First Score referenced it. Then I got wind of an e-mail that went out to members and had someone close to the RBC Canadian Open confirm it, and the Hamilton Spectator wrote about it — and now Lorne Rubenstein has the club saying it is going to a vote.
So despite saying over and over that it didn’t want to host a Canadian Open any time soon, the event looks like it will return to the city in 2012.
Here’s what the Spec’s Garry McKay had to say on June 5:
The RBC Canadian Open golf tournament could be back at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club by as early as 2012.
The membership at the private club in Ancaster have been notified by e-mail that the executive are negotiating with Golf Canada (formerly the Royal Canadian Golf Association) to bring the only PGA Tour event in this country back to Hamilton.
George Pinches, the COO at Hamilton G&CC, confirmed to The Spectator Friday night that negotiations are under way.
He said they hoped that they would have a proposal to take to the membership within the next six weeks, and he noted that the Canadian Open could only be played there if the membership approve.
The e-mail to the members from the executive indicated that they had already negotiated a good financial arrangement with Golf Canada on behalf of the club.
It was the financial commitment that was apparently keeping Hamilton out of the game. Talk within Golf Canada and RBC is that the previous regime at the RCGA, under former executive director (and Hamilton member) Stephen Ross, inked a deal that Hamilton wasn’t happy with after all was said and done. So money was a big issue with this one — something Rubenstein discusses at some length.
As far as the 2012 Canadian Open goes, the agreement includes what the notification to members called “a significant minimum revenue guarantee.” A source said the club wanted $1.2-million. That’s well above what Golf Canada pays any club to host the tournament, and the figure was a non-starter.
Generally the fee paid to a host club is $250,000, $500,000, or $750,000. The guarantee is dependent on what percentage of merchandising rights a club negotiates. The higher the percentage, the smaller the guarantee. It’s clear the Hamilton Golf and Country Club got nowhere near the $1.2-million it reputedly wanted.
George Pinches, the club’s chief operating officer, said Tuesday the membership will vote on accepting the agreement in mid-July, prior to the Canadian Open at the St. George’s Golf and Country Club in Toronto. He said a simple majority vote is required to approve the tournament coming to the club, but a stronger mandate would be preferable.
Interesting to see that given the notion that the challenges of hosting the event at St. George’s have apparently been overcome, other courses are now intrigued at the chance to host the event as well. Beacon Hall has expressed interest — and apparently it was met with some degree of enthusiasm by Golf Canada — and now Cherry Hill Golf Club near Fort Erie has expressed interest. It last held the Open in 1972. Not heard of the club? It is a fine Walter Travis design with great greens. The club itself has a largely American membership, a holdover from the prohibition days.
It hasn’t officially thrown its hat into the ring yet but don’t be surprised if the Cherry Hill Club becomes a candidate to host an RBC Canadian Open in the not-too-distant future.
The private club in Ridgeway, near Fort Erie, was designed by Walter Travis and opened in 1922. It hosted the Canadian Open in 1972.
It has all the attributes required to host an Open: an old-style course that players like, acres of land for the infrastructure, and plenty of hotel rooms nearby in Fort Erie, Niagara Falls and Buffalo. It also has the attractions at the falls, which might convince some players to come and bring their families.
“The board that we have now are saying that we just spent $1.2 million to bring the course back to where Travis would be really proud of it, and wouldn’t it be nice to bring the better players in the world back to see it,” said head pro Jeff Roy.
The club’s board of directors asked Roy to feel out Golf Canada about what would be required to put in a formal bid. He said Bill Paul, tournament director for the RBC Canadian Open, has visited and was surprised at how much room they had. The course, which is currently a 7,100-yard par 72 from the tips, is on 250 acres.
“We could easily stretch it to 7,400 yards or longer,” Roy said.
Are there other possibilities out there? I hear the rumors of Devil’s Pulpit are unfounded, and Coppinwood is still considered too far removed from anything to be an option, according to those close to the tournament. What about taking it out east to a place like Ashburn’s new course. Near the airport and Halifax, so it might make sense — but is the corporate support there? Would RBC want to go east? Right now there’s no suitable course in Calgary, and Shaughnessy is the only option in Vancouver. Others being kicked about include Ottawa’s Hunt Club, London’s Hunt Club and Westmount in Kitchener. Apparently Golf Canada wanted Westmount to host the CN Canadian Women’s Open, but the club was concerned that the guaranteed fee wasn’t sufficient.