Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Birdie says Santa's on his way

Attending women's golf tournament for a good cause

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I'm not sure what you will be doing this morning, but I will be lounging in a comfy chair surrounded by penguins while 128 women I have never met before take turns sitting on my lap.

Before you start jumping to conclusions, let me just say this is not what you think it is.

Unless, of course, you are thinking I have agreed to dress up as Santa Claus at the beginning of summer for an all-women charity golf tournament.

In that case, it's exactly what you think it is.

The fun-loving organizers of the St. Charles Ladies Invitational Golf Tournament invited me to portray the Jolly Old Elf this morning and have my photo taken with 128 female golfers at the 19th annual event, which, for reasons I do not completely understand, has a "Christmas in June" theme.

"You'll be the only guy here other than the volunteers," is what organizer Michelle Thompson happily told me. "You're going to love it."

Before I could think of an amusing reply, Michelle giggled and added: "Some of the women may not want to sit on your lap, so please don't be offended."

As regular readers already know, when it comes to sweating like a Butterball turkey in a red-velvet suit, this is definitely not my first rodeo. I do not wish to brag, but for the last seven years, I have played Santa at the Pet Pics with Santa Paws fundraisers, wherein I have my picture taken with hundreds of dogs, cats -- and the odd snake -- to raise cash for the Winnipeg Humane Society.

As you might imagine, there are a few subtle differences when you are pretending to be Santa for female golfers as opposed to extremely agitated pets.

On the downside, the golfers are less likely to smile and look into the camera when the photographer squeezes a squeaky toy or waggles a feather on a stick.

On the upside, the golfers are also less likely to have an accident on the carpet because they are so nervous about sitting on Santa's lap.

For health and safety reasons, they are not making me wear a full-blown Santa suit, which would be a lot like spending several hours inside a pizza oven. Instead, I will be decked out as "Summer Santa."

St. Nick's off-season outfit was pulled together by volunteer Dawna Wallace and features a handmade white beard, a Santa hat, an overtly plaid shirt over a red golf shirt, red flip-flops, a 2XL red and white Hawaiian-style bathing suit and a couple of Hawaiian leis.

In a coconut shell, I will look like Santa if he was being portrayed by Steve McGarrett from the hit TV series Hawaii Five-O ("Book 'em, Rudolph! Seal up the Rock!").

After scouring Walmart and Target for "anything extra-large in red," Dawna dropped by so Santa could try on his stylish summer suit.

But even though he will look like a reject from a Beach Boys concert, Santa is jolly about helping out at the tournament, which is raising cash for Rossbrook House, the inner-city drop-in centre that over the last three decades has become a beacon for kids and youth looking to escape the destructive environment of the streets.

"It's such a great charity," Michelle beamed. "We went to the awards luncheon for their students last fall and we saw young women with children getting their degrees, and we couldn't believe what these young women had accomplished, and it's all because of Rossbrook House.

"We were moved to tears. It's a safe place for children and young moms. We want to make a difference in the community and I think we will with this."

The kind-hearted organizers have gone to amazing lengths to ensure Santa feels right at home on a sweltering morning at St. Charles Country Club.

"You'll be right next to a fireplace, with stockings hung with care," Michelle chirped. "And we've got papier m¢ché penguins and the kids at the school at Rossbrook House painted them, so there will be a path of penguins leading in to see Santa. On the putting green, the flags all look like candy canes."

It's all for a great cause, but Santa wants to warn all the golfers he's coming to town and they'd better not cry and they'd better not pout, because he's going to be looking at everyone's score card.

And he'll be checking them twice!

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 23, 2014 A2

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