Tragedy, triumph bring new endowments to Alberta Golf


Helping talented and hard working local golfers has been the passion behind the scholarships awarded by the Alberta Golf Association Foundation. Thanks to three new endowments and tens of thousands of generous contributions, even more scholarship money has been given out over the past year.

The first endowment, which will provide hard-working female golfers with an annual scholarship in the $1000-$2000 range comes from a heartbreaking story.

Christa Spahmann was a young, gifted golfer, known for her beautiful smile and outgoing personality. In April 2010, at just 25 years old, she passed away unexpectedly. In her honour, friends and family organized the Christa Spahmann Scholarship Foundation, which granted Alberta Golf with the endowment of $26,530.

The money was raised through several tournaments since Christa has passed and more is being added every year, according to her father Peter Spahmann.

The Coaldale native starting golfing at a very young age with her twin sister Sabina as their house backed on to the Land-O-Lakes Golf Club. As they both got more involved in the sport, they moved to Lethbridge and starting playing more competitively around the province. Christa and Sabina were then given a full scholarship to attend the University of Arkansas.

In their freshman year, the sisters were both named as the school’s athletes of the year.

“There were seniors in that school that were going on to the NFL and the NBA and here are these two Canadian girls that were named the best athlete’s in the school,” said Peter. “It was a great honour and it really spoke to the impact the girls had.

Christa graduated with a general biology degree in 2006. She was excited to be interviewing for a job at a food laboratory in 2010 when she passed away.

“If you were around Christa for even five minutes, you’d have a huge smile on your face,” said Dean Spriddle, who had the honour of coaching and mentoring Spahmann at the Evergreen Golf Centre in Lethbridge. “She was full of life and a great ambassador for the game and for Alberta Golf.”

The scholarship will be awarded to young female golfers who show the same aspirations that Spahmann did.

Spriddle says Christa was a great golfer, proven by the fact she was given a full scholarship to a U.S. college, which is not an easy task. He said she swung very well and played a well-rounded game, but she also had a mental edge over others.

“If she did shoot a bad shot, she was able to let go of it and carry on and make sure she didn’t make another,” he said. “She worked very hard on and off the golf course and was just a great person.”

Not only was impressed by her game, he also praised her excellent grades. She graduated college with honours.

Alberta Golf also received a generous endowment of $46,800 to create the Jeff Llewllyn Memorial Scholarship. It was created to provide an annual scholarship to students in post-secondary education in sports administration. The scholarship will have an emphasis on students pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce, Economics, or Business Management degrees.

Llewllyn passed away in February 2012 at the age of 52. He was an avid golfer who was dedicated to mentoring and helping youth. The endowment was set up through his employer, MNP.

“Jeff was committed to his profession and he believed in our youth. He worked tirelessly to help mentor and grow our next generation. We thought about his passions outside of the office. And beyond the many friends and family that he cherished, his true passion was the game of golf,” said Dale Atonsen, an MNP partner in Red Deer who helped establish the scholarship with Alberta Golf. “All of us at MNP wanted to find the most appropriate memorial to carry on Jeff’s good name. It’s about Jeff and carrying on his legacy. And so we thought about the many stories and the fond memories we all shared with Jeff.”

Atonsen said that although Jeff’s life was too short, he taught all the people around him so much about professionalism, determination, generosity, kindness and overall character.

“We’re all better off for having known him. That is why it’s so important that his legacy lives on, so that his memory can continue to inspire and lead others,” he said.

MNP CEO Daryl Ritchie worked closely with Jeff since he first started with the firm, even hiring him as his replacement for a position within the company at one point.

“Jeff did have one flaw. I remember telling him that his biggest weakness in leadership was that he was too nice. He was just such a nice guy who thought of everyone before himself, he truly inspired all of us to be better – not just in business, but in life,” he said.

The staff at MNP are excited that the scholarship will be able to help a young golfer who, like Jeff, was a dedicated worker and a great person overall.

“Those of us who knew Jeff as a true friend were incredibly lucky. He was a man who defined character. Integrity and honesty are just a few words that come to mind when I think of him. But he was so much more than that. He was a true friend, someone you could always count on and he would never let you down. Not only would he be there for you, but he’d be there with a smile,” said Atonsen. “Jeff was truly one of the good guys and he’ll always be remembered for that.”

The third scholarship comes from Calgary’s Bob Rintoul , who contributed $50,000 for an endowment. Investment income from the endowment will be awarded annually to students in southern Alberta who are entering post-secondary education in the form of a $2,000 scholarship.

“My wife and I are philanthropists and a few years ago we decided to make a bucket list of all the causes that we wanted to give back to and support,” he said. “One of the first organizations I wanted to give back to was Alberta Golf.”

Rintoul felt like he needed to give back because he has been a golfer all of his life and not only has he enjoyed the game, he’s learned a lot from it.

“Golf is a sport that teaches honesty, which is something we really need in this day and age,” he said.

Growing up, golf was important to Rintoul as was the time he put in at Sea Cadets and playing hockey. Together, he says his three hobbies helped him form who he became.

“Sea Cadets taught me to be disciplined. Golf taught me honesty. Hockey taught me teamwork. If you live by those three credos, you’ll be successful,” he said.

He’s living proof that his formula works. Rintoul founded Ace Explosives Limited which served the oil and gas exploration field. In 1984, he sold the company and began focusing on philanthropy, with his wife Nola.

Rintoul, now in his 80s, has been playing golf for more than 70 years. He started playing with his father, a Scot, at the age of 12. He recalls taking the Calgary street cars to the course, then looking through the bushes to find balls, since his family couldn’t afford to buy them. He and his father would take the balls home and give them a coat of fast drying paint and hang them inside their house to dry.

After learning the game, Rintoul travelled to Scotland six times, playing most of the famous courses. He also travelled the U.S. extensively, playing in nearly every state. He worked hard on his game and, in his prime, got his handicap to seven. He played the majority of the time around a 10-12 handicap and has potted three holes in one over the years.

Rintoul says after growing up through the depression, he really enjoys being able to help people. “I grew up without having a real bed until I was 18,” he said, proud that he now has the means assist young golfers pursue their career goals.