It's almost 5:00 a.m., a beautiful July morning in northern Ontario, and Gerry Laferriere has begun another busy day of work at the Cedar Green Golf Club.
As he makes his way to the greens, there is not another soul in sight. That rustling that he hears is likely one of the many small animals he will encounter pretty much each and every day.
"I associate cutting the greens as one of the finest things I get to do on the golf course," he said. It's a routine that he has revisited, every summer for the past 50 years.
Last week, on the links that he calls home, Laferriere was honoured, with a large group of friends, family and club members on hand to witness the permanent commemoration of the second hole at Cedar Green. A plaque bearing tribute to his dedication and service to the club stands alongside the tee box of the scenic par four that captures so much of the man himself.
"This hole represents what I decided to do in life, which was to produce something that came from me, just me," said Laferriere. "I put a lot of myself into this hole."
That feeling that embraces Sudbury's most well-known golf groundskeeper is one that first captivated the native of Sturgeon Falls, back in the late 1960's. "I started with the golf course, one summer, just for fun," he recalled.
"When I finished that summer, I thought to myself, "this is really neat - I love to do that". I was on construction, but that was hard. I could see myself staying on the golf course for a long, long time."
To suggest that Laferriere is passionate about his craft is merely stating the obvious. Understanding the very root of that passion is a little more tricky. "I think the passion came from just seeing things grow on the golf course, seeing a hole like this develop," he noted.
"And then there are the kids. I've had kids working for me for years, always coming back because I treated them nice and they treated me nice. That makes the job a lot easier."
Listen to the stories being shared at this celebration, to the laughter that is exuded, and the common theme is Gerry Laferriere, the person, much moreso that his incredible work on the course itself. His is a personality that long-time local golf pro Tom Clark will always appreciate.
"When I first started as an assistant pro, I really wasn't sure how everything would unfold," Clark reminisced. "But it was just so much fun around here, with Gerry looking after the maintenance and I looked after the pro shop."
"We became a little family. The members were great, the course was busy - that's a big reason why I stayed in the golf business. He just cares so much about the golf course and the people."
There is a shared affection that is returned. It was evidenced through all those who took time to make a special trip to Garson on Thursday morning.
"All of these people, the members, the public, I want them to enjoy themselves when they come here," said Laferriere. "I don't want them to have a bad feeling about the golf course."
If Laferriere's name is synonymous with Cedar Green, then his partner in crime is surely Golf Sudbury co-owner Sam Yawney. "Gerry has been such a dedicated and loyal employee," said Yawney.
"He's the first one up in the morning, the last one to put his equipment away at night. I couldn't ask for a better person or a better employee. I don't recall Gerry, in the 42 years I have known him, ever take a sick day."
"He is there, every day, no matter how he feels. Even if he had a few beers the night before, he's the first guy here in the morning, starting up the equipment, cutting the greens, changing the cups."
As the sun begins to set, yes, Laferriere would quickly acknowledge his willingness to cap off a fruitful day of work with a cold one or two. And for as much as there is love and respect imbedded in the relationship with Yawney, there was also the expected butting of heads.
"When Sam came here (1978), his knowledge of the work and the construction of a golf course was very limited," said Laferriere. "Did we have some disagreements? Definitely - he's the owner."
"But at the end of day, when we had a talk or a beer, we understood each other and where we were going."
"Gerry and I have had our battles over the years," added Yawney, with a smile. "We've disagreed on a few things. He's very vehement about his position, I am vehement about mine. But there is always this love for one another, trying to make the golf course the best that we can."
Truthfully, there would be no one better equipped to tackle that challenge than Gerry Laferriere.
"We knew that what we wanted would be for the good of the course," said Laferriere. "That's my life."