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John Reitman

By John Reitman

Colleagues remember Bonar as a friend and a pioneering superintendent

When Terry Bonar, CGCS, was named the recipient of the 2009 USGA Green Section Award, Stan Zontek, the late USGA agronomist, recounted the first time they had met. He described Bonar, the longtime superintendent at Canterbury Golf Club in Beachwood, Ohio, as the first greenkeeper he had met who practiced a "holistic" approach to managing the entire golf course. And Zontek visited a lot of golf courses and met many superintendents during his 41-year career with the USGA.

"That was a most unusual and groundbreaking concept in those days," Zontek said at the time in the USGA Green Section Record. "Terry provided the golfers with smooth, true putting and consistent greens, high quality and closely cut tees, high quality bentgrass fairways, and roughs that were the best anywhere. The roughs were grass . . . not weeds and not infested with pests and diseases, and they were not a forgotten part of the golf course property. That was novel thinking at the time. It is much more common and accepted as a standard.today, The result- a renowned championship venue maintained to the highest standards."

Bonar, who worked at Canterbury from 1963 until his retirement in 2010, died March 19 in The Villages, Florida. A native of Steubenville, Ohio, he was 83. Survivors include wife Margaret; daughter Kerri; stepdaughters Gayle Siebert and Cheryl Martin and many grandchildren.

We were working on getting our green speeds consistent, and I remembered Terry's greens at Canterbury. I asked what he maintained them at, and he told me 11 (on the Stimpmeter). From that point on, 11 was our target green speed.

David Webner, superintendent at Westwood Country Club in Rocky River, Ohio, knew Bonar for more than 40 years, and remembers his friend, colleague and former boss as a greenkeeper without compare.

"His assistants had to know where everybody was all the time on the golf course," Webner said. "That was his big thing, and you had to know what they were going to be doing next 20 minutes before they started doing it.

"He taught me everything I know about the efficiency of a golf course operation."

Webner, who spoke with Bonar by phone regularly even after the latter's retirement more than a decade ago, also remembers him as a man of uncompromised integrity at work and in life.

"Integrity and honesty were everything with him," Webner said. "If you screw something up, take the blame and move on."

Bonar was the assistant at Canterbury for 18 years under Bill Burdick, his classmate at Penn State, and was named head superintendent in 1984. The only interruption in his tenure at Canterbury was from 1963 to 1967 when he served in the U.S. Air Force as a staff sergeant in security services.

During Bonar's time at Canterbury, the course was the site of the 1979 U.S. Amateur and the 1996 U.S. Senior Open. In recognizing Bonar's accomplishments the Green Section cited his efficient use of water and work mentoring employees. He spawned the careers of dozens of superintendents and assistants and was a pioneer in the use of lightweight mowers to maximize turf health and playability.

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Terry Bonar, CGCS, spent 47 years at Canterbury Golf Club in Beachwood, Ohio, including 26 as head superintendent.

Bonar was a native of Steubenville, Ohio, who excelled on the golf course as a high school player. Among his amateur accomplishments during his prep days at Steubenville was a match play win over some guy named Jack Nicklaus.

Fellow Green Section Award winner Frank Dobie (2022), who spent almost his entire 60-year career at Sharon Golf Club, was part of that Penn State class that included Bonar and Burdick, and said he learned a lot from his contemporary.

"We were working on getting our green speeds consistent, and I remembered Terry's greens at Canterbury," Dobie said. "I asked what he maintained them at, and he told me 11 (on the Stimpmeter). From that point on, 11 was our target green speed."

Most of all, Dobie remembers Bonar as a cherished friend.

"A more down-to-earth person I've never met," Dobie said. "He was a good friend who didn't have to service the relationship. It didn't matter how long it had been, when you saw him he was able to pick right up where you left off."

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