Breaking with Routine

By Candice Schultz

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At 65, Don Brown is enjoying retirement by changing his routine, not slowing down. The Winnipeg native, who had polio as a child, is a recreational golfer who tries to keep every day fresh by staying active, both physically and mentally.

Don, a Victoria-based retiree, began golfing in his late teens and early twenties. Like most people, he played simply for recreation.

“It was just a fun thing to do on Saturday morning with the guys,” says Don.

Over time, Don put away the golf clubs, but still stayed active. While he worked at a multi-purpose fitness club in Calgary in his 40s, Don picked up his clubs again. He went out with some friends and, soon after, found himself immersed in the world of golf club management - a profession that would take him to retirement.

“I’ve been lucky,” he says. “I’ve had the opportunity to play some really nice courses across Canada and into the United States that I might not have been able to if I had not been involved in the business.”

In 1993, Don left the multi-purpose facility for the Highlands Golf Club in Edmonton, where he spearheaded the construction of a new clubhouse. Don and his wife, Carol, eventually moved to Victoria, where he managed the Victoria Golf Club. There, he was part of the 100th anniversary of one of the world’s longest-running international dinner clubs, an experience he remembers fondly. When his contract with the club expired, however, Don chose not to renew.

Don, then 59 years old, wasn’t ready to retire. He took a three-year contract in Prince George, where he facilitated the sale of a golf course that had been destroyed by pine beetles. Before they went, Don and Carol were faced with an important decision: where to retire once the contract in Prince George expires. The couple considered settling down in Carol’s birthplace, Kelowna, where they had friends and family nearby. The decision came to Don and Carol when they were walking along the beach in Victoria.

“We stopped and looked at each other and said, ‘what is it we like doing?’ And this is exactly it. Being outside in January or February walking with a windbreaker on, playing golf, or whatever,” says Don.

Don and Carol have been enjoying an active life as retirees for two years, now. When they returned to Victoria, the couple joined the Gorge Vale Golf Club, which allows them to stay fit and socialize with other golfers.

“We both like to golf, and it’s part of my retirement routine,” says Don. “I wanted to golf two or three times a week, for a number of reasons, partly for exercise and partly because we both like to golf.”

Although golf is part of his routine, Don says that he enjoys mixing it up when he has a chance.

“In the summer, we like to get on the bikes and, in the winter, we like to walk around the Gorge Park,” says Don. “It keeps us active. I also do some volunteer things that I enjoy.”

In the summer, Don volunteers for many of the summer festivals in Victoria, including Jazzfest and the Tall Ships Festival.

“It’s nice to have something other than the daily routine,” he says. “There’s gotta be a carrot out there that gives you; something to look forward to, rather than getting into a rut of a daily routine.”

Don even switches it up on the golf course. Although he and Carol play on a regular basis, Don goes out with a group of men on Saturdays. Each week, they bet on holes, then, any money that’s won goes into a pool. By the end of the year, the group has collected enough money to go on a road trip.

“Mentally, betting helps to keep you sharp, because you have something on the line, you have to make that putt. This way, you have to concentrate and try to motivate yourself to play well.”

To Don, it’s important to stay active in order to keep his body and mind in shape.

“For me, what I think is important, is your health. I had polio when I was young, which is part of the reason why I stay active,” says Don. “The doctors once said, ‘Keep doing stuff, because if you stop, you’ll seize up and you’ll never get it going.’ The other thing that’s important is to keep your mind active. I go on the Internet and use my computer a lot. I try and keep up with it, learn what’s new in technical areas, not necessarily because I need it anymore, but because it’s fun to do.”

Don admits that age has brought on aches and pains that likely wouldn’t affect him if he wasn’t so physically active. His goal, though, is not to give in.

“If I quit golfing or wasn’t cycling, my shoulder and back wouldn’t bother me, but then what? What would I do? It’s important to use your brain and use your body. Those two things make you healthier in old age. Don’t quit.”





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