MANITOWANING—On a very chilly late September morning, two new friends realized their goal of hosting the first ever Anishinaabe Kwe’ok Golf Challenge at Rainbow Ridge Golf Course. 

Key organizers of the golf challenge, Kathryn Skov of Garden River First Nation and Roxanne Recollet of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, had just met this past summer when both women were competitors in the Masters Indigenous Games Golf competition in Toronto. The two chatted about how their passion for golf brought them to this day. According to Ms. Recollet, after the Masters game the two women, joined by other golfers, sat down to visit over dinner and mused that they should “get together and challenge each other” and thus the seed to organize the Anishinaabe Kwe’ok Golf Challenge was planted. 

Determined to make their dinner musings a reality, the two women quickly reconnected when they returned to their home communities and started planning the event. They decided to host the event as a fundraiser for the Wiikwemkoong Food Bank so that the challenge would not only be an opportunity to bring Anishinaabe kwe’ok together in an act of solidarity, mutual support and camaraderie, but also for a good cause.

Ms. Skov explained that the organizers quickly decided to open the challenge up to all the First Nations communities on both Manitoulin Island and the North Shore. The event was posted on Facebook and it was immediately obvious by the response they received that it was a welcome and much needed event.

Ms. Skov adds that the event was a great opportunity to get together and have fun while playing a sport they love. Many reconnections were made, in which she was able to see people she hadn’t seen in 30 years and that women were able to make “reconnections of old relationships and to build new relationships,” much like the new friendship between her and Ms. Recollet.  

Ms. Skov says that “it’s important for the Anishinaabe kwe’ok to come together and do these things—exercise mind, body, and soul and to meet friends” and that “lifelong friendships have been formed” over the sport of golf. Ms. Recollet agrees, saying that “it’s a good way to keep active and it was a really great opportunity for us to connect and make new friendships and have that camaraderie” and, with a little smirk and a chuckle, adds “with a little competition.”

The challenge, which the Manitoulin Island kwe’ok won 6 to 3, took place on September 29 with 38 kwe’ok golfers coming from as far as North Bay to Garden River and across Manitoulin Island.

In the individual contests, longest putt winners were Lauren Assiniwe and Rochelle Debassige; longest drive winners were Roxanne Recollet and Corrilla Manitowabi: and closest to the pin winners were Rochelle Debassige and Char Beaudin.

Ms. Recollet advises that the very successful event raised $2,190 for the food bank, which was in no small part also possible due to the event’s many sponsors including the 11 tee box sponsors, comprising of community and local businesses, prize donors, auction bids and online donations. The organizers made special note of the sponsorship of Rainbow Ridge Golf Course and Silver Creek Golf Course in Garden River, which according to Ms. Skov, will be the location for the second annual Anishinaabe Kwe’ok Golf Challenge next June.

Debbie Osawabine of Sheguiandah, also a competitor in this past summer’s Masters Indigenous Games golf competition in Toronto, agreed that it was a great time and remarked that she enjoyed the chilly early fall tournament.

One of the golfers, Maxine Peltier of Wiikwemkoong who is now living in North Bay and travelled to the Island for the golf challenge, agrees that the event “is a really important event, and a way for women to support each other” and feels that it’s “especially important for Anishinaabe kwe’ok to support each other” as well as to participate in sport for the benefit of one’s physical and spiritual wellness. She described the tournament as a fun, bonding experience, which is “good for your health, mind, emotional and mental well-being.”

Ms. Peltier, who has been golfing for over 20 years, has been a keynote speaker at the Rainbow Ridge Annual Women’s Golf Day and is a strong advocate for women in golf. Reflecting on the 38 participants, she expressed that “it’s neat for so many women to come out and golf; it’s been a struggle to get women out on the golf course so it’s good to see so many women out.” John Dubé, manager for Rainbow Ridge Golf Course and Indoor Golf Academy was pleased that Rainbow Ridge was the site of the inaugural Anishinaabe Kwe’ok Golf Challenge. He welcomed the event as a necessary and positive step in facing the challenge of getting more women involved in golf. 

He says that “a lot of times, women are key decision-makers in the household” and that the golf industry is trying to engage more of them to be involved in golf and to think of golfing as an option for family recreation. When women are involved in golf, it’s more likely that their kids and families will be as well.

The friendly rivalry and challenge was acknowledged by the two key organizers and, while Ms. Recollet and the rest of the Manitoulin kwe’ok get to have bragging rights this year, Ms. Skov and the North Shore kwe’ok are already looking forward to meeting the Manitoulin women in North Shore territory next year when they expect to capture the 2019 bragging rights on home turf.

Meanwhile, as the 2018 outdoor golf season winds down, Mr. Dubé is preparing for Rainbow Ridge Indoor Golf Academy to open in late November which he says “provides an opportunity for all our local area golfers to golf year-round.” The indoor golf academy will host both the Fall Chill and Winter Blast indoor golf leagues. He also mentions that once the outdoor season is over, while there won’t be any golf on the course until spring, depending on the weather there will “still be lots of activity at the golf course including cross country skiing and snowshoeing, with available rentals” and he also advises that there are currently talks underway to host a pond hockey tournament in January.