetime membership. She enjoys the challenge the course presents, as well as the scenery and her favourite holes are numbers three and four.
Wildlife is known to roam the course and Marilyn has had a number of close encounters over the years.
“I saw a fox last year, I’ve seen a coyote, deer – most years we see deer. I have seen bear, not too many times but a few times,” she said.
“We were putting on no.2 and he was about two-thirds of the way down no.2 running along the cart path, so he was fairly close.
“There was a maintenance man on no.3 tee box, he saw the bear coming and he started banging on the side of his truck so that frightened the bear and he took off and he ran right across the no.3 fairway, swam across the water and disappeared into the woods.”
Pleasure, fitness and friendship are just some of the ways Marilyn has benefited from her membership at Fernie Golf Club.
She believes members’ volunteerism has contributed to the success of club, which will host four days of tournaments and festivities from July 3-7 to celebrate its anniversary.
“When we put on something, the members all come together, they work together and they put on a good show,” she said.
“Even though it’s (Fernie) designated a city… it’s still relatively small and to think that there’s been a golf club here for 100 years is a feather in Fernie’s cap.”