Growing up in Edmonton, Alta., Jackie Little was first brought to the golf course by her father, Denzel, who was a member of nearby Glendale Golf and Country Club. "He loved the game," Jackie says, "and I think he just wanted to share it with me."
She was 10 years old at the time, and wasn't very impressed. "I was hesitant about it, and to be honest I was more interested in the swimming pool at the club."
By age 11 she was only slightly more interested in golf. But when she was 12, she played with her mom Mary in a mother/daughter tournament, and they won. "And that was pretty much it," Jackie recalls with a laugh. "I was absolutely hooked from that point on. I still have that trophy."
At the time, there was no golf team at Jackie's high school, and the Edmonton winters were long. "In the afternoons and weekends I went to a winter golf school," she said. "It was held in the basement of a warehouse, and we would hit balls into a canvas net, if you can imagine that."
Jackie's father continued to be supportive of her interest in the game. "He gave up a lot of his golf time with his friends to help me improve my game," Little says. "Our weeknights in Edmonton were spent after dinner heading to the golf course to play nine holes."
Jackie soon won her first of five City Junior Championships, and the following year was selected to her first of four Alberta Junior Teams, won the Alberta Juniors twice, was on the Canadian Junior Team twice and finished second in the Canadian Junior.
Denzel never watched her play in any tournaments, however. "He was too nervous," Jackie says, with a laugh. "But my mom caddied for me in every tournament."
It was at the Canadian Junior that Jackie really got a sense of the game. "I'd played in a lot of local tournaments, but at the Canadian Junior I saw what real championship golf was all about. The way it was conducted, the quality of the other players. It was there that I really got a taste of it, and I wanted more."
By the time Jackie reached 14 years of age, her father realized she was moving into a skill level that was beyond his own. It was then that he asked a new assistant pro at the course, Pat Little, to teach Jackie the finer points of the game and tournament play. Pat would take her out to the different courses where tournaments were to be played and teach her about course management.
After high school, Jackie had an opportunity to attend Florida State University. "But I was an only child," she says, "and I really did want to stay close to home."
When she turned 20, she and Pat began to realize they meant a lot more to each other than pupil and teacher. They began dating, and were married in 1978. The following year they had a son, Robert, followed soon by a daughter, Janine.
In 1982, the young family moved to Vernon, B.C. when Pat was appointed Head Golf Professional at the Vernon G&CC. Jackie left the competitive golf scene for a five-year period to raise their two children, but was back in the game by 1987.
She would write her name on every significant trophy in British Columbia, winning five BC Women's Amateurs, three BC Women's Mid-Amateurs, and five BC Senior Women's Amateurs. She won three Canadian national titles, and was named Senior Women's Player of the Year for Canada and the PNGA in 2008 and 2009.
Pat and Jackie stayed in Vernon for 22 years. In 2009, they purchased the Hollies Executive Golf Course in Port Alberni and moved to Vancouver Island.
Along with her many titles, Jackie's reputation for fair play and for being a graceful competitor made its mark on other players.
"I've known Jackie since I played in the final group of the BC Women's Amateur with her in 2000," said Christina Proteau, a three-time PNGA Women's Mid-Amateur Player of the Year. "She was an absolute class act that day, when I, a nervous 17-year-old, was navigating my first BC Amateur. I watched how she calmly went about her business that day on the golf course, with exacting precision, but also with grace and class. I remember thinking 'I still have a chance' coming down the last few holes; I know now that I actually didn't, because of Jackie's strong mental character she simply doesn't falter down the stretch of a final round.
"From that first round of golf grew a friendship of 17 years now; and beyond golf, she is one of my best friends, most trusted persons in my life. She brings to light what is so much more important than the game of golf - an example of how to be a great wife, mother, grandmother, and friend."
Jackie also served as team captain for the 2003 Commonwealth Ladies and the 2004 and 2006 World Ladies Amateur. "We finished second in 2004," she recalls, "and that was one of the highlights of my career. I wasn't sure how I would like being a captain (and not playing), but I enjoyed the strategy and the camaraderie of the players, and helping them play their best."
In 2009, Jackie was inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame of BC, and in 2012 was inducted into the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame.
A true champion and true friend of the game.