Mike Church, a successful logger, gold miner and heavy-equipment operator who built the Aberdeen Glen golf course in Prince George, is being remembered for his enthusiasm and vision.
Surrounded by his family at Prince George Rotary Hospice House, Church died on April 11, three weeks shy of his 88th birthday.
It took two years for him and his crew of a dozen heavy haulers to turn that parcel of land in the Hart into an 18-hole legacy.
“He had tremendous vision, not just with building the golf course,” said Mike’s son Craig. “If he saw a mountain of dirt that had to be moved he had a plan in his mind and looked for the easiest, quickest way to do it, and he was so good at it.
Born in 1935 in Big Creek, southwest of Williams Lake, Church went to school in Prince George and studied civil engineering at UBC but left university early to work in his dad Percy’s sawmill along the Fraser River at McGregor. When the sawmill was sold, Mike continued logging on his own, then switched to sewer, water and road construction throughout B.C., Yukon and Belize. His work on municipal road projects Dawson City led to a gold-mine opportunity in the Yukon and his expertise took him to mines in B.C. and Australia.
He paid a golf course architect from Vancouver to design Aberdeen Glen’s tee boxes and greens, but everything else was designed and engineered in his own mind. No. 4, the love-it or hate-it hole with its tee-box set on a hill tucked into the woods, was his favourite.
Church started building the 100-lot Aberdeen Glen subdivision at the same time as the golf course. The residential lots he sold helped pay the golf construction costs. He also built the Del Haven town home community on the north side of the Nechako River just west of the Yellowhead Bridge.
Although he started playing late in life, only a few years before the course opened, Church made up for it and soon became a good golfer. With a big gallery watching him line up for the first official swing on opening day, May 15, 1999, he nailed a zinger drive right down the middle of the fairway.
“He was very steady, didn’t lose a lot of golf balls, very good around the green,” said grandson Jessey. “He was one of those guys that didn’t want to lose.”
Alice Cooper golfed Aberdeen Glen twice and the first time he played with the legendary rocker, Church wasn’t too sure who he was meeting.
“He really didn’t know who he was at first,” said Craig, “because he said to me, ‘Why does he have his hair all pushed up behind his hat, and why is his name Alice?’”
A celebration of Church’s life is planned for Saturday, July 8, starting at 1 p.m. at the clubhouse.