Manitoba golf legend Dan Halldorson is being remembered as a foundational building block for the game in Canada and a loyal friend.

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Manitoba golf legend Dan Halldorson is being remembered as a foundational building block for the game in Canada and a loyal friend.

Halldorson, 63, died late Wednesday. He had suffered a stroke Monday at his home in Cambridge, Ill.

"He was very loyal to Canadian golf and he will be sadly missed," Halldorson’s friend Dave Barr told the Free Press from his B.C. home. "Just way too early for things like this to happen."

Like Barr, Richard Zokol was another of the small Canadian contingent on the PGA Tour during the 1980s and 1990s.

"Your friendships get put through situations in so many different ways that you really find out who your friends are," Zokol said Thursday. "Dan was one of those really close people. After putting in 20 years on the PGA Tour together, you have a special bond. It’s kind of like going to battle together and surviving it.

"Whether you see each other for years or not, you have this special bond as a brother. So when he goes, there’s a little piece of soul that’s missed from that era now that Dan Halldorson’s gone."

Born in Winnipeg, Halldorson grew up in the Brandon area, also spent some of his youth near Sandy Hook, and went on to a storied golf career that included a Manitoba junior title, the Manitoba PGA championship and four Manitoba Open victories.

He turned pro in 1971 and was a member of the PGA Tour from 1975 to 2004 where he won two events, the 1980 Pensacola Open and the 1986 Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic. Halldorson had 28 top-10 finishes in 431 career events.

Dan Halldorson of Brandon tries to coax in a putt on the 16th green during third round play of the Canadian Open at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Saturday, June 24, 1989. Halldorson, a Canadian Golf Hall of Famer who enjoyed a long career on the PGA Tour, has died.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/HANS DERYK

Dan Halldorson of Brandon tries to coax in a putt on the 16th green during third round play of the Canadian Open at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Saturday, June 24, 1989. Halldorson, a Canadian Golf Hall of Famer who enjoyed a long career on the PGA Tour, has died.

He also helped Canada win two World Cups, partnering with Jim Nelford in 1980 and with Barr in 1985.

Halldorson was a strong supporter of the Canadian Tour, from its founding to winning the money title in 1983, and then returning to be its deputy executive director between 2005-2011.

When he left the tour, he became the director of golf at Oak Island Golf Resort near Virden.

"Dan, being from Brandon, he was always a very proud Manitoban," Zokol said. "He was a great Canadian icon in golf. During the ’80s and ’90s, there was Dan and Dave Barr and Jim Nelford and myself on Tour. For about 20 years we kind of went through the trenches together, played on a lot of Dunhill Cup teams and played lots of practice rounds on the PGA Tour. We missed cuts together.

"I was just looking in my office and I still have a bottle of Dom Perignon that Dan gave me in 1992 when I won (Greater Milwaukee Open). I hadn’t opened it and I’ll never open it. It’s going to sit on my desk for the rest of my life.

"We travelled a lot and played a lot of practice rounds and at times spent some late evenings in bars getting to know each other."

Almost without fail, Halldorson was a quiet-spoken sort.

"That was Dan, never got ruffled by too much," Barr said. "He was a kind of a quiet, behind-the-scenes type of guy."

"He was always like that," Zokol said. "It was a great gift in a very difficult world with the emotional disruption that golf can bring people when you play it, particularly when you play it professionally. It was a great quality of Dan’s. He was reliable. When you were a teammate of his in Dunhill Cups, you knew he’d be able to perform because of that. It would be an edge."

Halldorson’s contemporaries lauded the work he did trying to give back to Canadian golf, particularly when he returned to help operate the Canadian Tour.

"He was somebody who wanted to promote Canadian golf because of the avenue and the way we had to get out there," Barr said. "He hoped that he could put back into the game by going back to the Canadian Tour when his playing days were diminishing."

Zokol said Halldorson’s own path to the highest levels of golf gave him an understanding of how important the Canadian circuit was and is.

"He grew up, from what I understand, in a very difficult environment as a young boy," Zokol said. "He came out of Manitoba, Brandon and Shilo, and then earned his own way, dug it out of the dirt himself.

"Then at the end of his career, to go back and become the deputy commissioner of the Canadian Tour — he wanted desperately for the Canadian Tour to survive because he knew it was going to be a platform for those other aspiring young players like he used to be to achieve their dreams.

"He was a very unselfish person. That was one of his gifts back to golf, telling young Canadian players that if he could do it, they could do it. He was always giving back in that form. He’ll always go down as one of the great pieces of infrastructure of Canadian golf."

Winnipegger Adam Speirs, who played the Canadian Tour over a 10-year span, also served as a player-director on the Tour’s board. He said there was an innate kindness that accompanied Halldorson’s laid-back personality.

"He was always asking how things were going," Speirs said. "You’d usually see Dan by the putting green, talking to all the players, just from a friendship standpoint. He was an administrator, but he was still a player.

"When I first met him when I got to the Canadian Tour, he was a player who had been there and done that, somebody who had a (biography) that was tops in Canada.

"He was a PGA Tour winner and that’s as good as it gets in the golf world. You strived to have that kind of career on the course."

Halldorson’s accomplished resumé and excellence with a golf club in his hands will stick with him forever, Speirs said.

"One time we were in Mexico at a tournament and he had a seven-iron in his hand and hit balls on the range for about a half an hour," Speirs, a Canadian Tour winner, recalled. "It was so pure I remember it still.

"My dad used to tell me I was a ball-striker. After watching Dan, I guess it explains why I’m in advertising now."

Halldorson was elected to the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 2002, to the Manitoba Golf Hall of Fame as part of its inaugural class in 2003 and to the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.

He is survived by his wife, Pat, daughter Angela, son Mark and three grandchildren.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca