Bob Girvan II of Kenduskeag, who died of brain cancer on Thursday at age 54, was a fiery competitor whose golf game was sharpened at his family’s golf course in Kenduskeag, about 15 miles northwest of Bangor.
Now called Kenduskeag Golf and Country Club, it’s a somewhat short, but no pushover, nine-hole course with small greens that left its mark on his game.
“He was a great putter,” said Mark Plummer of Manchester, 11-time winner of the Paul Bunyan Amateur Golf Tournament and 13-time champion of the Maine Amateur. “He played very aggressively. He had a big hook, but he had a tendency to duck hook one now and then. That was his Achilles’ heel.
“[But] his short game, it was remarkable.”
Dan Sargent of Ellsworth, who played with him and against him for more than 20 years, heard Thursday about Girvan’s passing.
“It was weird,” said Sargent. “I looked at the computer Friday morning [to read the obituary online] and saw that he just wanted friends to play a round of golf in his memory and that Kebo [Valley Golf Club in Bar Harbor] was his favorite.
“I was already scheduled to play that afternoon [at Kebo]. There were several occasions when I thought of him and how much he would have enjoyed it.”
For Sargent, there was one aspect of his nature that always showed through.
“I’ll always remember he had that big smile on his face,” said Sargent. “I’m going to miss him.”
The smile may have been most noticeable, but his other emotions could be read just as easily.
“You never had to wonder what he was feeling,” said Nancy Storey, executive director of the Maine State Golf Association. “Sometimes his face almost matched his [red] hair. But he wasn’t mad at anybody. He was usually frustrated with himself.
“He never complained about anything, but he could never hide his emotions.”
Girvan was runner-up in the 1976 Maine Amateur to Plummer, his University of Maine golf teammate in 1973. He won his first Bunyan title in ’77, added his second in 1982 in a playoff against Steve Conrad, then edged Plummer in ’95 for his final Bunyan crown.
“He won some, I won some, but they were always fun,” said Plummer.
Sargent brought up the same point.
“You always had a good time when you were playing with Bobby,” said Sargent, who won the ’87 Bunyan.
Girvan won the initial Maine Mid-Amateur title (for players age 25 and up) in ’95 and won it again in ’99. He also won the ’78 Maine Mixed championship with Mary Ouellette of Millinocket. He also qualified twice for the U.S. Amateur Public Links Tournament.
“He believed in what we were doing,” said Storey, pointing especially to the Scholarship Fund but also to his efforts at growing the sport in Maine.
She doesn’t think he was ever on the board of directors, but some of his friends were and that was enough.
“A lot of his ideas got adopted,” Storey said. “He believed in the good of golf.”
And he believed that children should be introduced to the game.
“He brought a lot of kids into golf,” she said.
Girvan leaves a wife Karen, sons Robert III of Portland and Bailey of Kenduskeag, his mother Dorothy, three sisters and a brother and their families plus numerous nieces and nephews. At his request, there was no service.
He also asked that donations go to either of two charities: the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, in care of Karen Girvan, P.O. Box 273, Kenduskeag, ME 04450, or the Brianna Rachel Koncinsky Fund for Children, in care of Eastern Maine Medical Center Federal Credit Union, 849 Stillwater Avenue, Bangor, ME 04401.
Because of Girvan’s efforts, Storey said the MSGA plans to set up a scholarship in his name. Contributors can send in their donations to the MSGA, 374 U.S. Route One, Yarmouth, ME 04096.
“He was one of the good ones,” she said.
“I was thinking how sad it was [when he heard],” he said. “It doesn’t seem right, it doesn’t seem fair.”
Following its annual “Five League” Tournament on Sunday, Hampden Country Club will dedicate its new gazebo, which was built in memory of Autum Aquino, the AIDS Foundation and past and present members of the club.
“It’s now the focal point of the club,” said pro Dan Pierce. “When you come down the road into the club, it’s right there.
“Even though it’s about a quarter mile from [Route 9], you can still see it [through the trees].”
Aquino was the girlfriend of Richard Gamble, grandson of the owner of the club, said Pierce. She was diagnosed with AIDS at age 2, and it’s thought she was probably born with it. Aquino became a national symbol of the fact that AIDS could strike anyone. She died April 3 at the age of 23.
Pierce credited the members with putting it up and funding it.
“It was a good community effort,” he said.
The tournament starts at 8:30 a.m. with the dedication scheduled for approximately 1 p.m. and a pig roast afterward.