In the end, the golf didn’t really matter that much.
When former and current players and coaching staff and others with an interest in the Gryphons football program gathered for the annual Friends of Gryphon Football golf tournament at the Guelph Lakes Golf and Country Club, it was more about getting together and reminiscing with old friends than burning up the golf course.
“It was a great day. The weather was absolutely fantastic. It was a fun day,” said George Bortolato, who played from the Gryphons from 1988 to 1991. “It’s about supporting the program and getting together with some old friends – a wonderful day.”
While Bortolato attended a few of the Gryphon golf tournaments immediately after his playing days when he graduated with a Bachelors of Applied Science degree with an emphasis on consumer behaviour, this year’s marked his first appearance at it in about 10 years.
“It just kind of worked out on the calendar,” he said. “I’ve got some young kids and there was nothing going on tonight so I was able to get away and spend the day here at the course.”
And there was plenty of good conversation with old teammates before, during and after the golf.
“(We talked) a little bit about golf, a little bit about old times and family and that kind of stuff,” he said. “It’s always a great day.”
Bortolato always has good memories when he thinks back on his playing days.
“It was a great time, a lot of fun,” he said. “Game day was fantastic, but the friends you made over the years and the friendships you’ve been able to keep for more than 20 years since I graduated, to me, that’s the big thing.”
Bortolato keeps in touch with about a dozen of his Gryphon teammates on a fairly regular basis. That year the team had a roster of 62 players.
“That’s been the nicest thing when you look back on the experience. The wins are nice and the losses are tough, but the friendships over the years are probably the single biggest thing I would’ve taken away from school other than the experience.”
On the field, Bortolato’s sophomore season stands out the most. After going 5-2 in the regular season, the Gryphons were edged 14-13 in the semifinals by the Toronto Varsity Blues, one of the two teams that had beaten the Gryphons during the regular season.
“We had a great team in ’89,” he said. “We had some fantastic players. We had guys like Mike O’Shea and Steve McKee and Mike Shoemaker and Brian Maltby and Rob DiGravio. It was a great team. I think we kind of underachieved at the end of the year. We lost a really, really tough playoff game, but that was a really special year and it was a good team.”
Being a student-athlete is always challenging, but it can reap a huge reward. Balancing the athletics with schooling takes commitment to both.
“It was tough,” Bortolato said. “The other piece, too, was working part-time jobs. Probably one of the greatest skill sets I was able to get through Guelph was everything related to time management. That really came in handy to help me throughout my post-school career and life and trying to find that work-life balance.”