John Buchanan Classic Tees Off Drive For Endowment Honouring Longtime Golf Coach At Simon Fraser University

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

The weather was far from perfect. Dark clouds hovered overhead, delivering cool showers and at one point a brief hail storm. A steady breeze chilled what was already an unseasonably cold April afternoon.

John Buchanan would have called it a great day for golf. Of course, every day was a great day for golf for Buchanan, the legendary Simon Fraser University golf coach who passed away in January at age 77.
“John taught me to be a mudder,” Matthew Steinbach, who played under Buchanan at SFU and was recently named interim coach of the men’s and women’s teams, recalled with a smile.

“The first time I played in weather like this with John, the club was literally flying out of my hands because I didn’t have rain gloves and he just said, if you want to live in Vancouver and play golf here, you have to learn to play in this.”

On Monday afternoon at Vancouver Golf Club in Coquitlam, friends of Buchanan and the SFU golf program gathered for the first John Buchanan Classic. The Clan Classic, an annual fundraising tournament for the SFU golf program, has been re-named in Buchanan’s honour.

The hope is $400,000 can be raised to start a John Buchanan Golf Endowment at SFU. Once that $400,000 is raised, an annuity of $17,500 would be paid out each year to cover the annual cost of one full-ride scholarship to a SFU golfer.

“That is the goal, to give one full-ride scholarship in John’s name and in honour of him,” says Steinbach. “We have had a lot of support already from the SFU golf family but tonight is a real special occasion where we do have matching dollars.”

Those matching dollars on Monday night came from Vancouver Golf Club member Jack Gin, who pledged to match all money raised at the tournament dinner. “Jack Gin has no connection to SFU, he is an engineering grad from UBC, but he is a member of the Vancouver Golf Club and he saw how hard John worked, how tirelessly he gave to this program and wanted it to succeed,” Steinbach says.

Buchanan spent 50 years at SFU, first as manager of the school’s soccer team and then as golf coach. Anyone who met Buchanan quickly realized his passion for the golf programs at SFU. “Everyone has a ‘John’ story and what has been amazing for me in my new role as interim coach is I knew him as a player, I knew him as a donor, but now I get to see behind the curtain and understand the amount of work he put in,” Steinbach says. “He worked harder than anyone I have ever known.”

The emphasis at Monday’s inaugural Buchanan Classic was on fun, not competition. On the 18th tee, for example, there was a long drive contest, but not the kind you might think. Instead of golf balls, players teed off with marshmallows. A drive of 47 yards won the contest.

Many past and present members of SFU’s golf teams attended Monday’s tournament and dinner. Kelowna native John Mlikotic, a recent member of the SFU team who is just beginning his professional golf career, spoke passionately about the impact Buchanan and the SFU program has had on his life.

“I played for coach Buchanan from 2011 to 2015,” Mlikotic said. “So how has coach Buchanan influenced my life? Well, where do I start? I thought I was joining SFU athletics to play golf, but what I received was so much more. My teammates became my brothers, the Clan became my family and coach became my mentor, my biggest fan and I like to think, my friend.

“During one of coach’s first trips to the hospital my teammates and myself went to visit him to see how he was doing. Before we could get through the door he was already asking us about the team. Anytime we tried asking the coach about himself and how he was doing somehow the conversation came back to us.

How were we? Looking back, it speaks volumes to how coach treated his players. He always put our well-being ahead of himself. I have never had a coach care about his individual players as much as coach Buchanan did.”

(If you’d like to support The John Buchanan Golf Endowment, visit