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New book tells untold story of Canadian golf great

Before Tiger Woods, there was George Lyon, a Canadian golf legend whose life story has remained largely unknown – until now.

Toronto lawyer Michael Cochrane’s new book Olympic Lyon: The untold story of the last (and lost) Gold Medal for Golf, to be released in 2015, tells of how, against all odds, Lyon took home the gold medal for golf at the 1904 Olympic Games.

The Ontario native went on to numerous further golf glories, national championships and recognition as one of Canada’s greatest athletes, but his legacy – and his gold medal – were lost for a time.

“When I first heard of George Lyon, my reaction was that if he was an American he would be on a stamp or a coin,” says Cochrane, a partner with Brauti Thorning Zibarras LLP and avid golfer. “In Canada for some reason we let these stories about heroes – whether it be politicians, athletes, entertainers, social workers, or philanthropists – evaporate.”

The book follows Lyon’s path from a small town outside Ottawa to the final match on Sept. 24, 1904 at at Glen Echo Golf Club outside St. Louis. At 46, Lyon was a former army man and insurance salesman who picked up golf later in life. The story touches on varied events and influences including the trial of Oscar Wilde, the War of 1812, the Great Fire of Toronto, fatal duels and political power plays, says Cochrane.

Lyon died in Toronto in May 1938.

“He went to the States to compete against these young, athletic men who came from wealthy families and with a combination of really great skill and thick skin, he got through the competition and won the gold medal, yet nobody has told this story,” says the lawyer. “It’s incredible.”

While playing at the Rosedale Golf Club, Cochrane says he was struck by Lyon’s tale after seeing his framed gold medal up on the wall. Cochrane later learned the medal is a replica, as the original was lost and replaced in the ‘70s before being donated to the Rosedale club.

“There are so many parts of the story that are fascinating, not just about his medal, but how George Lyon as a Canadian built a skillset and built physical stamina through his experience that would allow him to compete at that level and win,” says Cochrane.

The book is timely, says Cochrane, as the event Lyon dominated in 1904 was the last time golf was played as an Olympic sport, but it’s returning in 2016 in Rio.

Most importantly, says Cochrane, the purpose of the text is to ensure Lyon is not forgotten.

To learn more, visit the website.

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